Democrats promoting Libertarian to undermine Harris
In what appears to be a national pattern, the Democratic Party is highlighting a longshot third-party candidate in an effort to undermine a Republican nominee--in this case, Andy Harris, the GOP challenger in Maryland's tightest House race.
The tactic is either a desperation move, or a sign of how close the contest is, or both. It has special resonance in Maryland's First District, where the Libertarian candidate's two percent of the vote arguably tipped the historically Republican seat to Democrat Frank Kratovil in '08.
The Democratic mailer, first reported by Eastern Shore blogger Michael Swartz, masquerades as an attack on Richard Davis, the third man in the race, running again this year on the Libertarian line, with no realistic chance of winning.
Paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the flier describes Davis, twice, as an outsider and Tea Party type.
Davis "plans to cut government spending, will drastically reduce the size of government across the board, is a complete outsider . . . Davis and the Tea Party think government is part of the problem, and want to make it as small as possible."
"Richard Davis: Is he too conservative?" asks the mail piece.
The audience for the flier appears to be conservative voters. The barely disguised ploy to pull votes away from the Republican is a tactic Democrats are using elsewhere, too.
In Illinois, Democrats are promoting another Libertarian candidate, Mike Labno, in an attempt to cut into Republican Senate nominee Mark Kirk's support in conservative southern Illinois, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.
A second mailer that portrays the Libertarian as more serious than Harris about deficit reduction also went out recently in the district, according to blogger Mark Newgent. The piece does not say who paid for it, but Davis has issued a statement saying that neither he nor the Libertarian Party had any involvement in the mailing.
In 2008, Davis got 8,873 votes in the First District, which takes in the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties. That was more than double Kratovil's 2,852-vote victory margin. If the Libertarian had not been on the ballot, some Republicans believe, enough of those votes would have gone to Harris to change the outcome of the election.
"Obviously the Democrats are scrambling to try to get this race closer. They know Andy is pulling away in the polls, and it's an obvious Hail Mary attempt," Harris campaign spokeswoman Anna Nix said of the fliers. "They're pulling out all the tricks in the books, across the nation and in Maryland One, to try to get this race competitive again."