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Desperate Dems turn to dirty politics


With the election one week away, we're hearing dueling victory predictions. Democratic leaders claim they will hold onto majorities in Congress while Republicans expect to take the House and make major gains in the Senate. Just who has the upper hand in this debate can be best gauged by who's showing signs of desperation and panic and who's already looking for rationales to explain defeat.

President Obama is blaming voters for what looks like some huge Democratic losses. "And so part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does [sic] not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared," he told a recent Democratic fund-raiser. That brings to mind President Jimmy Carter's infamous "malaise speech" criticizing Americans for his mistakes.

Vice President Joe Biden is leading the Democratic chorus in blaming spending by outside groups for the Democrats' woes. But the Wall Street Journal added up the numbers and found that the three of the six biggest independent-group spenders were public employee unions -- AFSCME, the top spender; SEIU, and the National Education Association. These Democratic Party supporters were recorded as putting out $171.5 million, compared with the $140 million attributed to the top Republican leaning organizations on the list, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads and Crossroads GOP, related groups.

In the desperation category were a couple of unpleasant episodes here in Illinois. In a contest noted for ugly exchanges over character, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias scored a particularly egregious low blow in accusing Republican Mark Kirk of "economic treason" for raising a measly $6,000 -- out of his total of $12 million in contributions -- in an Internet video conference with a dozen Americans working in China. Giannoulias tried to tie the fund-raising to Kirk's voting with his fellow Republicans against a bill to increase taxes on businesses engaged in global trade.

Hurling a word like "treason" at someone with Kirk's impressive military service is the definition of dirty politics. His military superiors consistently describe Kirk in glowing terms, such as one who called him "one of the most experienced, combat-tested aviation intelligence officers in the Naval Reserve." A below-the-belt blow like this may explain why the latest Chicago Tribune poll shows the honest-and-trustworthy rating is falling for Giannoulis, who has no military service.

Another sign of Democratic electoral desperation came over the weekend when state Sen. Rickey Hendon called GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady "idiotic, racist, sexist and homophobic." That outrageous bit of low politics earned only a tepid disavowal from Democratic Gov. Quinn. The best that can be said about this ugly episode is that it gives Chicago voters a chance to judge whether Hendon, who aspires to be mayor, would be the kind of calm, unifying, bridge builder needed in City Hall.

When someone can't win on the merits of an argument, he throws out a red herring. That's why we're seeing new campaign commercials bringing up the abortion issue against Brady, who is pro-life. This election is about jobs, Illinois' dismal economy and state government's out-of-control finances, not about social issues. Yet Democrats hold women in such low regard that they think the mere mention of abortion will panic female voters, stampeding them to the voting booth to cast ballots against the best economic interests for themselves and their families.

When you don't have the issues that matter to voters on your side, you have to appeal to fear and resort to desperate, dirty politics.

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