A whispering campaign urging some loyal Democrats to vote for Donnelly in the open primary to assure Donnelly a place on the November ballot wouldn’t work according to Allan Hoffenblum, a keen observer of the California political scene and publisher of the California Target Book which tracks candidate elections. “It would have to be out in the open, you would need to use persuasion techniques and that couldn’t be kept secret. And it would cost money.”
However, Hoffenblum says that it might be possible for a mischief effort to boost the Donnelly campaign by running ads against Donnelly’s opponents in the primary, particularly his best-funded opponent, Neel Kashkari.
It’s been done before, Hoffenblum reminded me, although he didn’t have to since I was involved on the receiving end of such mischief. When former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan was seemingly running away with the Republican nomination for governor in 2002, Garry South, Gov. Gray Davis’s campaign strategist hit Riordan with negative ads during the primary. I was on the Riordan team. The shots hit their mark and Riordan’s huge lead in early polls vanished as Bill Simon bested him on Election Day.Another option for Democrats is to do for Donnelly what Claire McCaskill did for Todd Akin in 2012: run an ad that nominally attacks Donnelly but actually (and intentionally) helps him get GOP votes. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explained at the time:
To conservatives, McCaskill's "criticisms" in the Akin commercial sound more like compliments: that he opposes big government and wants to cut the federal departments of energy and education; and that he has been hotly critical of Obama.
At one point, the ad makes an allegation that sounds as if it could be on an Akin bumper sticker: "Todd's pro-family agenda would outlaw many forms of contraception."
The ad closes with the narrator speaking words that are shown on the screen next to Akin: "Missouri's TRUE conservative ..." Only after a pause does the rest of the phrase come up: "...is just TOO conservative."
"That's music to their ears" in the Akin camp, said [St. Louis University's Ken] Warren, the political scientist. "No one is 'too conservative' for a Tea Party Missourian.