My old friend attorney Pat Hughes is running for U.S. Senate, and while I wish him well in his life, I can't say very much for how he's run his first political campaign, especially in comparison to the fearsome campaign machine that's been assembled by 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk.
Lawyers by trade are experts (or should be) in clever use of words to express ideas or arguments, such as in legal briefs or contracts. We like to call it "wordsmithing," perhaps to give ourselves the illusion that lawyers actually create something of value somewhere along the line... (ha ha).
Trying to parse words or arguments can get you into trouble and lose credibility when you make too much of a stretch, however, as once again Pat has contorted reality by claiming that his failure to file his nominating petitions like everyone else was a show of 'strength.'
Here's the blurb that caught my attention:
Patrick Hughes, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, said his petitioners, a combination of volunteers and paid staff, are still out gathering signatures so that he can make a show of strength when he files. Hughes said he would rather file last and get the last position on the ballot than file at the beginning of the period and have only a one in five or six chance of being listed first.
“It’s kind of like those strategies on how to pass a multiple choice exam if you don’t have a lot of time,” he said. “My belief is that you’re actually better off having the last name on the ballot.”
So, let's get this straight - admitting that you're still scrambling to get enough signatures to file for the nomination by the deadline is a show of 'strength'? That must be some unusual use of the word 'strength' of which I was not previously aware.
Earlier this week, Rich Miller at Capitol Fax Blog published an e-mail from a Hughes representative that he'd gotten a hold of, which said (as Miller redacted it):
Date: Mon, 26 Oct 2009 10:02:38 -0700
Subject: Illinois Upcoming Election
My name is xxx xxxx and I work for a company called Proud to be Republicn [sic](http://www.facebook.com/l/03bf7;www.proudtoberepublican.com). We are assisting Pat Hughes in finishing up with his campaign signatures and need some help.
We are located in Oak Brook and have been acquiring signatures locally but would like the assistance of a college organization to help us with the younger population. Your group has acquired a large number of followers and seems to understand the problems that Illinois is going through. If you or any other members of your organization would be interested in helping us support Pat Hughes please contact me.
Feel free to call me at (800)xxx-xxx or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will forward you all the information we have avaliable [sic] on Pat Hughes. He is also paying for signatures which is a nice incentive. Please remember the petitions are due on Monday so this is an urgent matter. (emphasis added by TA, mispellings in the original as noted)
Now, the interesting thing here is not so much that Hughes had to resort to paying people to collect signatures for him (lots of campaigns that are not established do that - heck, even Terry Link did that, with disastrous results, as we all remember), but that the e-mail implies that Hughes was desperate to meet that Monday Oct 26th filing deadline, and would have, if he'd had enough signatures. Yet, his attempted spin in the news is that he's biding his time to come in with a show of 'strength,' and try to grab the last ballot position. Well, it's not too hard to see that this is a face-saving move based on a lack of sufficient sigs on filing day.
Here's a free tip, Pat - while it's great to get the first position (and you may be right that second-best is the last position, especially in a crowded field), ballot position generally is not worth much except when a race is low-profile, down ballot, and the voters are generally unfamiliar with all the candidates. At most, it may be worth a point or two in a close race. But in a case like this, where Congressman Kirk is leading the field handily with name ID (which will only go up as his ads begin to hit) and crushing his primary opponents with fundraising, if my campaign were based on grass roots support and hitting the local committeemen and township/county chairmen (as Pat's is), I would want to be standing in line with 10,000+ signatures bright and early on the first day of filing. Then you issue a press release trumpeting that fact, and talk about how conservative Republicans all over the state were flocking to your banner, and how you had to turn signed petitions away because you were receiving so many. THAT's a show of 'strength.' Obviously, Hughes wasn't able to pull that off. And now, he's only raised expectations for how many signatures he will need to file by this coming Monday to not look like a complete laughingstock.
No one, no matter how committed they are to a candidates' ideology, wants to feel their vote is being wasted. If Hughes can't convince primary voters he's got a realistic chance against Kirk, he will get no more than a token 'protest' vote.
Sometimes, even the most creative legal argument doesn't work. And sometimes it really hurts your case. Court's adjourned.