For the past few weeks, the Big Media as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, National Public Radio and CBS have been running stories about the heated-up primaries and caucuses. Specifically, they're reporting on robo-call attacks by Republicans against other Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson but especially McCain.
"McCain parries a reprise of 2000 smear tactics," heralds one Times story. "South Carolina smear tactics turn high-tech," claims NPR.
Reached on his cell phone, the man behind all the hullabaloo says sure, he has time to chat. He cheerfully notes that he is in his car, and has just driven by Meadow Muffins. And yes, occasionally Patrick Davis does enjoy a cold one.
"I'm a Fat Tire fan," he confides.
Turning to the topic at hand, Davis, former political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a Colorado Springs resident since 2001, is also a big fan of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. In fact, probably the only bigger booster of Huckabee is actor Chuck Norris.
Norris is busy stumping for the former Baptist preacher and governor of Arkansas, making appearances and commercials for Huckabee's cause. Davis, who ran former Colorado Springs City Councilman Ted Eastburn's unsuccessful bid for mayor in 2003 and is currently advising Jeff Crank for Congress, also has jumped into action for Huckabee. Once a Thompson fan, Davis says Huckabee won him over as a "straight-talker with a heart." After his epiphany late last year, Davis is doing everything he can to pit-bull for Huckabee including dissing Thompson, who last week dropped out of the race.
Which leads us to Common Sense Issues. Davis is executive director of the group, which is registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit company in Delaware. Its phone center is in northern Virginia and, Davis says, funded by "donors and members from around the country who want to have an impact on public policy."
And the issues that really get their juices flowing? Life (as in anti-abortion and anti-stem cell research); limited government (as in small); a strong national defense (as in big); protecting the Second Amendment (happiness is a smokin' gun); and freedom of speech (ain't it wonderful?).
"We defend and we value leaders who have the guts to identify radical Islam as our enemy in our War on Terror," Davis says. "These are conservative issues, but these are also American issues."
Calling around America
What that has meant, at least for Common Sense Issues, is sponsoring two-way automated phone calls to literally millions of people who live in states where presidential caucuses have occurred. Here's the tally so far: 1 million calls in South Carolina, 850,000 in Iowa, 415,000 in New Hampshire, 3 million in Michigan, 400,000 in Nevada, 2.5 million in Florida.
With the Feb. 5 presidential caucuses coming to a history-making 24 states including Colorado, well, it's safe to say that you should soon expect a call.
The questions to expect? Based on recent events, they will lead you to believe that Huckabee is the only guy, the only straight-talker, who can be trusted. On anything.
The world defines push-polling as a one-way communication that delivers negative, often-untruthful information, Davis notes. Common Sense Issues is engaging in two-way communication in which recipients are asked "yes" or "no" questions that, depending on the response, can take them to a new set of questions on other topics.
Since the questions are based on "factual truths" about where candidates stand on the issues, Davis argues, his organization is not push-polling. Rather, he defines it as get ready "personalized educational artificial intelligence calls."
"The truth hurts our opponents that's what the criticism has been," Davis says. "No one is complaining about the facts in our calls; they are only complaining that we're doing them."
Within the rules
Davis rejects any notion that his organization is in any way coordinating with the Huckabee campaign which has been alleged. That would be illegal.
Needless to say, critics aren't convinced, especially about the argument over the definition of push-polling versus "personalized educational artificial intelligence." Rather, they say the information being provided to millions of people is misleading and inaccurate and therefore intellectually, as well as morally, wrong.
If you take a step back, the nuance of the entire exercise is headache-inducing, when you consider that all of the remaining Republican presidential candidates except Ron Paul say they wholeheartedly support the war in Iraq. They say they oppose abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigrants and taxes.
But here is Common Sense Issues, whose operators aren't just standing by. They are calling everyone in the country conveying the message that Huckabee, who in the past has supported voter-approved taxes but now says he doesn't, is therefore The Man.
It doesn't sound very sensible to me.
But I'm open to keeping the conversation rolling even if we have to call it a two-way "personalized educational artificial intelligence" exchange.
Perhaps over a real-life, icy-cold Fat Tire at Meadow Muffins.