Campaign trackers are ready for their close-up. Are the candidates?
Politicians have deployed staff to film the opposition for a couple election cycles now in New Hampshire, but the practice is under a microscope after a tracker for U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH) had his camera grabbed away by Democratic challenger Annie Kuster.
The exchange, including Kuster being recorded saying "F- him," was uploaded to the Internet and the rest is, well, punditry. Here are three political observers' take on it:
- "It's a pretty thin line and it looks like the staffer walked right up to it," Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, says of the tracker getting in Kuster's personal, private space. Takeaway: "It's all going to wash out."
- She took his camera, notes Wayne Lesperance, political science professor at New England College in Henniker. "Some will look at it and say, 'Good for you, Annie.'" Others will see it was overly aggressive. The "F- him" part of the clip, he says, was "stunning." Takeaway: Tracking is just part of campaigning. "Both sides are trying to frame this."
- "Tracking at the state level has crossed the line a lot of times. ... I'm not saying one party has a monopoly on this," says Fergus Cullen, columnist, consultant and a past chairman of the Republican State Committee. He recalls a Democrat tracker shadowing Nancy Sununu, mother of former Sen. John E. Sununu, at one point. Takeaway: Candidates/parties must establish some boundaries, and none of that plausible deniability, "Oh, we don't control that person..."
In the Kuster-Bass controversy, there are two questions, Cullen concluded: 1) Did the tracker cross the line? And, 2) Did the candidate cross the line by grabbing the camera?
Kuster wasn't having any of that. She has said she will not tolerate such incivility on the campaign trail. In a statement, she said, "Political bullying by Congressman Bass and the House Republicans has resulted in a failed, do-nothing Congress. Bass's political bullying hasn't worked in Washington and I won't let it intimidate me or my campaign in New Hampshire."