Yesterday, the Concord Monitor ran the following piece on Congressman Frank Guinta. Guinta is trying to trick voters into believing he is not currently in Congress and doesn’t have his abysmal voting record.
Guinta camp: Shea-Porter is incumbent
Campaign calls frame rep as the challenger
August 3, 2012
In 2010, Republican Frank Guinta seized a spot in Washington from then-Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. And though this time around he's the incumbent and she's the challenger, voters wouldn't know it from recent phone recordings used by his campaign.
"Hi. This is Frank Guinta, candidate for Congress, running against Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. I'm running to end the broken culture of Washington," the recording says, according to a transcript provided by the Shea-Porter campaign.
The recording, which Guinta's campaign said is left on voicemails when a phone-bank volunteer doesn't get an answer, has been received in the last few weeks by voters in the 1st Congressional District.
In campaign letters, too, Guinta's staff has taken to dropping the "former" from Shea-Porter's title. His spokesman, Derek Dufresne, said yesterday the campaign is merely showing respect for its Democratic challenger.
"It has long been customary and respectful to address former elected officials by the title they most recently held," Dufresne said in an email. "In 2010, Frank Guinta was the former mayor of Manchester where he cut taxes, reduced spending and grew the city's economy. During that election, Congresswoman Shea-Porter frequently referred to Frank as 'Mayor Guinta.' "
But Shea-Porter called the message "amazingly deceptive" and said Guinta is trying to distance himself from, and associate her with, an unpopular Congress.
"The only thing about that is I'm not in Congress," she said. "He is."
She said Guinta is "insulting New Hampshire voters" by assuming they don't know who represents them in the House.
Andy Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, said Guinta could be looking to dissociate himself from his current office, a common campaign tactic when the economy is poor and voters are blaming Washington.
"It's always a good thing to run against Congress," Smith said. A politician "could have been in Congress their entire career, and they'll run against Washington when it's time for re-election."
Smith added that Guinta's favorable ratings in his district are lower than Shea-Porter's - 31 percent to her 43 percent in the most recent April poll.
"It may be they're thinking one of the reasons he seems to be less favorable is because of Congress's general unpopularity. . . . 'We're not looking really popular right now. If we can tie her in with being a member of this unpopular Congress, that may help us out,' " Smith said.
National organizations are using the tactic too, and in a recent campaign by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the group said it's time to "replace" Shea-Porter and other Democrats who supported President Obama's health care law. The website lists 10 candidates, four of whom aren't currently in office.
"She was a member of Congress," said Nat Sillin, spokesman for the NRCC, in explaining the campaign.
"She voted fore ObamaCare. She's running for re-election, continuing to support the same failed policies. And that's what this website is about."
The site was paid for by a joint committee that includes the Friends of Frank Guinta, a third-party fundraising committee. The website does make clear Shea-Porter was defeated in 2010 once her picture is clicked on.
If Guinta is hoping voters think he is the challenger, as Shea-Porter believes, an unscientific poll conducted by the Monitor suggests such a strategy might be successful.
Of 15 voters interviewed yesterday in Hooksett at Robie's Country Store and at a nearby gas station, only eight answered correctly when asked whether Guinta or Shea-Porter was their representative. Three said Shea-Porter and four said they didn't know.