bully vs. the whiner
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report
AUG. 11, 2002 - - This year's race for governor appears to be the
summer blockbuster battle of the bully versus the whiner.
A lot of Democrats still question Gov. Jim Hodges' barrage of ads
about Mark Sanford that started the day after he beat Lt. Gov. Bob
Peeler in the GOP runoff. They're worried the strategy of highlighting
Sanford's congressional record will backfire. They're biting their
nails that people will keep describing the ads as negative, instead
of fair game about a candidate's record.
Meanwhile a lot of Republicans remain apprehensive about Sanford.
They're concerned about his inexperience at the state level and
thin political skin. But many are worried even more that Hodge's
pugilistic ads are making sense to voters and becoming the political
equivalent of the Chinese water torture - - a drip, drip, drip of
votes away from the GOP nominee.
Sanford has a Kennedy-like mystique. One wag says he's got a Teflon
finish - - anything said about him doesn't seem to stick in the
media. Young and old gravitate to his carefully-crafted image as
the principled young Mr. Clean.
But face it. Sanford's got an irritating whine. Whether it's about
Peeler's ads, Hodge's ads or anyone who criticizes his record, a
tinny tone comes from Sanford's camp. You can hear it when he talks
about the governor's money advantage:
"What he has to do is take me out personally to win the race
based on the demographic, regional advantages that you have as a
coastal candidate," Sanford said. "They are somewhat desperate
measures." When asked whether Hodges was scared of him, Sanford
With that good-guy aura, who wouldn't be a little scared? On paper,
Hodges should have a lock on re-election. He's the incumbent. He's
got wads of money. And he's delivered on much of what he said he'd
But that's on paper. The race now is close because of a combination
of Sanford's charisma (and Hodges' lack of it), Sanford's grip on
the Upstate vote and a lingering unease on the coast with the way
the Hurricane Floyd evacuation was handled by the Hodges administration.
So you've got to wonder why Hodges is running all of those ads
about Sanford's record. It's because they're working. Word on the
street is polling shows Sanford's negative ratings started rising
after Hodges started running ads. Over the last two months, the
onslaught of information about Sanford's record reportedly has caused
Sanford's negative perceptions by voters to triple.
And that's why Sanford's scared too. He's complaining about Hodges'
ads because he can't return fire on television yet to stop the softening
of his support and momentum.
Republicans feel the governor's race is Sanford's to lose. But
from a strategic standpoint, Hodges currently still has the upper
hand. With his repetitive, constant television campaign, Hodges
has done something almost unimaginable in political campaigns -
- he's gotten voters to talk about the governor's race two or three
months before they usually focus on it.
In and of itself, that may be the biggest result of this year's
election so far. If Hodges is unable to crack Sanford's image, the
governor will lose. But if voters are influenced by the ads and
analyze the Sanford record, Hodges may squeak by with a victory.
Prediction: Sanford will continue to whine that Hodges' ads are
personal. Hodges will keep running the ads so voters will look beyond
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