I had the opportunity to talk to two veteran members of Congress this week. In separate conversations, both told me that it is just about time for "silly season."
"Silly season" is a term utilized by political activists and candidates to describe the post-Labor Day period through election day. Undecided or swing voters begin to definitely decide on a candidate. Therefore, the campaigns save their most incendiary accusations against the opposition for that period.
I hear you: there are even more incendiary accusations out there?
Maybe. When I first ran for office (in 1995-86), candidates prepared themselves for "dirty bomb Thursday." The opposing campaign would save its most scurrilous charge for the Thursday before the election. That gave the aggrieved candidate very little time to respond before election day--and could possibly sink the campaign.
But with the Internet, EVERY DAY seems like "dirty bomb Thursday." Every partisan website fires every conceivable charge at the opposition, hoping that something will catch on with the public.
However, the latest polling shows that very few people remain undecided: the RealClearPolitics aggregate polling average has President Obama with 47.3 percent support while Romney has 44.8. Less than 8 percent of voters are telling pollsters that they've yet to decide.
Campaigns are attempting to accomplish two things during "silly season." Fire up the base so that their voters race to the polls ... and try to increase support among certain people groups to compensate for weak performance among other people groups.
For example, I see consistent polling data that indicates that President Obama is not doing well with white males. However, Democrats always do better among women than men -- thus the constant efforts by Democratic campaigns to increase the "gender gap" as a means of nullifying Romney's lead among men.
Campaign strategists use the length of a campaign to tell a story about their candidate--and a story about the opposition. That's why Democratic strategists are immediately trying to tie the ludicrous comments of a Senate candidate in Missouri to Romney/Ryan and Republicans in general. After spotlighting the Akin comments, the Democrats remind voters of a constant parade of talking points meant to dissuade women from voting Republican.
It's always a gift to a campaign when an opponent says something silly and it plays right into the campaign narrative.