Will crying 'liberal' help GOP this year? Some think not

Charlotte ObserverJune 11, 2008 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., dismissed his Democratic opponent last month as "Nancy Pelosi's chosen recruit" who had "pockets stuffed with cash from Washington liberals," one of the loudest groans came from a fellow North Carolina Republican.

“This shouting Liberal! Liberal! Liberal! stuff is not going to work this year,” Lee Teague, the GOP chairman in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, e-mailed a reporter.

“McHenry and a lot of other Republicans in Washington need to get a clue,” he added later.

Teague is among Republicans who say old bumper-sticker descriptions won't work in a year when voters are burdened by economic insecurities, and their party by an unpopular president.

"We don't have the brand power to do that right now, so we need to come to the table with a better game," said Michael Steele, chairman of GOPAC, a national group charged with electing Republicans. "We need some common-sense solutions that speak to where people are in their everyday lives. So running around screaming ‘this guy's a liberal' won't get you re-elected."

Labels still have their defenders. "Some seem to be giving political labels a premature burial," said John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation."While 2008 is likely to be a year when voters want to hear issues and specifics and solutions, don't be fooled into thinking that linking candidates to unpopular national politicians or employing political labels doesn't work any more. They work as long as they fit."

In one special congressional election this year, however, the tactic didn't work. Republicans in a northern Mississippi district sought to cast Democrat Travis Childers as a liberal. They ran TV ads tying him to presidential candidate Barack Obama. But Childers, who is pro-gun and anti-abortion, won in a district that went overwhelmingly for Bush in 2004. It was the Democrats' third special election victory of the year in a conservative district.

Read the full story at Charlotte.com.

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