At press time last night (hah!), Salazar seemingly had played the Summitville issue the right way - show outrage at an unfair attack, get your opponent to condemn it, have the newspapers print editorials defending you, and generally get the word out that the attack as isn't worth the ether it travels through.
But I did say that Salazar had to be careful not to overplay his hand. Fortunately, he's gone and done just that, not merely going over the edge, but diving over, with the judges giving him scores ranging from 5.4 to 5.8. From this morning's Rocky:
Salazar noted that both Denver daily newspapers editorialized Wednesday against the ad. Like those editorials, Salazar asked that the ad be stopped, and called upon his Republican opponent, Pete Coors, to join in that demand.
Although Coors has denounced ads by outside groups, Salazar said Wednesday that isn't enough.
The two-term state attorney general labeled his brewery executive opponent a "handmaiden" to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries that fund Americans for Job Security, and said it was "almost a hypocrisy" for Coors not to try harder to get the ad off the air.
Coors spokeswoman Cinamon Watson decried the tone of Salazar's message, noting that immediately after the primary election Salazar had pledged a positive race.
"I'd say that anybody who's calling for a positive campaign and in the same breath starts name-calling Pete is a hypocrite," she said.
Good for Coors. Salazar knows full well that the law concerning collaboration is unsettled. Were Coors to successfully call for the ads to be pulled, it would effectively make him responsible for all outside advertising, even though he can't possibly control it. Salazar is trying to manufacture an issue now where none really exists. And he's setting up his own sadder-but-wiser pose when the Sierra Club comes in with ads showing Clear Creek flowing with sludge and explaining that it's all those Coors trucks that cause the Brown Cloud.
More worrisome is the tendency at both the national and state levels to turns debates about policy and record into debates about campaign finance. Today, after McCain-Feingold's warping of the First Amendment, such debates have a somewhat menacing tone. In a way, it's worse that Kerry, since these ads never really threatened Salazar's candidacy. Complaining about mud is only slightly more recent than mud itself.
Cross-Posted at Salazar v. Coors.