Collins campaign strategy draws criticism, adulation a month before election

Hear: Len Lenihan and Michael Caputo analyze the Collins campaign

Mike Baggerman
October 09, 2018 - 3:00 am
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - With four weeks to go until the midterm elections, Congressman Chris Collins' campaign strategy is causing some to scratch their heads while others laud the campaign's approach to a rare situation.

The Collins team sends press releases, many of which only include quotes from the campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre. A recent press release from the Collins staff about his NRA rating led to a statement release from the congressman himself. Aside from one television interview, Collins has not spoken publicly through the media. He has been to several events with friendly crowds in recent weeks, though neither Collins nor his team announced publicly ahead of time his plans to be there.

Len Lenihan, a former chairman for the Erie County Democratic Party, said that the Collins campaign is the oddest campaign he's ever seen not only because of the indictment, but because Collins exited the NY27 race on August 11 only to return to the race the following month for legal reasons.

"The best way to go about (campaigning) is to say that you think you're innocent," Lenihan told WBEN. "If you think you're innocent, you think you're deserving based on your record of re-election. That's not what he's saying. What he's saying is that he has to be careful about what he says in public because it might affect his case."

Lenihan was asked if he thinks Collins will debate democrat Nathan McMurray before the midterm elections. 

"The first one went by without Collins showing up so the debate was canceled," Lenihan said. "That was a very odd situation. We still have a month. Perhaps something will be done. I just think the community at large benefits when we see two candidates for public office, regardless of all the circumstances, talking about their views and asking the public for their support. You always have to ask for support from the public. You can never take it for granted."

Republican strategist Michael Caputo said Collins is approaching his campaign strategy in an appropriate way given his indictment. 

"If I were running the Collins campaign I would tell him to stay as far away from reporters as possible," Caputo said while lauding Natalie Baldassarre, whom Caputo mentored. "He's not going to talk to reporters and he would be crazy if he did."

Caputo said that if you are a believer in the rule of law, then Chris Collins needs to be presumed innocent, similar to the controversial hearings around Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As for the debates, Caputo believes that if Collins' numbers dwindle from his base, he will need to debate.

"There are still some pending debate invitations out there," Caputo said. "He hasn't said no to all of them yet. In the end, if the numbers tighten up and it looks like Nate is within striking distance, I think Collins might debate."

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