And we've had LITW label the GOP reaction as "hysterical," sort of missing the point that Roy Brown, for instance, was reporting on the reaction he was getting from Republican faithful, rather than saying anything negative himself about it.
As Bob Brown (one of the former candidates whose donors were hit up) pointed out, there is nothing illegal whatsoever about the letter. Nor is there anything unethical about it. Fundraising data is public information, and the governor's campaign simply used that public information.
What was unusual about the letter wasn't having Democrats hit up Republicans for money -- we get on Dem fundraising direct-mail lists all the time. What was odd was having a sitting governor send a letter to those who funded his opponents, telling them in the first sentence that his campaign had taken note not only of whom they had contributed to, but exact amounts.
It is one thing to be put on a mailing list, and quite another to have something of that specificity coming from a governor. Again, there was nothing illegal or unethical about the letter, which was written in a nice, friendly sort of way. It was just unusual.
The reactions that we heard from those who received the letter were absolutely as negative as Roy Brown said he was getting from people he has met on the campaign trail since then. But the letter was a sort of Rorschach test.
Those who claimed to have personal knowledge of the governor's strong-arming ways saw the letter as vaguely menacing -- "I know where you live, I know you gave to my opponent, and how much."
We'd be interested to know if anyone else has seen this tactic before: a large-scale letter sent by a candidate in one party to supporters of the opposition, reminding them that what they give is public information.
Anyway, those who had contributed to Pat Davison's campaign felt they were being reminded that they had contributed money to a convicted felon.
Those who have a visceral dislike for John Bohlinger saw the prominent featuring of Bohlinger's name and the emphasis on the "bipartisan ticket" as yet one more example of cynical game-playing on Bohlinger's part, messing with the party he claims to belong to even as he works to defeat its candidates up and down the ticket.
And so forth.
Most expressed a determination to respond by sending a check to Roy Brown.
Surprisingly few mentioned the letter's citation of the goofy Gazette online poll that showed the governor with a 75% to 25% "lead" over Roy Brown, which was a bit concerning, since it perhaps shows a lack of knowledge about the complete unscientific nature of online polling of this kind.
Anyone who believes that the governor is going to carry a majority in the coverage area of the Gazette -- let alone win it by a 3 to 1 margin -- is of course welcome to do so, or to believe any other sort of foolishness.
What is also interesting is that the Gazette itself, which is quick to point out that its own online polling "unscientific" (put differently, "for entertainment purposes only") didn't mention this aspect of the letter, and point out that on-line polling has no scientific validity.
Will the letter be successful? To a certain extent, it can hardly not be successful. A few people may send a check the governor's way (although that could hardly have been the main point,) and some may feel a bit unnerved and decide not to give to Roy Brown, having been reminded that someone in Helena is watching. If you are someone who believes those stories about political opponents getting tax audits and what-not, then you might decide to put your money elsewhere -- or maybe just leave it in the bank.
But for every dollar "gained" by one of those two ways, ticked-off Republicans will probably give several more to Brown's campaign, wiping out any real advantage. So money couldn't be the main point.
The main value of the letter was rather, surely, to test the Brown campaign -- to see if it will be reactive rather than pro-active. If Brown's history of campaigning is any indication, he will stick to his campaign strategy and for the most part ignore this sort of stunt.
The governor's campaign was out for a reaction -- preferably an over-reaction that it can point to either as a sign of unreasonableness or of weakness (depending on the audience to whom the over-reaction is being pointed out.)
As LITW pointed out, "independents are watching."
Republicans in general would do well to remember that attacking the governor -- especially in a reactive way -- has never worked. Name one thing it has ever accomplished. One.
He's just too good at that sort of jujitsu.
Yes, the campaign for governor will have to involve Republicans answering -- calmly -- the Democratic charges against Brown, and pointing out -- matter-of-factly -- what the current administration has done wrong and what it has failed to do right.
But to the extent that the race turns into Republicans being drawn into a three-ring circus, it is only to our disadvantage. When someone is clowning around, usually ignoring the act is the best way to get them to quit.