Ten weeks ago, after three days of shadowing Christine O’Donnell’s campaign team at the Right Online conference in Las Vegas, I wrote this:
“[C]onservatives in Delaware have the benefit of backing an indisputably telegenic candidate. O’Donnell . . . has the kind of 100-watt smile that lights up a room.”
That political candidates are judged nowadays in large part on how they look on TV is lamentable. Insofar as that factor influences the Delaware Senate race, however, it works to the Republican’s advantage.
Much online debate was engendered Monday night by the debut of O’Donnell’s first TV ad of the general-election campaign, which begins with the memorable line: “I’m not a witch.”
The problem is that the people debating the effectiveness of the ad are political junkies, and typical independent voters — “Ordinary Americans,” as I’ve sometimes called them — don’t look at politics the way we junkies do.
The ineffable quality known as “likeability” (which helped George W. Bush against snobs like Al Gore and John Kerry) matters a lot with independent voters. That’s the basis of my initial reaction to the O’Donnell ad: “With a smile like that, she’s awfully hard to hate. The Castle campaign tried to demonize her and it backfired.”
Dave Weigel notes that liberals seem obsessed with O’Donnell “because at the end of the day they expect to beat her.”
And what if their expectations are disappointed?