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Nunn has some fences to mend

Posted: August 13, 2014 - 12:20am

ATLANTA — The apparently accidental leak of a 144-page strategy memo from consultants to Michelle Nunn is causing heartburn among some of her natural allies.

As would be expected, Republicans mined the memo for material to use against the Democratic senatorial nominee. They especially relished its list of her perceived weaknesses, such as having spent most of her youth and education outside the state, being “too liberal” and a “lightweight” and for incidents at the Points of Light Foundation she ran, including grants to inmates and to an organization tied to Hamas.

She was pilloried on the Internet with e-mails, tweets and biting humor.

And the attacks escalated late last week when the super PAC Ending Spending Action Fund began running television and newspaper ads referencing the Hamas-related grant. One of the ads is a full page in the Atlanta Jewish Times, obviously in hopes that the current rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel will further hammer home the point that Nunn isn’t a strong friend of Israel in a moment of crisis.

The strategy behind the ads is different from most super PACs in that they don’t seek to sway swing voters. Instead, they are attempting to erode her base of support.

While Jews aren’t a huge voting bloc, they reliably back Democrats. And, as the memo notes, they can be a deep well of financial support.

But Nunn might not need much help in undermining the support she would normally expect from Democratic-leaning groups.

For instance, blacks vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, but her dismissal of two blacks running against her in the Democratic primary left many black leaders miffed. Plus, she put off a lot of party regulars in the primary with her campaign’s tactic of skipping functions organized by Democratic auxiliary groups in favor of events manufactured by her staff and even ducking debates organized by nonpartisan civic groups. They all began to feel a little insulted, like she didn’t want to be seen with them.

She also brushed off some of Georgia’s targeted media, such as Atlanta Progressive News by being the only Democrat in the Senate primary refusing to participate in a sit-down interview.

“After all, APN’s questions for Nunn were issue-driven and policy-driven, and the last thing Nunn would want to do is to take positions unless they were right-wing ones (for example, on same-sex marriage, the proposed Keystone Pipeline, the Voting Rights Act, the once-proposed U.S. invasion of Syria, or the proposed nuclear fuel reprocessing plant),” notes the online publication’s staff writer Barbara Payne.

Then Payne added that reporters always suspect that campaigns “use a strategy of vagueness to get elected. However, to see it in memo form is validating.”

She quotes from the memo’s advice that all facets of the campaign remain on message and avoid distractions.

“Michelle Nunn wants to stay like Plato: ‘Whatever you want to believe about me is fine.’ She can’t be conservative or progressive,” Robert Patillo, a radio commentator and former legislative candidate, told Atlanta Progressive News.

If Nunn fails to energize her base, it’s not only a blow to her election but also bad news to down-ballot Democrats needing a ride on her coattails. As her memo states, with an expected 52 percent turnout in November, she is aiming to get 1.4 million votes.

The Nunn camp plans to operate sophisticated targeting to send different messages to each segment of the electorate in order to drive up turnout. Many in this audience won’t pay attention to political coverage in the general media and will get information about the race from ethnic media, social media or direct mail.

That limits the damage from the revelations in the memo. But activists from her natural allies get their information from others in their group, and there are signs they are not climbing on her bandwagon.

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