While the closing weeks of the 2008 presidential campaign were defined in part by a series of nasty robocall attacks on Barack Obama, there has been a noticeable absence of the campaign technique in the 2010 elections.
Among congressional candidates, only a few have used robocalls -- a relatively cheap form of blitzing voters with an automated message -- to push headline-grabbing messages. The real memorable ones, indeed, have taken place at the local level, often with groups trying to micro-target social conservative voters.
On Wednesday, a group called the House Republican Campaign Committee (presumably an arm of the Missouri Republican Party) released a robocall attacking Courtney Cole, a state representative in Missouri, for having ties to the "hardcore pornography industry, including gay pornography."
"This is an urgent alert for all Christian families," the call goes. "Before you vote you should know that state representative candidate Courtney Cole has taken hundreds in campaign donations from a representative of the hardcore pornography industry, including gay pornography. By allowing her Democratic campaign to be funded by those who are involved with and support hardcore pornography, Courtney Cole clearly does not share our Christian family values. On Election Day stand up for what's right and decent by voting no on Courtney Cole. Paid for by House Republican Campaign Committee, Inc."
The ties-to-hard-core-porn charge borders on a self-parody of an attack ad. But pushing the line-pushing accusation is basically the function of a robocall. Last week, a social conservative organization in Michigan ran a robocall attacking a statehouse Democratic candidate for being a stooge for the "homosexual activist agenda." The spot dropped the word homosexual ten times.