This passage from The Economist ‘s report on the 2008 gubernatorial elections caught my eye:
In 2004 Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, defeated Dino Rossi by just 133 votes. Mr Rossi did not concede the battle until June 2005. This election was an ugly reprise. Democrats filed a lawsuit to force Mr Rossi to list himself on the ballot as a Republican rather than as “GOP.”
And why did they force him to do that? Presumably because they wanted to exploit the Pavlovian response some voters have to the word “Republican.”
I recently learned from The Antique Roadshow that in 1976 Jimmy Carter had to legally force some state or another (I think it was Ohio) to put him on the ballot as “Jimmy Carter,” rather than as “James Earl Carter.” His campaign was terrified both that some voters wouldn’t recognize his name and that others would associate him with James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King Jr.
That is how carefully candidates for higher office must manage the electorate they ritually flatter.