As the 2008 Republicans trudge toward this political Mordor, they do so bracing for what threaten to be new lows of attack politics. John McCain’s reputation was slandered (and his candidacy ruined) here in 2000–and he was a war hero. By contrast, the current leaders of the GOP field–Romney, Thompson, and Rudy Giuliani–seem almost tailor-made for the state’s smear machine. Romney’s opponents are salivating over his Mormonism. Giuliani’s marital history, gay friends, and past appearances in drag are all ideal fodder for dead-of-night windshield pamphlets. And one upstate county Republican chairman has already sneered publicly at Thompson’s ‘trophy wife’.
Rod Shealey, a GOP consultant I recently profiled, told Crowley: “The anonymity of the Internet is going to take the whole game to a new and much lower level than thought possible.”
All the top GOP candidates have heavy-hitters on their campaign staffs.
One of the lesser known figures is Jason Miller, a former Campaign Manager and Deputy Chief of Staff to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who was hired as a media hand by the Rudy Giuliani campaign earlier this year. Miller, said the press release announcing the hire, “brings more than a decade of national political experience to the Committee, having won elections and shaped messages for successful House, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns in California, Florida, Oklahoma and South Carolina.” A friend of mine who watched Miller in action when the latter worked on the Hill called as soon as she heard the news. “If Giuliani hired Miller,” this person said, “it means that it’s only a matter of time before things get nasty.”