WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 14) — Negative advertising has long been a staple of political campaigns. This year, however, more candidates than ever are going the extra mile to define themselves by what they aren’t rather than what they are.
In the current anti-incumbent environment, it’s understandable that many don’t want to be defined as a “career politician” or “Washington insider.” But many are denying more fundamental aspects of their lives in order to curry favor with voters.
Most Republicans, for example, have rejected the label “sentient being” in favor of portraying themselves as some type of messenger from God. Democrats, facing a backlash against what’s seen as a government that’s gone out of control during the four years they’ve held majorities in Congress, are positioning themselves far from the policies of President Obama, claiming they’ve “heard of” the man, though they couldn’t say what he looked like.
This phenomenon has been most pronounced in the Delaware Senate race, where Republican Christine O’Donnell has bought TV time to declare publicly “I am not a witch.” Not since President Nixon’s famous “I am not a crook” pronouncement has the denial of something you’d hope would be obvious become such an essential component of the campaigns.
Now, other candidates are adopting the same tactic, hoping to build an image in the voters’ minds of someone who’s outside the tradition of conventional politics-as-usual and yet not completely batshit-crazy enough to think they’re a farm animal or a visitor from outer space.
Nevada’s Republican challenger Sharron Angle claims she’s not a referee in the defunct American Basketball Association, not an oil painting, and not a sable coat. Her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, says he’s not a bottle of bourbon, not a proprietary file format and not a beanbag.
O’Donnell’s Democratic opponent in the Delaware race, Chris Coons, asserts he is not a junior dragster, not an amorphous silica wall and not a Toronto Maple Leaf.
California’s incumbent Democrat Barbara Boxer says she is not a pinch runner, not a charter school and not a fan of the fugue, while her Republican opponent, former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorino, claims she is not a funnel-shaped valley, not a predatory sea snail and not an infinitely typing monkey.
Florida’s three-way Senate race features Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee Marco Rubio claiming he is not a near-earth asteroid, not a horseman of the apocalypse and not a gangbanger. Democrat Kenneth Meeks declares he is not a camel, not an interstate highway and not a plantar wart. Former Gov. Charlie Crisp is conducting a campaign as an independent in which he states he is not a coherence therapy practitioner, not a totem and not a member of the rock group The Cro-Mags.
In Kentucky, Libertarian-turned-Republican Rand Paul has announced that he is not an Australian zookeeper, not an adder, and not a Jewess. His opponent for the Senate, Jack Conway, asserts that he is not a maestro, not a concentration camp survivor, and not an ecumenical patriarch.
In the race in South Carolina, incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint says he is not a foxhound, not a lubricant or gel, and not a morning anchor. His opponent, the little-known Alvin Greene, admits he is not a monthly manga magazine, not a plateau, and not an internal combustion engine.
In neighboring North Carolina, Republican Richard Burr asserts that he is not cooking show host Paula Deen, not a microbiologist, and not the world-bearing elephant of Hindu mythology. His opponent Elaine Marshall claims she is not a Daughter of Bilitis, not a cowboy, and not the president of Niger.
Sarah Palin favorite and Alaska Republican nominee Joe Miller reveals he is not a hip implant, not a Japanese prefecture and not a superbly aged pinot noir. Opponent Scott McAdams says he is not the creator of Dilbert, not the first runner-up in the European song contest competition, and also not a hip implant.
Finally, in a tightly contested race in Wisconsin, Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold claims he is not a low-pressure system, not an archer and not a mound of decaying organic matter commonly known as a compost heap, while opponent and businessman Ron Johnson says he is not a river-access homesite, not a pair of shoes, and not a violent sexual predator.
“These things are good for voters to know,” said political analyst and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation (but not a front-end loader nor a supermarket franchisee) Allen Rigby. “I guess.”