(Page 2 of 2)
One South Asian-accented caller begins ranting about Mexican illegals stealing jobs; campaign staff, visibly embarrassed, cut him off. The candidate explains his border-tightening policy and moves on.
An elderly caller asks about Social Security. Roskam purrs: “I can’t think of a more important government program.”
A teacher asks about No Child Left Behind. Roskam and Biggert switch off with answers.
The hour-long “Tele-Town Hall” costs Roskam about $2,000 and, by my calculation, reaches more than ten percent of total likely voters in this district’s 2004 House race, albeit fleetingly. Not bad in a $4 million race.
Tens of thousands of calls are placed in total. Precisely 7,650 callers joined for some portion of the hour. Another 29,942 answering-machine messages are left. This is sizable in a district of approximately 654,000, where 2004 turnout was just under 40 percent. In that election, President Bush took 53 percent of the two-party vote. Hyde’s vote take shrank progressively the last two cycles; he got 65 percent in 2002, but just 56 percent in 2004 against Democrat Christine Cegelis, who was sacked in favor of Duckworth earlier this year, and who barely lost the Dems’ primary.
The “turnout is crucial” line is often a canard that signals a candidate’s doom. In this case, as in others around the country, this year’s turnout actually could be decisive.
THERE IS A CERTAIN BRAVADO and haughtiness in the particulars of the Duckworth campaign — the out-of-district residency, the torrent of money from Emanuel and big-city Chicago, the shunting of 2004 nominee Cegelis to make room for a favorite of the party elite.
But there is also an echo of Michael J. Fox — who, not coincidentally, campaigned for Duckworth last week. Call it the politics of suffering. The Democratic Party is using it this year to grip voters emotionally, to help inoculate its candidates and policies from any of a number of lines of Republican criticism. It may be working. John Kerry “Reporting for Duty” didn’t wash because it looked phony. But that’s the last thing anyone can say about the suffering Tammy Duckworth’s military service brought her.