Monday, May 7, 2012

Roundhouse Roundup: Peeps and Chirps

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
May 6, 2012

It always starts with pleasant little peeps and chirps. But within a few short months — maybe not even that long — it’ll gradually turn into monstrous shrieks and howls.

I’m talking, of course, about campaign advertising on television. And in recent days, we’ve begun hearing the peeps and chirps of the three major U.S. Senate candidates, Democrats Hector Balderas and Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson.

The ads for the three candidates are remarkably similar. Each deals mainly with the candidate’s biography. Balderas grew up poor in Wagon Mound. (“Most senators don’t come from places like this,” a woman’s voice informs us at the start of the ad.) Heinrich bused tables, washed dishes and sacked groceries. Wilson joined the Air Force, like her father and grandfather before her.

And each of the three learned valuable lessons from humble origins that would guide the candidate in the Senate.

Balderas’ background — becoming the first person from Wagon Mound to graduate from law school — taught him the importance of education.

Bagging those groceries and watching his parents work hard taught Heinrich the “dignity of work” and made “fighting for people’s jobs” personal.

Wilson says that the things she learned in the military — “leadership, responsibility and integrity” to be exact, are qualities that Washington needs today.

Some pundits noticed that Wilson, who spent a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives, never mentions her congressional service in her initial ad.

“If you want an idea of how unpopular Congress is right now, check out the first ad from ... Wilson,” wrote Rachel Weiner in The Washington Post blog The Fix. “No surprise, given that the most recent polling puts Congress’ approval rating around 13 percent.”

In fairness, Heinrich’s ad doesn’t directly mention the fact he’s been a House member for nearly four years. He says he’s proud of extending unemployment benefits, a reference to votes in Congress he’s made.

Last week, Heinrich assured me he’s not trying to hide the fact that he’s a member of Congress and said that future campaign ads will focus on specific issues he’s pushed in Congress. (I suspect the same is true of Wilson.)

Balderas also didn’t talk about his time in Congress — because he’s never been a congressman. His ad did, however, mention his current job as state auditor. (“As auditor, Balderas stopped corrupt officials who stole from schools.”)

So it’s all positive now — and both Balderas and Heinrich have told me that they will not go negative on each other in the primary. But after that, it’ll get a lot louder and a lot meaner.

And by the time it’s over, I wonder if anyone will remember all this wistful talk of busing tables, the streets of Wagon Mound and military honor.

(I'd already blogged about this first round of Senate ads. For Heinrich and Wilson CLICK HERE. For Balderas CLICK HERE)

Richardson advises Romney: It’s not in an official capacity, but in an interview in National Journal, former Gov. Bill Richardson offered some free advice to probable Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on choosing a running mate. His suggestion is go with Sen. Rob Portman, a choice that’s popular with Washington insiders, though he’s not well known outside of political junkydom and his home state of Ohio.

Richardson said picking Portman, who served for a year as U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, “could reduce Romney’s foreign-policy vulnerability.”

The former governor, who was considered as a possible running mate by President Barack Obama in 2008, said Romney should avoid a couple of other frequently mentioned possible veeps. “If he picks [Marco] Rubio or he picks [Chris] Christie, they’re totally without foreign-policy experience,” he said. “In a close race, that could make a difference.”

UPDATE 10:08 am I just got this column posted and I learn Heinrich has a new ad up on Facebook. In it, he admits that he's a member of Congress, but says he doesn't hang out with those guys and clears out of DC every chance he gets.