Jonathan Chait

The Tom Frank Candidate

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Jonathan Martin finds a political ad that he deems the basic playbook for Democratic challengers running this year:

Here's the interesting thing about this ad. The usual red state Democratic playbook is to run to the right more or less across the board -- not as far right as the GOP, but center-to-right on social issues, foreign policy and economics. The candidate here, Tommy Sowers, first establishes his cultural bona fides (he's an Iraq vet and a Bible-touting Christian) but then attacks his Republican opponent for supporting trade deals and the financial bailout. Though I don't agree with them, I have no doubt that those two positions poll well.

Sowers is running the kind of campaign that Thomas Frank famously urged in his book "What's The Matter With Kansas?" It's a genuine populist campaign, combining right-wing social affinity with left-wing anti-corporate economics. I've always wondered why more rural Democrats don't give this a try -- whatever the merits of trade deals, they're hardly popular, especially not in downscale areas. And running against the bailout is kind of an obvious call for any candidate who wasn't in office in 2008.

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