It’s opposition-research season in the campaign-consulting game — too early to campaign, but not too early to be getting prepared for a little back and forth.
During this short but informative interlude between candidate recruiting and actual battles in the media, I often am called upon to ponder — often with the benefit of polls and focus groups — whether anything lethal lies buried in a candidate’s dossier.
My views on this subject have evolved over the years, finally crystallizing in a list of seven deadly sins that candidates cannot commit today. As with health matters, the designation of something as “deadly” doesn’t mean that every victim will demise, but enough do to merit the label. You might be the exception that survives a snake bite — actually only about seven Americans each year die from snakebites — but we still consider rattlesnake venom something deadly that should be avoided.
• Sin No. 1: Voting to raise taxes.
Despite Democrats’ best efforts to make voting for higher taxes a badge of honor or courage, it’s still not acceptable behavior in most states to be a tax raiser. You may vote against reducing taxes, but you can’t raise them without risking a cobralike bite.
• Sin No. 2: Not paying your own taxes. This is an especially troublesome charge when the candidate is a Republican, especially one who makes low taxes a central policy goal. It’s OK to be against taxes, but voters won’t tolerate a do-it-yourself, go-it-alone implementation of your tax-cut plan.
• Sin No. 3: Multiple DUIs. Driving under the influence is one of the sins that voters can forgive, as long as you stop after one ticket. But if you get pulled over a second time, your odds of recovering from a cobra bite may look better. Also, if you get caught trying to use Mr. Big status to convince the arresting officer that DUI laws don’t apply to important people, reach for the anti-venom because you are going to need some.
• Sin No. 3: Porn problems. This is a relatively new peccadillo, but one that is sure to become more common in the age of the Internet. It’s amazing how often public officials get caught with porn on their official, publicly owned computers today. It is sure to crash your reelection hopes.
• Sin No. 5: Lying on your r