Normally the endorsement of the MEA, the union representing 25,000 public school teachers and educational staff would be big news in a campaign, as it was recently for Chellie Pingree. In the senate race, however, the endorsement was framed differently in the press. Suddenly, rather than Allen gaining an important endorsement, "Allen, Collins, both claim education endorsements".
Collins managed this neat trick through some good preparation. First, she fought hard for the MEA nod, according to Tom Major, president of the South Portland Teacher's Association, who writes about the process on his blog. In the end, Allen won on a divided ballot.
When that didn't work, the Collins campaign had Plan B ready to go. They had scrounged up 70 teachers willing to support the campaign and had a press release and a website page written and waiting. Suddenly, on the day of the MEA endorsement, Educators for Collins was born and its 70 members were getting just as much ink as the MEA's 25,000.
There have been many complaints of media bias towards Collins, including today in the PPH, and this might be placed in that category. With the recent cutbacks at news outlets, however, bias isn't even required. All that's needed is overworked reporters and a campaign with some decent media manipulation skills.
It's up to the Allen campaign to inoculate the press and make sure they expect these tactics and know the real score. This isn't exactly a hard tactic to predict. In fact, it seems awfully familiar.
"The union representing Maine teachers on Tuesday endorsed Democrat Chellie Pingree in her Senate bid. Republican Sen. Susan Collins responded by announcing the formation of an "Educators for Collins" group independent of the Maine Education Association."
- AP July 23, 2002