The Fightin’ 8th GOP Slugfest

There are some pretty high stakes happening in the 8th District right now with the retirement of long-time congressman, John Tanner, who has served 11-terms in Washington. I wrote yesterday about the insane amount of mailers that certain areas were getting. In Obion County, mailers come daily. In perusing them, Ron Kirkland and George Flinn are on the attack moreso than Stephen Fincher it appears. Kirkland’s mailers are extremely pointed attacking Flinn not actually living in the district and Fincher’s huge farm subsidies. (One mailer even cites an blog post from May 28th from Post Politics.)

Flinn’s mailers have a different theme, citing his career as a doctor in one in his white jacket with his name embroidered on the top left corner and another has him sitting behind a microphone at one of his radio stations. A third mailer from Flinn’s campaign took me a moment to find his name. There’s a caution sign with Pres. Barack Obama’s logo from his presidential campaign and a stick figure falling with the words Whoops on it. Of course there are unflattering photos of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama in the center and I believe that’s the one where he calls Kirkland and Fincher liberals.

Let me repeat, he calls them liberals. I laughed out loud at that one but as I said, it took me a second to figure out who had sent that one.

I asked around and the mailers aren’t really coming hot and heavy into Weakley County. I can only speculate that is because Roy Herron is from here.

The challenges for all four candidates is not as simple as it would be in a race in a more urban area such as the Cohen/Herenton battle in the 9th where advertising markets are more certain. Many people here in the 8th are on satellite systems for their television habits. Some of their news comes from Memphis, other packages has news coming out of Nashville. In the upper corner of northwest Tennessee, much of the news comes from Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. The race has the distinction of having a television market that is somewhat like a puzzle piece. Needless to say, a great deal of advertising monies for all the candidates is going to have to be spread around and this might be one of the reasons the mailers from the GOP candidates are aggressively hitting households.

The mailers have not gone unnoticed. A letter to the editor in today’s Jackson Sun slams Kirkland for some of the information in the mailers. A friend of my family, who has been getting the mailers from all the candidates daily and saving them for me to look at, said she just tosses them aside and doesn’t really look at them at all. “More stuff I have to throw away,” she said last night.  An AP story regarding all three candidates circulated yesterday that tackled some of the issues regarding Fincher, Flinn and Kirkland’s contentious race. I disagree with the AP story to a large degree on this statement.

Flinn, a Shelby County commissioner who owns dozens of radio and television stations, has been the least likely to go on the attack so far.

Politico reported five days ago Flinn’s negative campaign spin.

One mailer from Flinn includes a computer-generated composite photo of Fincher and Kirkland on a ship with President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and says they are “sailing with the wrong crew,” while another says that the two are “playing ball for the wrong team.”

The one thing to remember is, and I repeat from earlier, the unusual television markets that border counties and districts such as the 8th has. To get a candidates message across is playing a game of chess. Mailers have worked effectively in the past but we also live in a new age of communication. Broadband access isn’t a given in certain areas of the 8th, televised local news may not come out of Tennessee specifically and using the mailbox as a megaphone seems to be one way the GOP is trying to get to undecided voters.

There isn’t as much buzz in this area about the campaign as you would think there would be. Fincher doesn’t appear, to me at least, to be hitting as hard as the other two in the mailers. With just a little over two weeks until the primary and with early voting underway, the reality is that the GOP candidates are working very hard to get attention.

And bad attention is better than no attention at all, I guess, in the world of politics.

One thing I would remind the candidates is that negative campaigning can backfire as well. When folks in these areas, who are facing unemployment or have had to take lesser paying jobs, see rich guys throwing mud at each other it might turn them off.

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