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Advertiser: Lugar for President

Agency: MWM, Washington

Rating: 1/2 star

Today's subject: campaign suicide.

Let's say you were a Republican senator from Indiana and presidential hopeful, a lackluster personality but a respected authority on foreign policy with interesting views on domestic politics and economics, as well.

And let's say you were about $600,000 short on campaign funds. And let's say there were two universes from which to solicit as you attempt to shore up the deficit: 1) those who are ignorant or indifferent to your message, and 2) those who have demonstrated their support by giving you a check already.

And let's say your campaign made the strategic decision to raise the money from the universe of previous contributors, the core of the your support now and in the future.

Question: Under those circumstances, what should you never, ever, ever do?

Answer: Annoy, irritate, anger, nettle, inconvenience, vex, perturb, irk, harass, worry, alarm and yank the chain of anyone in that universe.

So in that sense it is not unusual that Sen. Richard G. Lugar mailed a three-page solicitation, flattering those who had contributed to his campaign and impressing upon them the urgency of kicking in a few bucks more. Those appeals are standard fare in political direct marketing.

What is unusual-what is unusual and astonishing and stupid beyond measure-is that Lugar sent the appeal via certified mail, "because I need to make sure it receives your immediate attention."

Oh, we'll bet it did. We'll bet thousands of (previous) Lugar supporters were most attentive as they discovered the notice of an undelivered certified letter stuck in their mailboxes. And no doubt they were attentive every moment as they drove to the post office, heart rate elevated, wondering who was filing suit against them, or who was placing a lien against their home, or what long-lost relative had died leaving them a vast fortune or a skunk farm or an orphaned 7-year-old with a history of violence.

And imagine their surprise to be handed their certified letter from Dick Lugar. How attentive they must have been! And how irate. How suddenly predisposed to Arlen Specter.

In his letter, Lugar notes how his success in fund-raising to date "sent a shock wave throughout America." At the time, he was merely indulging in campaign hyperbole. Right about now, however, the shock wave is real, and the campaign should be seeing the damage at any moment.

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