Springfield State Journal Register

June 9, 2004

LaHood blasts Ryan's 'bonehead campaign'
Calls idea of Obama shadow 'idiotic'


WASHINGTON - Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, on Tuesday blasted GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan's campaign strategy, saying "he's got to get his act together" and urging the first-time candidate to consult with more experienced politicians.

LaHood said he advised Ryan in a telephone conversation to "get control of the campaign."

The phone call came after LaHood's harsh assessment of Ryan's campaign against Democratic state Sen. Barack Obama appeared in an article in the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill.

"He's running a kind of bonehead campaign right now," the publication quoted LaHood as saying. "This idea of having one of his staffers trail around Obama and take video pictures of him at all of his events is about the stupidest thing I've ever seen in a high-profile campaign, and it's been publicized all over Illinois, and when people in our party ask what's going on I tell them it's ridiculous."

Elaborating in an interview with Copley News Service on Tuesday, LaHood said: "Whoever came up with the idea of trailing his political opponent with a video camera ought to be fired. It's ridiculous. That's not a way to run a campaign."

LaHood chalked up Ryan's recent gaffes to his political inexperience.

"Part of the problem is he's never been involved in politics and, you know, you can't let your staff dictate what you do," LaHood said.

"The incident of trailing your opponent with a video camera is idiotic. All he has to do is pick up a newspaper and find out how Obama feels about the issues. Or listen to a radio interview. I think part of it is political naivete, never being involved. But, my gosh, he won a primary."

LaHood supported Andrew McKenna in the Republican primary, but now said he supports Ryan.

He said there's still time for Ryan to turn things around before the Nov. 2 election.

"I think we have an understanding," LaHood said. "He knows that I'm committed to helping him win, and I'm committed to helping him raise money. But he's got to get his act together."

LaHood said he met Saturday with a group of "die-hard Republicans" in Peoria and that he was bombarded with complaints about Ryan's campaign.

"There's a lot of people who want Jack Ryan to win, but he's got to run a good campaign. It's got to be on the issues," LaHood said.

Ryan spokeswoman Kelli Phiel had little to say about LaHood's criticisms other than to defend the practice of following opponents as common.

"We did see it as a common practice that has been used on national campaigns before," Phiel said. "We were doing it specifically to track Mr. Obama's public comments in public places and to ensure he had a consistent message.

That was our only intention, our only motivation."

The incident gained widespread media attention after Obama described the Ryan cameraman as a "stalker."