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Monday, May 27, 2024
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New York Times correspondent sees increase in unorthodox campaign practices

The 2010 midterm election will be remembered for the unorthodox and controversial ads in this year’s campaigns, especially Christine O’Donnell’s campaign in the Delaware U.S. Senate race, Jeff Zeleny told an audience in Ward 2 Wednesday night.

“When is the last time you heard a political conversation about five words — ‘I’m not a witch, I’m you’?” asked Zeleny, the National Political Correspondent for the New York Times and the lead writer for the 2010 midterm elections.

Zeleny said there was a change in the way candidates were presented to voters this election cycle.

“That commercial, I think, will be dissected and talked about for years to come,” he said. “Now it’s not only a voting record that can get a candidate in trouble, it’s your history, your video trail of what you leave behind,” Zeleny said.

Social networking with Facebook, Twitter and other media could easily expose an unsightly history and come back to haunt candidates, he said. But the convenience, easy access and — most importantly — low cost of social media could offer opportunities for candidates to work around the mainstream media.

“Meg Whitman, the candidate for California governor, is spending $140 million on TV ads,” he said. “If she doesn’t win next week against Jerry Brown, who spent a fraction of that, was it worth the money?”

Zeleny said $3 billion has been spent so far in advertising during this election. The 2010 midterms will be the most expensive in history.

Zeleny said this will be a major issue in the 2012 election for Obama, who has touted his political integrity by raising money though more donations in smaller increments rather than accepting large donations from Political Action Committees.

“I predict the White House will reassess their view on how pure they can be on the idea of money in politics,” he said. “Will they chose to raise the money in a grassroots way or will they agree that a few big donors help you?”

No matter how much money Democrats spend in this election, most polls indicate there will be a shift of power on Tuesday, according to Zeleny. If that happens, the president may have to develop a more centrist approach, as Clinton did in 1994.

“I think you’ll see initially, an extension of the olive branch from the White House because it’s in their own political interest to at least look like they’re trying,” Zeleny said. “Then if Republicans don’t respond it looks like Obama was trying to be bi-partisan.”

He said this midterm election is the most exciting in years.

“I like campaigns,” Zeleny said. “It’s what I do, it’s what I cover, but I’m not ready for this campaign to end.”

The Kennedy Political Union sponsored the event.

lgiangreco@theeagleonline.com


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