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2:17 PM

Spot Check 

Home Is Where the Mud Is

The dogfight for the Twentieth Congressional is getting meaner and meaner by the nanosecond, with mud slung at rates rarely attempted in even the most heated contests. Now, even the candidates' families are being soiled.

The Kirsten Gillibrand campaign claims the John Sweeney campaign and its supporters have attacked her brother, husband, even her dear old granny. The Sweeney campaign says the Gillibrand campaign and its supporters have harassed his wife and kids with anonymous voice messages, e-mails, letters, and flyers.

The fracas has prompted Sweeney, the Republican incumbent, to attempt a political performance piece that's not entirely within his skill set: the personal appeal. The Sweeneys seem like fine, sweater-wearing folk who perhaps have not been in the same room together since Home Improvement got canceled. When the cue card reads "TURN TO HER WITH LOVING GAZE," Sweeney lands on something much closer to "uh, have we met?" Come to think of it, is that even the real Mrs. Sweeney or a "Mrs. Sweeney" the ad agency brought along for the shoot? Has Mrs. Sweeney been so traumatized by the Gillibrand campaign's intimidations and smears that she's gone into seclusion?

The Sweeney and Gillibrand campaigns have pursued decidedly different approaches in showing how much they hate the opposing side. Gillibrand's ads have riffed on Hollywood movies and crafted improv-troupe-style skits to take shots at her adversary. Sweeney gets the mothers of dead solders to speak for him. But here it seems the down-home-authenticity thing has hoisted Candidate Soft-Tough on his own folksy petard.

Watch "No Honor" [John Sweeney for Congress]
Yeah, and So's Your Mother [Capitol Confidential]