Call Me, Harold
Via Talking Points Memo, I see that we are able to see some results of the Corker "call me" ad in tennessee and it's not pretty:
The poll suggests that a Republican ad mentioning that Ford attended a Super Bowl party attended by Playboy playmates and featuring a white woman telling Ford to "call me," hurt Ford. A whopping 81 percent of likely voters saw the ad.
While 67 percent said it would have no effect on their vote, 23 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Corker and 10 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Ford.
Of those who said the ad affected their vote, by two to one they decided to vote for Corker. TPM also has a copy (pdf) of a slick mailer put out by this new national character assasination squad called Common Sense Ohio which says "Bob Corker and Harold Ford are separated by more than their school colors..."
There can be no question why this stuff still works. The good news is that far fewer people think that way than used to. The bad news is that quite a few still do. In a close election in the south it can make the difference.
Bob Herbert reported in the October 6, 2005 edition of the New York Times of a 1981 interview with Lee Atwater in which he explains the GOP's Southern Strategy:
You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me - because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."
"Different school colors" and "call me, Harold" are abstract, but you don't have to be a genius to get the message.
Ford opted to pretend that it was not happening and instead criticized the ad for being placed in the family hour. (The layers of hypocrisy surrounding that ad are a mile high.)He ran as far right as you can possibly run without breaking into Deutchland Uber Alles. Maybe that was a good idea, but it didn't seem to work. I'm not sure what would work once the racist genie is out of the bottle.
Update: Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews just agreed that the problem for Ford wasn't the ad. It was when he confronted Corker at that press conference. Scarborough explained that 200 years of history show that this is something that would offend a lot of southern voters.
Scarborogh and Matthews agreed that a black man has to be very careful how he behaves if he wants to win. Matthews pointed out that he needs to be a General or a 4.0 Harvard grad. Scarborough sadly intoned, "and it's important not to appear to be intimidating."
So, Ford's loss has nothing to do with that racist ad after all. It was soemthing else entirely.