Amy Klobuchar made the first serious misstep of her Senate campaign over the last few days, when her spokeswoman, and perhaps other staffers, viewed an unreleased Mark Kennedy ad that they got from a blogger who apparently hacked into Kennedy’s consultant’s web site, and Klobuchar waited four days to disclose the incident. Many will wonder how the episode is likely to affect the Senate race.
The real significance of the incident lies, I think, in the fact that in order for Kennedy to win, voters must perceive the race as something other than a generic Democrat/Republican matchup. If voters don’t focus hard on the two candidates, the Democrat will win–this year, anyway. So Kennedy needs Klobuchar to make mistakes that cause voters to begin to wonder about her fitness for high office. The truth is that Klobuchar, while an able person, is inexperienced and has very thin qualifications for a Senate candidate. This has two consequences: first, it increases the likelihood that she will continue to make mistakes. Second, it makes her vulnerable, in that, if voters see her making errors and start inspecting her candidacy and her qualifications more closely, her support could erode rather quickly.
If Klobuchar doesn’t make any more serious mistakes, this flap will blow over pretty quickly. The danger to Klobuchar comes if the mistakes continue, and they begin to shape a new image in voters’ minds: the image of a candidate who is not ready for prime time.