Politics embraces name game

North Carolinians tuning into the fall campaigns might be forgiven, given all the name-calling going on, for thinking they're watching a pro wrestling match.

In TV ads, press releases and Web sites this fall, the state's political candidates and their allies are attempting to tar their opponents with negative nicknames.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole has taken to calling her Democratic rival “Fibber Kay” Hagan. Hagan and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are using Dole's childhood nickname of “Liddy.”

Meantime, Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory has tagged his opponent “Negative Bev” Perdue in press releases, while the Republican Governors Association prefers to use “Status Quo Bev” in its ads.

Some political observers wonder if all the name-calling really works.

Raleigh lobbyist Theresa Kostrzewa said nicknames such as “Fibber Kay” and “Negative Bev” aren't as effective as “Status Quo Bev” because they're more about the tactics of the other candidates.

“I don't think nicknames work unless they're related to the overall theme of a campaign,” she said.

A Dole spokesman said the campaign did not come up with the “Fibber Kay” moniker, but said they had heard it repeatedly on the campaign trail. A search of N.C. blogs, Web sites and newspaper articles did not turn up any such references.

Hagan's campaign objected to the nickname, noting that the ads do not list any of Hagan's purported “fibs.”

In their own releases, Hagan's campaign has used Dole's childhood nickname, “Liddy.”

Dole's family called her by the nickname through her college years, although she has avoided using it in her political campaigns. She recently told a reporter that she doesn't mind if people she has known for a long time call her “Liddy.”

Richard Hudson, campaign manager for McCrory, coined “Negative Bev” in June after Perdue ran ads attacking McCrory's record. He said he was trying to point out the Perdue's “hypocrisy,” since she had just won the Democratic primary with a late pledge to run only positive ads.

“As someone who's worked in a lot of campaigns, you call your opponent a lot of things,” Hudson joked, “but usually it's private.”

Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said they came up with “Status Quo Bev” after watching her Democratic primary opponent argue she was part of the “go-along get-along club” in Raleigh.

“We thought that really sums up Bev Perdue, and what's the best way to say that shortly,” he said. “That led to ‘Status Quo Bev.'”

So far, the group has run two ads attacking Perdue with the nickname, and it set up a Web site – www.statusquobev.com – in early September.

Perdue said she doesn't mind the nickname, but during a recent speech in Raleigh she went out of her way to cite times she pushed for teacher pay raises and children's health insurance.

“I've spent my entire life trying to make things better and fighting the status quo,” she said.