With the campaign of Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows circulating a poll that shows their candidate making a big dent in the lead of Sen. Susan Collins--the senior senator's advantage is down to 24% from 55% in June--Democracy For America (DFA) jumped into the fray on Wednesday with a $300,000 ad buy attacking Collins and supporting Bellows:
Collins reelection campaign spokesman Lance Dutson immediately took to Twitter to blast the above ad:
But then something funny happened: Dutson couldn't back up his rather bold charge. He couldn't come close.
Ad from Bellows ally DFA riddled with falsehoods and distortions. More to come. #mepolitics— Lance Dutson (@ldutson) August 27, 2014
Dutson began his dissection of the ad by attributing to it the claim that "Collins voted against Dodd-Frank."
The ad actually says that Collins voted "against a crackdown on Wall Street after the financial crisis" and references an April 26, 2010 vote to make its case.
This was indeed a vote on the Dodd-Frank financial reform package--but not the final, successful vote that made the bill into law. Rather, it was an earlier vote in which Collins lined up with Republicans to block the package. I'd forgotten that Collins had been on both sides of the Senate's financial reform bill, but clearly DFA didn't. (She was memorably quizzed about the filibuster by--of all people--Matt Lauer.)
In short, while it's indisputably true that Maine's three-term senator ultimately came around to backing Dodd-Frank, it's just as indisputable that Collins "voted against a crackdown" as the ad claims.
Spotlighting that fact might be considered uncharitable--after having voted against the bill, in the end Collins voted for it. In the context of a 60-second critique, the assertion could even (arguably) be called disingenuous. But all the caveats in the world don't change the fact that it's literally and verifiably true.
Meanwhile, Dutson's second attempt at exposing the ad's "falsehoods" came to even less:
As proof, Dutson cited Collins's vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act when it passed back in 2009. But as I tried to get across to him on Twitter, you can't refute the idea that someone is against doing "more" about something by citing a law she helped pass long ago: The whole point of using the word "more" is to signal a move beyond the present-tense status quo. (Try promising your kid more ice cream and then, when she asks for it, talking about the ice cream you bought her six weeks ago.)
Ex.2: DFA ad says Collins 'against doing more about pay discrimination against women' Wrong again. #mepolitics 1/2— Lance Dutson (@ldutson) August 27, 2014
This seems so basic as to be almost beyond explanation. But instead of trying again or recalibrating--instead of dialing back the charge that the ad is "riddled with falsehoods" Dutson simply dug in, citing "major factual errors".
Whether he had in mind other, unspecified errors or the errors he'd tried and failed to substantiate isn't clear.
Something tells me that further clarification won't be forthcoming.