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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Janison: Top 10 campaign attention-grabbers

NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called on caucus

NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called on caucus member Vito Lopez to step down. Credit: AP

Campaign managers are hired to show results. So you can count on most to serve their candidates with timeworn tactics.

This can make it difficult to distinguish one campaign from another -- or even one October from the next.

In the part of a campaign that involves public relations, debates and posturing, here -- in no order of importance -- are 10 by-the-book attention-getting actions that mainstream candidacies are taking this season as predictably as the leaves turn color:

Demand a resignation. Some Democrats shook off any association with Assemb. Vito Lopez, accused of sex harassment, by demanding he resign. He's under enough of a cloud that repudiation runs no risk. Republicans upped the ante by calling for Assembly Speaker Silver to quit. It generates attention.

Use unflattering photos. You need not go as far as Rep. Allen West of Florida did by using in ads a mug shot from his opponent's disorderly intoxication arrest in 2003. Just use a grainy black-and-white of your foe, maybe staring like Nosferatu or looking at the floor as if ashamed. People will think he always looks like that.

Denounce "extremism." Even if neither sounds off-message within their parties, Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and GOP challenger Wendy Long call each other "extreme." Only in primaries might "moderate" mean something bad.

Make it a caffeine contest. President Barack Obama lost debate points for seeming fatigued or lackadaisical. But showing vigor is no panacea. Shortly before losing in 2009, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi rappelled down the side of a six-story building for charity.

Demand an investigation. Questions arose this week in the Long Island race between Democratic Rep. Steve Israel and GOP challenger Stephen Labate over Israel's "short sale" on his underwater bank mortgage. Labate stirred suspicions about why the bank made the deal, and Republicans called for a House ethics probe. Negative news needs legs to generate votes.

Complain about coverage. If you don't, people may presume their impression of you from the news media is accurate and well-earned.

Spin your fundraising. If you have more money, it shows popular support for your message. If you have less money, of course, it means the "special interests" own your opponent.

Disparage opponent's occupation. Doesn't matter if you're running to unseat a 50-year incumbent so that you can serve until death. Accuse the other person of being in office for too long and of shared responsibility for everything that is lousy everywhere. If your opponent is in private business, suggest that he or she succeeded by the moral equivalent of bootlegging. If the rival is rich, evoke Thurston Howell III or Mr. Burns of "The Simpsons."

Call your rival desperate. Memorize the sentence, "This is just another desperate attempt by a desperate candidate to get traction for a failing campaign." One day it will be abbreviated into Internet slang -- "DABADC" or some such.

Save the worst for last. When the hour is late and polling numbers close, you never know if a low blow or overblown allegation might help. That's why these surface in mailings and ads in the final run to Election Day, making the claims nearly impossible to vet or rebut.

Tasteful or not, that's the flavor of the season.

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