Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1

By Kerwin C. Swint | Go to book overview

17
POLLUTING THE GARDEN STATE

Frank Lautenberg v. Pete Dawkins, U.S. Senate,
New Jersey, 1988

I'm running against a Swamp Dog.

—Pete Dawkins

New Jersey has seen its share of tough political races. This 1988 U.S. Senate race set a state record for spending in a political campaign and is remembered as one of the dirtiest on record. According to Newsweek, there was so much mud flying between the two candidates that New Jersey voters "practically had to wear hip boots to get to the polls."1

Challenger Pete Dawkins called the incumbent, Senator Frank Lautenberg, a "swamp dog." Lautenberg called Dawkins a "carpetbagger," accusing him of polling in several other states before running in New Jersey. Dawkins was not a New Jersey native, but he denied the charges. Television ads by Lautenberg, such as the one urging Dawkins to "be real," drove Dawkins's negatives up to 35 percent by the end of the campaign.

It was not supposed to be that way. Pete Dawkins was a "dream" candidate for the Republicans in 1988. He was running against a vulnerable incumbent in Lautenberg, who was finishing his first term with public approval ratings in the forties. Lautenberg had been elected in 1982 by the smallest of margins over Republican Millicent Fenwick, even though he had outspent her $6 million to $2 million.

Dawkins looked like a "hot" political property, as the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee made the New Jersey Senate race their number

-71-

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Mudslingers: The Top 25 Negative Political Campaigns of All Time : Countdown from No. 25 To No. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • 25- From Vietnam to Iraq 1
  • 24- It''s a Jungle out There 11
  • 23- Senator Pothole versus "Putzhead" 23
  • 22- Electronic Mudslinging 31
  • 21- The Art of War 39
  • 20- Homo Sapiens, Thespians, and Extroverts 47
  • 19- Vote for the Crook—it''s Important 55
  • 18- Who''s the Boss? Richard Daley and the Chicago Political Machine 63
  • 17- Polluting the Garden State 71
  • 16- God Save the Republic, Please 79
  • 15- Rudy and the Jets 87
  • 14- A Jersey Street Fight 95
  • 13- In This Corner, Little Lord Fauntleroy 103
  • 12- Sex, Lies, and Videotape 113
  • 11- Claytie versus the Lady 123
  • 10- Richard Nixon versus the United States of America 133
  • 9- "Bye-Bye Blackbird" 143
  • 8- America, Meet Willie Horton 153
  • 7- Tricky Dick versus the Pink Lady 163
  • 6- Grantism and Mr. Greeley 173
  • 5- The First Campaign 183
  • 4- A House Divided 193
  • 3- Mud, Mugwumps, and Motherhood 203
  • 2- The Dirtiest Campaign in American History? 213
  • 1- George Wallace and the "Negro Bloc Vote" 223
  • Epilogue 233
  • Notes 237
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 251
  • About the Author 255
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