This week, the national League of Conservation Voters announced it was launching a $150,000 campaign against state Sen. Troy Jackson in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. Besides the heavy dollar amount (this appears to be the group’s largest-ever primary expenditure in Maine), it is remarkable that LCV is spending this much money on negative attacks against someone whom most insiders thought was trailing the election.
According to what I have seen, Emily Cain was holding a solid advantage. She has out-raised Jackson by a two-to-one margin and both internal and external polls (although, it is fair to say that the polling was pretty dated) had shown her with a double-digit lead. Plus, the breadth of her endorsements from environmental, women’s and labor groups gave the impression of a broad coalition.
Now I am second-guessing the data. For LCV to spend such an exorbitant amount on attack ads means it might know something I don’t. Or the group is politically inept.
I could easily see LCV, having endorsed Cain earlier this year, simply running ads praising her and boosting her positives among Democrats. In fact, when someone is the favorite, standard practice is to do just that. This way, you don’t risk any backlash.
In fact, the only real reason to go negative in politics is when you need to bring someone down because he is ahead or you are fearful he is gaining enough traction to win. The backlash can be brutal against the candidate you support when you do this, so why risk it?
In the end, I don’t have any data that says Jackson is leading or closing the gap, but based on this ad buy, I suspect someone does.
Posted by Ethan Strimling