Congressional Candidate Tim White doesn't mince words. Greg Walden is a fraud.
"How do we expose Greg Walden. . . . I'm not going to attack him, I'm going to expose him. That's two different things."
"I participated in primary events where basically--I call it the Bernie love fest. Yes, this would sell to the Democrats, but it's not going to sell to the 100,000 votes we need from the Republicans and independents."
Tim White knows he needs to change minds.
|White video: Click|
Tim White raised his profile earlier this week when he broke the Democratic rule of not saying anything remotely critical of a Democratic opponent. On Facebook, White commented on a laudatory Letter to the Editor written by former congressman Les AuCoin, one that praised candidate Jennifer Neahring as the "best candidate" in this "crowded primary field" and one "who can effectively represent all the citizens of Oregon's 2nd District."
One could argue that Neahring's campaign broke the peace first. After all, AcCoin's letter was comparative. Nearing is "best" which means other are less-than-best. White responded to the endorsement, calling AuCoin a "very liberal Democrat" and that doing as AuCoin advises is what Democrats do "if you want to lose" because it tells "70% of the voters they are wrong and you are here to save them."
Yet White has the job of telling voters they were wrong. That is dangerous. Tim White took on the central challenge for a Democrat in this campaign: the Democratic challenger cannot simply be an alternative to Walden; the Democrat must change how voters perceive Walden.
White doesn't attack voters' values. He affirms them. The danger is that a criticism of Walden can be an implied criticism of the voters. No voter wants to be scolded. White says it is OK to change our minds about Walden because we were lied to by a con man.
White's campaign has a style.
1. Confident command of facts and figures, which he relates conversationally.
2. Position himself as practical rather than ideologically leftist.
3. Describe Greg Walden as a fraud, someone who is an effective representative of the people who lavishly fund his campaign--pharmaceutical and telecom interests--but against the interests of the people of the district. Walden comes here, White says, wearing a plaid shirt and stands next to a horse and tells us he represents us. Instead he sells us out.
Michael Byrne also attacks Walden as a fraud, but in his case the attack is asymmetric, a genuine blue collar voter versus a fake man-of-the-people. White goes head to head. White's biography and manner is professional, and his criticism of Walden reads as peer-to-peer, with White saying the difference between them is that he is genuine in representing the District, while Walden is not.
Walden's move to House leadership has put him in danger of exposure, and White's goal is to expose. Walden has bigger concerns than the District and responsibilities to the GOP team. He helped write the ACA repeal that endangered health access for a quarter of the people in his District. He reduced protections for pre-existing conditions, when he said he would not. He voted to end net neutrality. And he raises millions of dollars from the people whose interests were supported by those votes. HIs votes and finances are all on record, undeniable. www.opensecrets.org
White's difficulty in selling his message is embedded right in his criticism of Walden, that he is not what he seems, and what Walden seems to be is an inoffensive, genial moderate. Walden is good at this. He doesn't look or sound like someone who would take health care away from the children of the working poor. He seems earnest, not mean-spirited. I wrote about this back in February, 2017. Walden knows the value of a beige sport coat and checkered shirt. "Aw, shucks, don't blame me." Click: Walden looks blameless.
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White is at work trying to break the Walden brand by reframing him as a fraud. White says we aren't seeing "good old Greg" we are seeing a fake. People are quick to believe that Members of Congress are corrupt, but they tend to think their own Member is the exception.
Something could trigger a change of opinion on Walden, but not necessarily soon. Cons can persist for years. They end when facts are thrust so directly in the face of the believers that they simply cannot deny them. It would have been easier for White had the ACA repeal succeeded and real people were pushed out of the Oregon Health Plan by the tens of thousands. It didn't happen. The tax bill's skyrocketing deficits are a long term danger, but are unlikely to cause chaos prior to the November election. The facts are there, but they are not in voters' faces.
Walden may well get away with this, but there is something new that may take Walden out of the Congress, perhaps by him joining the other GOP legislators who retire to join a lobbying firm. Being in leadership exposes Walden. His duties to the GOP caucus demand he play two contradictory roles simultaneously, selling one thing in the District and another back in D.C. That has to be uncomfortable.
And there is so much money to be made as a lobbyist, while back in the District people like Tim White are calling him a fraud and pointing to his campaign contributors. Yuck.
This may be an open seat in 2020.