In an anti-incumbent election it helps, above all else, to be the party out of power. That's why Republican candidates and campaign committees are beaming with optimism as November approaches. When voters look for politicians on whom they can take out their anger, it will be Democrats, by and large, on the receiving end.
But what happens when it's the Republican who is the one in office? In a number of races, the GOP is grappling with this problem. And for a brief moment on Tuesday, operatives trotted out a rather innovative solution: simply label the Democratic challenger the incumbent.
"Help Defeat Elaine Marshall!" the National Republican Senatorial Committee's website read earlier in the day. "For nearly two years, America has suffered from the liberal Democrat's control of Washington and if Elaine Marshall is sent back to the Senate, we can only expect more of the same: increased spending and soaring national debt."
Marshall, the current North Carolina Secretary of State, has never served in the Senate before. So sending her "back" there would be, well, impossible. Her opponent in the race, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) has served in the upper chamber since 2004 and in Congress at large since 1995. Incumbency, indeed, is one of the main reasons his re-election contest remains close.
By mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the NRSC had corrected its site. "For nearly two years," it read, "America has suffered from the liberal Democrat's control of Washington and if Elaine Marshall is elected to the Senate, we can only expect more of the same: increased spending and soaring national debt."
But that was after a Democratic source made a screen grab of the page for the Huffington Post (pasted below). Asked for comment, NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh copped to a clerical error but managed to poke fun at Marshall for being the Democratic Party's second choice for the Senate nomination.
"This was a simple database error that was quickly corrected," he said. "But while the Democrats are trying to draw attention to this, I should also admit that we're guilty of plagiarism as well - we borrowed the first sentence 'help defeat Elaine Marshall' from Democrats in Washington after we watched them spend over $200,000 trying to defeat Elaine and elect Cal Cunningham as their nominee instead. So I guess none of us are perfect."