From NBC's Gena Fitzgerald
What a week for any viewer watching political ads this week, or netsurfers trying to go to the web to find out what candidates stand for. National polls keep telling us over and over that it's Iraq that matters most to voters. Apparently the campaigns haven't gotten that message. The focus this week is sex, sleaze, disabilities, and dirt. What's a voter to do?
Let's see, we started the week with one of the most unforgettable ads in recent years. Democrat Harold Ford, an African American congressman, is running for Senate in Tennessee against a white Republican named Bob Corker. The ad was paid for by the RNC.
In it, a young blonde actress pretends to have met Ford at a Playboy club and urges Ford to call her. It's clear from her tone that it isn't about the 2007 Budget either. The NAACP said the ad "plays to pre-existing prejudices about African American men and white women."
Tuesday showed that Rush Limbaugh might be the one person left in America who did not know that actor Michael J. Fox exhibits symptoms of his 15-year battle with Parkinson's disease. Fox doesn't just support stem cell research; he's also campaigning for Democrats who support it. He appeared in an ad that Limbaugh chose to not just shoot down the ad…. but to imitate Fox's spasms on his Rush cam and openly question whether Fox had been acting. Rush later apologized. Sort of.
The RNC pulled the Ford ad on Wednesday, saying it had run its course. It's replaced by one that refers to Ford taking money from "top X rated porn moguls".
In other states, we have ads with:
- North Carolina Republican Vernon Robinson accusing Democrat Brad Miller of voting to deny body armor for troops, while claiming he voted to fund controversial NIH studies on sex-related studies. (Not true). The TV ad ends with: "Brad Miller pays for sex, but not for body armor for our troops."
- Pennsylvania Democrat Chris Carney saying Republican Don Sherwood held "happy-hour fundraisers with people who cover up the cyber-molestation of children" and continues to hit Sherwood on family values
- Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, accuses her republican opponent of voting in the state legislature to allow the import of trash, yes trash, from Canada.
Thursday, Mark Foley's lawyers released information that he's gone in for rehab at an Arizona psychiatric facility. Liberal bloggers were quick to question whether he was really in rehab or just in hiding. Some have gone as far to call it "taxpayer supported" since his insurance policy may cover part of it. Fact check for the uninformed: just because someone goes into rehab doesn't mean insurance will cover it…regardless of party affiliation.
And today, Friday, we're being treated to what's being referred to "pornographic" excerpts from Virginia Democratic candidate James Webb's novels. Webb is in a tight race in Virginia for Senate against Republican George Allen. You remember him, of course. Just a few weeks ago, Allen immortalized the word "macaca" at a campaign appearance when referring to a young man from the Webb campaign who happened to be videotaping it at the time. Did Webb's campaign make the most of that? Of course they did, posting tape of Allen on youtube.com
So here we are: a little over a week away from Election Day. Voters tell us it's Iraq that matters most. There could still time to actually hear the candidates discuss the issues that face voters, instead of making it about dirty laundry.
And as you go into the final week or so…perhaps keep in mind something attributed to Adlai Stevenson many years ago: "The hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning."