Hats and Cattle, Saddles and Horses

The 2014 gubernatorial race took a turn toward clever as GOP challenge Dennis Richardson summed up Governor John Kithaber as "all hat and no cattle.'Clever political campaign phrases with a bite have been known to influence elections. It's possible a clever catch phrase will have an impact on the 2014 Oregon gubernatorial election.

Walter Mondale turned the popular advertising slogan of his day — "Where's the beef?" — into a political jab at Democratic presidential primary rival Gary Hart. The question halted Hart's momentum and helped Mondale earn his party's nomination in 1984.

Lloyd Bentsen skewered Dan Quayle in their 1988 vice presidential debate after the Indiana senator likened his political experience to that of former President John F. Kennedy. Bentsen replied, "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Bentsen won the debate and even though Quayle became vice president, he never factored seriously into GOP presidential politics again.

Ross Perot, running as an independent for President, struck a nerve when he said, "I don't have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt." An exasperated Perot struck a different kind of nerve later when he would screech, "Let me finish!" Comedian Dana Carvey never let the phrase die a graceful death as Perot's popularity plummeted.

Ronald Reagan squelched the age issue in his 1984 re-election bid by quipping, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." After that, Mondale was, as they say, toast.

Now Oregon GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson has coined a political phrase that might catch on and take a little hide off Governor John Kitzhaber. In his legislative newsletter, Richardson dubbed the 3-term governor who is known for his signature blue jeans, oversized belt buckle and cowboy boots as "all hat and no cattle."

You don't have to be a cowboy to get the barb.

Richardson took his poke at Kitzhaber over the Cover Oregon website fiasco, which polling suggests has put a dent in Kitzhaber's health transformation reputation.

Whether the poke turns out to be a solid punch remains to be seen, but at least it adds some color to a race that threatens to be over before it starts. Or, as Kitzhaber might say of his Republican opponent, "All saddle and no horse."