Writings and observations

And why not? Illinois Senator Barack Obama already is heavily favored for Idaho’s February 5 Democratic caucuses, but a simple, short stop in the state could produce a wipeout win. The time and money investment for a short stop would be minimal; the PR and delegate gain could readily justify it.

Another thing. There ought to be a generally accepted standard that during the course of a campaign year, anyone who becomes a major party nominee for president ought to visit, even if briefly, all 50 states, not just the swings. Consider this a suggestion: Both party nominees should be pressured to do it. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney has (are there others? can’t recall) and this week Obama among the Democrats. Figure that they’re two who, in this regard, will be pre-qualified.

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Some of the most useful online Northwest blogging has been David Postman’s, in his reports from the road in eastern Washington, starting on January 23 and still ongoing. Not that he isn’t welcome back to Olympia, but here’s a reader who hopes he stays out there for a while.

We spent a fair amount of time on the road in eastern Washington (and Oregon) last year, and while there were limits to the political insights to be pulled up – almost all of these areas are deeply red, differing mostly by subtle shades – the attitudes and underturf of what makes them so is surprisingly varied. And Postman’s interviews and reviews seem to be getting, helpfully, at that.

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You’ve heard – well, if you’re reading this, you probably heard – about the video operator in mid-2006, a Democratic operative, who followed Virginia Senator George Allen around at public events, captured whatever he said or did. Allen one day made the mistake of talking about him and using the word “Macaca” in describing him, touching off a cascading series of blowups that eventually helped cost him a seat in the Senate.

That video operator was a “tracker” – that’s the job title now – and trackers these days are employed or put up with by most candidates for major office. Around here, we watched one watching 2006 Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who occasionally referred to him on his travels around the state (but never made anything resembling a “Macaca” mistake). Trackers are busy again this year, on both sides in Oregon’s Senate race, and they’re becoming the subject of some contention.

Probably some kind of an informal but standard code of behavior is needed for this sort of thing. And probably it needs to start with acknowledgment of who the tracker is, and what he or she is doing there. It probably should continue with a strong press on candidates to allow the other side in, as, for example, McGavick did. (The results of the tracking didn’t seem, in his case, to do his candidacy any harm.)

The new round in Oregon started with a Eugene Register-Guard report about a Republican tracker who made his way into events held by Senate Democratic candidate Jeff Merkley. The tracker, Tim Lussier, apparently wrote the campaign to say that he was “a local activist and a big fan of Jeff. I’d love to find out when I can see him speak.” So they let him in.

Then they found out he has a substantial background with Republican politics and had even posted on line a picture of himself with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Russ Kelley of the Merkley campaign had a gripe about that: “But there’s an honest way to do it, and there’s a dishonest way to do it. You find out where they are through public notices and things like that. You don’t call and misrepresent yourself.”

That seems fair enough.

Republican blogger I Am Coyote at NW Republican had something of a counterpoint: A piece about a Democratic tracker who has tracked Republican Senator Gordon Smith, accompanied by a photo showing him wearing a press pass. He wrote: “Senator Smith was speaking with Wyden at the Oregon Business Summit’s meeting and this individual worked his way in as ‘press’ so he could shoot footage.”

That drew quick response from Marc Siegel of the Oregon Democratic Party: “Please correct your post about the DPO’s tracker. Our tracker told the organizers of the event who he was and who he worked for and they asked him to wear that badge and let him in. He told the truth, yet you are calling him a liar.”

There’s another question here too, though. If he was asked to label himself as press by the holders of the event, then the tracker isn’t to blame. But a deception was going on anyway, even if the fault wasn’t strictly on any side of the partisan line.

As we burrow deeper into the age of UTube, these kinds of things will be coming up. Maybe time has come to set a few guidelines.

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We weren’t among the leading fans of Oregon Senate candidate Steve Novick‘s first video spot; it drew attention to his physical differences from other candidates without suggesting why that could amount to a compelling argument for him.

The Portland Democrat’s second, web-only, ad is a little different, and we’ll give it a thumbs up (as it were). Subtle it may not be, but it slips up on you quietly and neatly, with humor and without beating you over the head. And yes, Novick actually is agreeable dining company even if you don’t need a bottle opened.

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