Summers’ supporters launch negative attacks and nasty rumors. Is his campaign coordinating?

Charlie Summers, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat has had some very active out-of-state supporters.

Summers’ supporters haven’t focused on their preferred candidate’s accomplishments or plans.

Instead, they’ve done the following:

  1. Attack Angus King on budgets and wind power, using phony (or at least highly contentious) claims and a report from a very partisan House committee.
  2. Attack Angus King for not being as liberal as Cynthia Dill.
  3. Put out a malicious rumor about King and his wife via the rather nasty Breitbart website.

It’s worth considering if this entire set-up is coordinated. We will probably never know for sure, since the people involved very well won’t go public.

However, it’s not unusual for SuperPACs and party organizations that are presumably independent to actually coordinate their efforts — sometimes fairly directly and other times via a wink and a nod.

The nasty rumor, which I refuse to post or link to, came from the Breitbart website. This organization had has close links to James O’Keefe, who has created faux sting operations all over the country, including in Maine. These involve selectively — and deceptively — edited tapes. When O’Keefe did this to purportedly demonstrate problems with Maine’s welfare system, his efforts were promoted by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, then headed by Summers’ current campaign manager.

Summers denounced the rumor, as he should have. Moreover, there is no evidence that he knew anything about it in advance.

Still, candidates can be kept from this sort of thing, if only so they can truthfully deny knowing about it. George W. Bush likely didn’t know about all of Karl Rove’s dirty campaign tactics against John McCain and others.

However, one thing is certain. Summers has been able to separate himself from the messaging on his behalf and in opposition to King.

Meanwhile, perhaps because front-runner King has focused on his own messages, there has been little scrutiny of Summers’ record and promises, which include support for the Ryan budget and the Grover Norquist promise to never, ever raise taxes on anyone.

Now King’s spokesperson states, “We have always said we will defend ourselves and point out the differences between the candidates. Mentioning our opponents by name and pointing out those differences is not mudslinging.”

This has the potential to move the campaign toward real discussions about issue differences and to analyses of all the candidates’ records of public service.

New polls show the race has tightened. And so, whether or not there is direct communication and coordination, the possibly coordinated division of labor on the Summers side, involving their campaign and outside groups, likely will continue.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.