Earlier this month I wrote about how nothing was going on in the Lieutenant Governor's race.
But now something has.
I think Hampton Dellinger's going after Walter Dalton this week was a stroke of genius for three reasons:
1) It separated Dellinger from the pack he's often been lumped in with candidates Dan Besse and Pat Smathers. There seems to be a segment of Democratic leaders in the state that supports Dalton. There seems to be another segment that is anti-Dalton but likes Dellinger, Smathers, and Besse and doesn't know who to support of the three. By criticizing Dalton's voting record and using it as an opportunity to push his own progressive views, Dellinger has moved himself out of the pack a little bit.
If this race gets to a runoff I think Walter Dalton loses- he needs to sneak by with 41% of the vote in the primary. And it will probably take one of the other three candidates becoming a 'co-front runner' with Dalton to force that runoff. Dellinger was already primed for that spot because of his fundraising prowess, but his move this week does more to get him in the public eye on that front.
2) Dellinger stuck to the issues. I have been very critical of Bev Perdue and Richard Moore for the pettiness that pervades their race. But Dellinger didn't talk about minute details of Dalton's educational background or get an out of state family member to file a public records request. He went straight at specific items in Dalton's voting record. I think that's perfectly fair game.
3) He put Dalton on the defensive and Dalton's response was weak. He sent out an e-mail spouting platitudes about his record; where Dellinger offered specific critiques Dalton gave vague responses. He also claimed Dellinger's attack was the 'worst aspect of the campaign season.' I don't think anyone really buys that criticizing an opponent's public voting record is one of the lower things that occurs in a political campaign.
We're doing our tracking poll next week- it will be interesting to see if this incident causes any movement in the numbers. I doubt it will, but there's little doubt that Dellinger's move this week has caught attention with opinion leaders. Besse and Smathers will need to do something of this magnitude to bring the same level of attention to their campaigns and Dalton's going to need to find a better way of responding to attacks.
It'll be interesting.