U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde (R) certainly knows there is no such thing as bad publicity. Struggling to gain traction against Tommy Thompson, Mark Neumann, and Jeff Fitzgerald, Hovde suddenly finds himself under the spotlight.
It is attention that previously he could not buy. He has loaned his campaign nearly $2 million. Despite that and plenty of TV spots, a Marquette University poll released this week notes that Hovde is the least recognized of the four candidates. Only 27 percent of poll respondents were able to share an opinion of him.
That is likely to change quickly. The Huffington Post reported on comments he made while speaking to the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. Noticing a reporter in the audience, Hovde said:
"I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray. Stop always writing about, 'Oh, the person couldn't get, you know, their food stamps or this or that.' You know, I saw something the other day -- it's like, another sob story, and I'm like, 'But what about what's happening to the country and the country as a whole?' That's going to devastate everybody."
After receiving criticism for his remarks, Hovde defended himself and challenged Arianna Huffington to a debate. "I will gladly debate Ms. Huffington any time and any place in front of a room full of journalists on what she has done for the less fortunate versus what I have done.”
For a man who repeatedly touts himself as an outsider, Hovde sure plays the game like a seasoned veteran (he did live in the nation’s capital for nearly 25 years after all). He wasted no time attacking the conservative’s favorite bogeyman “the liberal media” for allegedly taking his comments out of context. A fundraising solicitation also used the issue to ask for money.
Hovde should be thanking the Huffington Post and other media outlets for giving his campaign more attention than it has received since he officially launched it back in early March. Millions of dollars did not result in this level of attention. How would it have happened without the media people like Hovde love to hate?
This is not to say that Hovde is the first candidate for office to exploit media attention for personal gain. It happens all the time and candidates from both sides of the aisle are more than happy to do it when it benefits them.
Nor is he the first candidate or politician to make comments that appear insensitive during a time of challenging economic conditions. Chances are if you are a politician or a candidate for U.S. Senate, you’re doing better than the vast majority of the American people. Their day-to-day reality is quite different from that of most people.
The moral of the story here is to be skeptical of candidates repeatedly insisting that they are an outsider or somehow different from the rest. They probably are not. Hovde may not currently hold a political office, but by immediately attacking the same old targets and rapidly launching a fundraiser based on controversial remarks, he sure acts like an insider.