At a townhall event Monday for Rand Paul in Londonderry, New Hampshire, the Kentucky senator's political director for the state, David Chesley, licked the camera of a tracker sent by American Bridge, a left-leaning opposition research group. The interaction was caught on camera and quickly posted to American Bridge's YouTube account.
By most measures, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his followers tend to be just outside the political norm. Whether someone considers that good or bad is a subjective matter, but Team Paul is, if nothing else, nontraditional.
Take, for example, the fact that the senator's New Hampshire political director, David Chesley, reacted rather unusually to an opposition researcher today tracking Rand Paul on the campaign trail. Politico reported:
American Bridge spokesperson Ben Ray explained, "Well, he'd been standing there, trying to block the camera. That's not uncommon, though. Licking the camera ... well, that's new to us."
Just so we're clear, when reports say this was caught on camera, that's kind of an understatement under the circumstances. Here, for example, is the YouTube clip. I guess I should mention that this may not be entirely safe for work -- the senator's N.H. political director quite literally licks the front camera lens. It's not a pleasant sight.
Just to provide some additional context, political campaigns -- on both sides of the aisle -- tend to be annoyed by trackers, but they're just a fact of modern political life. If you're unfamiliar with the practice, trackers tend to be staffers, hired by parties, candidates, and allied groups, who simply record every possible remark and/or interaction a rival candidate makes. It's a bipartisan phenomenon.
Most folks on the campaign trail simply get used to it -- because they have no choice -- though there are some notable examples of candidates getting rattled by the scrutiny. George Allen's "macaca" incident, for example, marked a turning point for campaigns and technology.
In 2012, Montana's Denny Rehberg lost his cool a bit with a tracker, and later that year, Ohio's Josh Mandel, a failed U.S. Senate candidate, got a little physical with a Democratic tracker.
Literally licking a tracker's camera, however, breaks new ground.