Democrats in Maryland facing the likely prospect of low turnout among black voters, decided to motivate their most-loyal constituency through fear. An "anonymous" flier mysteriously began "appearing" in a handful of black neighborhoods Monday, and Democrats immediately began accusing Republicans of Jim Crow-style intimidation of minorities.
The unsigned flier — which looks like the handiwork of someone with a fleeting knowledge of word processors — says in plain black lettering on white paper:
URGENT NOTICE. Come out to vote on November 6th. Before you come to vote make sure you pay your parking tickets, motor vehicle tickets, overdue rent AND MOST IMPORTANT ANY WARRANTS.
Although Democrats managed to make great hay out of the flier — Democrats say both NBC and ABC covered it — state Democratic press secretary David Paulson could only confirm that four of the fliers had been found, and at a single grade school at that. Paulson speculated that there may have been "dozens" of fliers elsewhere around the state, but he wasn't sure. It's hard to understand how four fliers — again at one location — could gin up such hysteria, particularly since there's no actual proof that this was anything other than a Machiavellian stunt by Democratic operatives.
One prominent Democratic strategist says that this move has "Bob Shrum's fingerprints all over it." Political operative Shrum has long ties to the Kennedys. He wrote Ted Kennedy's famous 1980 convention speech, and more recently is known for creating some of the ugliest attack ads around. He helped devastate Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey four years ago with ads portraying the Republican as a bigot.
As cynical political calculations go, posting a few fliers and then crying foul might be exactly what the Democrats need to rally the troops in a gubernatorial race that appears headed to the Republican column for the first time in over 30 years. Republican denials of involvement would — and did — all have the flavor of "No, I didn't hit my wife." Anchors on one cable-news channel, for example, debated whether the flier was the product of a Republican organization or just an individual Republican, overlooking the distinct possibility that Democrats orchestrated the whole affair.
Given who Democrats have at the top of the ticket, they would have a strong incentive to fight dirty. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has been unable to connect with black voters, suffering from one misstep after another.
The biggest blunder came when she was making her selection for a running mate. In the most-Democratic state in the union — at least Republicans periodically make respectable showings and even sometimes win in Hawaii and Massachusetts — Townsend picked a Republican to join her on the ticket. In a state like Mississippi or Utah, such bipartisanship might be savvy and even a bit cunning. Running n Maryland, however, Townsend managed to gain not one crossover vote — aside from that of her running mate — while infuriating Democrats, particularly blacks.
While denying they are making any direct accusations, Democrats were furiously trying to convince the media that the flier business was yet another in a long line of "Republican intimidation tactics." Townsend campaign spokesman Peter Hamm — one breath after denying that he was actually pointing the finger at the GOP — said that the flier had to be produced by the GOP. "I don't need to look at the sky to know it's blue," he quipped. When pressed for evidence to support his contention, he timidly replied, "In a sense, we have no proof."