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Why Your Mailbox Is a Chamber of Political Horrors


"The bomb-throwing language always does well."

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is "an illegal alien's best friend." His opponent let insurance companies "refuse to cover colon cancer tests." In New Hampshire, the governor freed a man who "sexually molested a 7 year old."

Oh, that campaign mail.

Even basketball star LeBron James is — unwittingly — part of the mailbox action. The player who spurned Cleveland for Miami is featured in an anti-handgun message in Ohio despite having nothing to do with that or any political issue.

Voters are being flooded with millions of pieces of political mail just days before they pick candidates Tuesday. The candidates, their allies — and certainly, their enemies — are using glossy mailers to convey some of the election's harshest rhetoric.

"Reid's policies have led to 14 percent unemployment, the highest in the country," one flier from Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle says of her rival, the Senate's top Democrat. "Nevada can't afford Harry Reid any more."

Below that statement: an angry looking Reid showing a cartoon of Mexico with "amnesty" written in it.

Reid fires back in a booklet contending: "Angle was one of only two votes allowing insurance companies to refuse to cover colon cancer tests." He also tells voters that Angle opposed background checks to keep sex offenders away from children, wants to privatize the Veterans Administration and didn't support protections for domestic violence victims.

"It's direct mail — the bomb-throwing language always does well," said Chris Maiorana, a Republican strategist who has designed Senate candidates' mail programs.

Mail is by no means a new tool in campaigns and the final days always bring a pile of political paper as campaigns compete for the last undecided voters. Often, the most effective attacks don't come from the candidates.

Americans United for Safe Streets, an anti-handgun group based in Washington, is sending 175,000 pieces of mail into Ohio with the image of James, whose dramatic abandonment of his hometown team in favor of Miami has left Cleveland residents sore.

What's he got to do with guns and politics? Nothing, really.

"Florida took LeBron," the flier says on its front. "What did we get in return?" The flier goes on: "They sent us 92 illegal guns and gun-toting criminals. And Richard Cordray is letting them do it." That's the Democratic attorney general. A study found 92 guns were recovered in Ohio crimes in 2009 that were traced back to Florida.

It's merely one example of allied groups trying to influence the election with some dubious claims and associations.

In Wisconsin, where Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is fighting to keep his seat, the state AFL-CIO has sent mailers attacking his GOP rival, Ron Johnson, as an "anti-worker, job-killing candidate for U.S. Senate."

The mailer contends Johnson supported two liberalized trade deals that together cost Wisconsin more than 25,000 jobs. It doesn't stop there. "Johnson compared Social Security to a 'Ponzi scheme' and supports a risky plan to gamble our retirement in the stock market. And if the budget gets tight, he's willing to gut pensions."

The state party also sent mailers for Feingold that feature a factory worker, looking stressed, an empty factory and the claim that Wisconsin "lost over 64,000 jobs" from the North American Free Trade Agreement alone.

Not exactly in step on the math.

In Indiana, state Democrats sent a campaign flier to conservative voters in the southeast corner of the state promoting the Libertarian candidate as "the real conservative" in the closely fought race. Democratic Rep. Baron Hill faces Republican Todd Young and Libertarian Greg Knott there in a toss-up between Hill and Young.

The mailing is aimed at persuading some conservatives to vote for Knott instead of Young. State GOP Chairman Murray Clark called the flier one "the most underhanded political stunts" he's seen.

Then look to New Hampshire, where the social conservative organization Cornerstone Action sent mail to independent voters last weekend that features four mug shots of sex offenders who won parole from an early parole bill signed by Democratic Gov. John Lynch. Under photos of Lynch and the offenders: "Governor: NH 'safer' with early inmate parole."

Never mind that most Republicans in the statehouse voted for the bill, too. Subtlety is not the strength of these efforts.


Associated Press writers Cristina Silva in Las Vegas, Deanna Martin in Indianapolis, Holly Ramer and Norma Love in Concord, N.H., Ryan J. Foley in Madison, Wis., and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.

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