Sometimes, though, the candidates shoot themselves in the foot, doing more damage than an opponent could ever hope to do.
Such is the case with U.S. Senate rivals Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, both of whom have done themselves harm in this high-emotions time of the NCAA Basketball Championship.
It was big news last week when the McConnell campaign released a television ad, a remarkably civilized one for this era in that it never disparaged the Senate Republican leader’s rookie Democrat adversary. Indeed, it never mentioned Grimes at all.
Instead, it was a sentimental promotion of traditional American principles and the potential for individual and collective achievement that became hallmarks of the United States as it grew from infancy to world power.
One such achievement is the winning of college basketball championship titles, something at which the University of Kentucky excels. UK’s eight NCAA banners are second only to UCLA’s 11.
McConnell’s ad included a split-second video clip of players in white and blue uniforms celebrating.
Only problem was, it wasn’t Kentucky that was depicted. It was UK’s bitter rival Duke University of Durham, N.C.
But wait, there’s more. When the error was detected, the McConnell campaign quickly “fixed” it with a clip of Julius Randle, a freshman on this year’s UK team.
Rather than repairing the error, this compounded it. The use of Randle’s image ran afoul of NCAA regulations.
Opportunity for Grimes?
Well, not so much. The challenger to the five-term incumbent had her own misstep related to basketball in the picks in her NCAA tournament bracket.
Grimes forecast Kentucky would lose in the second round to undefeated No. 1 seed Wichita State, but the Wildcats beat the Shockers 78-76.
That put the Wildcats up against in-state rival Louisville. Grimes picked the defending champion Cardinals to advance to the championship game, but then to lose to Florida.
So, which is the greater sin – an erroneous prop to the hated Blue Devils of Duke, or predictions of defeat for both of the state’s top-echelon basketball powers?
Kentucky and Louisville, by the way, have won the last two NCAA championships, UK in 2012 and U of L last year.
McConnell’s gaffe has gotten much more attention than Grimes’, so with regard to public opinion, Mitch is the bigger loser in this brouhaha.
The worst thing about it all is that it just may result in candidates sticking to “safer” territory – such as ruthlessly condemning and criticizing each other – in their future campaign ads.