By Michael Bryan
It appears Heinz is sharpening his messaging as early voting is underway. Heinz just released the following mailer, which hit my box yesterday:
Nothing new here, but dropping it in mailers may push the message home with more amplitude. But the rhetorical flourish of suggesting Barber is follower (of Speaker Boehner, no less), not leader, is pretty sharp.
Even sharper is an ad posted by the Heinz camp today. The ad leads with headlines about Arizona's image problems and the voice over that "Southern Arizona has become a dumping ground for extremist Tea Party legislation" with a pic of a landfill, which cuts to a pic of Barber over that dump with the voice continuing "Ron Barber added to that pile when he voted for a Tea Party backed bill exempting the border patrol from over a century of environmental laws." Again, no new material here, but a fairly sharp elbow to throw in attempting to associate Barber with the Tea Party in a Democratic primary.
See the ad after the fold...
So, it appears that Heinz main contrast message will be based on those unpopular votes and how they demonstrate that Barber is getting rolled because of his inexperience as a legislator, and perhaps a bit too accommodating of Tea Pary wingnuttery. I'm not convinced that these two votes, no matter how obnoxious they might have been to many Dems (myself included) will be enough for Heinz to make major in-roads on Barber's support.
Primary voters in a competitive district are inherently conservative, in the sense that they want to back a horse they think can win, and will be fairly strategic and stubborn about that choice. Barber demonstrated convincingly that he could hold the seat for Dems against a determined (if flawed) challenger. It will take a lot more than a few poorly considered votes to drive a wedge between primary Dem voters and Barber, who now looks to most like a safe bet to hold the seat.
Perhaps Heinz can find a way to overcome Barber's advantages, but I'm guessing that Heinz probably missed his chance when he stepped aside for Barber in the Special, along with all the other candidates. The rest of those pols understood that if Barber decided to go for a full term, it would be nearly impossible to successfully primary him. Perhaps Heinz would be a better candidate and Member than Barber, but I doubt that Heinz will be able to sucessfully make that case. Heinz has to be too careful of alienating Dems with strong attacks on Barber to overcome the quasi-incumbency and front-runner momentum that millions of dollars worth of Special election advertising has given Barber.