Congressional Artifice

In 2004, Republicans used their control of Congress to embarrass Kerry into a series of missed votes. The Massachusetts senator would frequently trek to the Capitol for a scheduled vote, only to discover that the vote had been postponed. Kerry’s legislative record, or lack of one, became a centerpiece for Republican attack fodder. Democrats should pursue a similar strategy during this election cycle.

McCain, a longtime advocate for climate change initiatives, recently missed a vote on a landmark emissions regulation bill in order to hold a private fundraiser. The issue passed without much attention, as Obama was considering skipping the vote as well. Neither senator has an exemplary attendance record with each one racking up hundreds of missed votes while on the campaign trail.

However, the Democrats could schedule a series of votes designed to force McCain to choose between two options: appealing to independents or satisfying the queasy conservative base. Schedule a vote on McCain’s original immigration bill, a piece of legislation he now opposes, and stamp him as a flip-flopper. Bring up a campaign finance reform vote, both reigniting McCain’s past sparks with the base and broadcasting his reversal on the issue. These attacks also penetrate the McCain brand itself, stripping away the straight talk facade and revealing the Flipflop Transit.

Combine these votes with those of the utmost importance and schedule them successively on the same day.  That way, Obama could easily attend the daily session, while McCain would grope in vain for an excuse to shirk his senatorial duties.

If Congressional Democrats pursue this strategy, they will help to continue a streak stretching back to the nation’s founding: no sitting minority senator has ever won the presidency.

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