Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from the LA Times

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Nevada Rep. Dina Titus comes face-to-face with a 'tracker' and her constituents are not amused

July 20, 2010 |  6:06 am

In this too-much-information age, you could make a pretty strong argument that the most important person on a campaign team is the one wielding the video camera.

The tracker – a staffer assigned to trail someone’s opponent, in hopes of catching a gaffe of career-ending proportions – rose to fame in 2006, when Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia publicly called an Indian American Democratic tracker the derisive racial epithet “macaca” and subsequently lost his reelection bid.

More recently, a tracker for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid captured GOP Senate hopeful Sue Lowden advocating “bartering” for healthcare. Her subsequent attempts to defend the poor choice of words – particularly by evoking the days when you’d “bring a chicken to the doctor” – helped bring down her nascent GOP primary campaign. Once the clear favorite, she lost to "tea party" supporter Sharron Angle.

Trackers have proved so useful that the Democratic National Committee recently launched a website encouraging submissions of "macaca moments" from pretty much....

...anyone with a recording device. I had never seen a tracker in action, however, until working on Tuesday's story about the tough reelection bid of Democrat Rep. Dina Titus , who represents a Nevada district in economic shambles.

During one of Titus’ “Congress on the Corner” events – in which she basically props up a folding table and listens to constituent woes – a young woman plopped down, raised a hand-held video camera and asked Titus whether she’d vote for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to retain her leadership position.

The entire room – Titus, a handful of staffers, at least a dozen constituents – froze. The woman, who said she lived in a different Nevada congressional district, kept repeating the question in the syrupy tone of a preschool teacher.

The constituents fumed: Many of them were struggling to make rent or pay medical bills and were hoping for the representative's help. They started heckling the amateur videographer:

“That’s an unfair thing that you’re doing!”

“She doesn’t know who she’s going to vote for!”

“Come on, you’re taking up our time!”

A stone-faced Titus told the woman that she needed to reserve her time for constituents. The crowd glowered. Soon, the tracker sprinted off before she could be asked if she was affiliated with any organization, let alone another campaign. She had captured video of what she perhaps came for: Titus not answering a question on camera.

If the crowd’s agitated whispers -- and later comments about "that rude girl" -- indicated anything, it was this: A tracker’s video might sway elections. But her mere presence won’t necessarily win votes.

--Ashley Powers  Get Twitter alerts about each new Ticket item. Follow us @latimestot. Or "Like" our Facebook page. Go here for a Kindle subscription to The Ticket, with a free trial.