Don’t attack the Surrogate

Rick Santorum tore into John McCain at a recent campaign appearance in Hilton Head, South Carolina.The problem is that McCain isn’t on the ballot. The problem is that McCain won South Carolina in 2008 and still has some good will in his pocket. The problem is that Santorum played defense and not offense. He did not help himself.

It is true there is bad blood between the two, and they apparently genuinely do not like each other, and yes, McCain just endorsed Romney.

But what is to be gained by playing defense, defending earmarks, and calling John McCain a “political opportunist?” Nothing. Wrong target. Wrong language.

It is an easy trap for candidates embroiled in a life and death struggle for survival in a political war. It is also a dangerous one. And seldom do those who succumb to the temptation serve themselves well.

Lesson to all candidates running for public office. Keep your eye on the ball and the other candidates who are running. In a multi-candidate field mine your niche, and be mindful how attacks on others might cost you votes or drive your voters elsewhere. And don’t let your personal bad blood find its way into public discourse. It doesn’t make you look good.

Does anybody remember McCain unloading on Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Christian Right during the 2000 campaign and all the good it did him?  Enough said.

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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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