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Midterm election 'Jersey Shore' style

By Gloria Borger, CNN Senior Political Analyst
  • Gloria Borger says both parties are taking the low road in the campaign of 2010
  • O'Donnell and Angle are focusing on nonissues, she says
  • Borger: Instead of campaigning on achievements, Democrats go negative in ads
  • She says the result is that the real issues aren't being discussed with voters

Editor's note: Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "AC360°," "John King, USA" and "State of the Union."

Washington (CNN) -- Scenes from a campaign:

Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle speaks to high school students and, in a gesture she probably thought was polite, noticed that some of the Hispanic students she expected "look more Asian to me."

Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, in a snarky exchange with her Democratic opponent, denies that the separation of church and state is a matter addressed in the constitution. (She, a self-proclaimed defender of the constitution.)

But never mind. They may never have made it to "It's Academic," but both women are bringing something else -- more important than actual information -- to this election season. They're in-your-face anti-establishmentarians, proud contrarians -- and, of course, card-carrying Sarah Palians.

In fact, they're more Sarah than Sarah: If Palin went rogue, her descendants have gone Jersey. As in, "Jersey Shore."

Once a friend mentioned the Jersey comparison, it all came to me in a wave.

If Palin went rogue, her descendants have gone Jersey. As in, 'Jersey Shore.'
--Gloria Borger

After all, who needs to cram all those stupid factoids into your brain when you can just tell Harry Reid to "man up" during a debate on something called Social Security? Who needs constitutional cred when you're an outsider (who is also not a witch)? And who needs any amount of political sophistication when you're running as The Average Jane?

You don't. Instead, just ask: WWSD? (What would Snooki do?)

And it goes beyond the chorus line of cute retorts from the wannabe Momma Grizzlies. They just lower the bar for everyone else -- in both parties -- this election.

Consider the Democrats. Having passed historic health care reform, financial reform, and help for small business and having presided over a bank bailout that is being mostly repaid, they've decided they can't run on any of it. Which makes some sense, because the public thinks it was too much, too soon -- and, by the way, unemployment is still 9.6 percent.

So what do Democrats do? Do they try and defend their hard work? Do they promise to reduce the deficit? Or extend tax cuts for the middle class. Maybe, a teensy bit. But mostly, they go negative.

And I mean really negative. How about an ad that reminds us that one Republican, according to ugly divorce records, apparently put a loaded gun in his mouth for three hours? Or that another Family Values Republican wrote a "sex-steeped" column for a risqué website? Or was caught in a "sketchy cocaine bust?"

Paging The Situation.

Sure, it might be a way to get us all to pay attention, but we're paying attention to the wrong things. Of course a candidate's credibility is important, and the fewer yo-yos we elect, the better. But this is getting ridiculous.

There is a method to this madness, of course. Nasty ads work -- especially when they make voters think twice about a candidate's trustworthiness. If independent voters -- who are livid at the Democrats -- decide they don't like the GOP opponents, either, they could just decide to sit it out. And that would work for the Democrats looking for ways to hang on to their seats.

But it's a shame, really. Agree or disagree with what the Democrats did over these past two years, they did do something. They should be out there defending their work. And Republicans should be out there offering an alternate governing philosophy, Tea Party or otherwise.

Instead, they're all on the boardwalk, manning up, strutting whatever stuff they have. Come to think of it, there is one difference: By and large, candidates want to get elected, not arrested.

But hey, whatever works, works.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gloria Borger.