I think the best example is in the current Attorney General race, an affair which until the past several weeks was failing to win any attention. Right now, I think Democrats are on track to win this race, though I have yet to see a poll which pits either Democratic candidate against any of the Republicans. Why do I think this? Because people are paying attention. Why are people paying attention? Because things are getting deliciously nasty.
For what it's worth, I think state Sen. Dan Gelber has the upper hand, despite this poll cited in Sunshine State News which shows state Sen. Dave Aronberg winning 20-18. Those doing math at home realize that's a lot of undecided voters for a two-man race. But those voters will make up their minds soon. Most party leaders have avoided choosing sides in the race, mostly because either candidate would do well in a general election contest, but even that is starting to change.
Things got good this weekend as Aronberg began running television ads ripping Gelber for working at Akerman Senterfitt. (That link goes to The Buzz, which apparently had to video the ads off television because Aronberg doesn't do the YouTube thing) Now these negative ads have folks like Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich, enough so she got off the fence and endorsed Gelber. Via that Creative Loafing piece:
"Maybe I was a little naïve," Rich said by telephone last week. "I was going to be neutral, until this happened," she says of the BP fracas. "It pushed me over to the Gelber side."
Well good. Democratic voters have to make a decision soon. So should leadership. Many people say these attacks are unfair, and that Gelber's association with the firm hardly means he was defending BP. True enough. I noted here that Gelber was in on the importance oil would play in all Cabinet races long before that dawned on Aronberg. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't defend himself.
After Aronberg brought up the issue, Gelber left his firm. Should Gelber win the primary, that means he has shaken a bit of baggage before the general. And Republicans won't be able to hit him nearly so hard. If Aronberg wins the primary, he has a stronger position as the bringer of high standards.
And as attacks go, these aren't awful. Does anyone remember Peter Deutsch destroying Bettey Castor with a false link to Palestinian terrorists via USF professor Sami al-Arian? Deutsch, who was losing the Democratic primary for Senate in 2004, decided to scorch the earth and say since Castor was president of USF while a professor was there raising money to help Palestinian causes, she must secretly be harboring terrorists. That was total garbage, and by Duetsch running TV ads about it during the primary, it gave Republican Mel Martinez a vetted death blow, probably a big enough one to win the close election.
But what will the Republicans do with the BP connection? None of them will even take a stance against offshore drilling.
Meanwhile, this entire episode is getting both Gelber and Aronberg attention while the Republicans seem to run an invisible campaign. Jeff Kottkamp, Holly Bensen and Pam Bondi may as well be random assemblies of letters on the ballot. None is a star, and none can establish themselves as frontrunners.
So long as the entire ticket isn't destroyed here, the high-profile tension is good for Gelber and Aronberg. Whoever wins, at least somebody cares that it happened.