Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dark Clouds, Silver Linings, and Lessons

The results of Tuesday's elections across the country offer a silver lining of hope in what has long been considered to be a dark year for Democrats. And nowhere is that silver lining brighter than in Arizona.

To whit:

- Dark cloud: Libertarian (dressed in Republican clothing) Rand Paul wins the R nomination for Senate in Kentucky.

- Silver lining: He's already imploding, coming out against the Civil Rights Act...before backing off (sort of). Guess he was against the Act before he was for it.

- Silver lining2 - Paul received 206,960 votes in the R primary; Daniel Mongiardo, the 2nd place Democrat in the D primary, received 225,159. There are almost 600K more Ds than Rs in Kentucky. They are Ds of a conservative bent (hence the two Rs currently representing KY in the U.S. Senate) but they won't put up with the public embarrassment that Paul is threatening to become.

- Lesson: The most "whatever" candidate in a party's primary may not be that party's *best* candidate. Not making a prediction here (yet), but despite the Tea Party's glee over Paul's nomination, winning the nomination isn't the same as winning the office. This race is far from over. The Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in KY, Jack Conway, is in a solid position entering the general election campaign.

- (Not so) Dark cloud: Democrat Mark Critz won the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. The win keeps the Ds' perfect record in head-to-head special elections held since the 2008 election intact and allows them to retain the seat held by the late Jack Murtha for the better part of four decades.

- Silver lining: Critz may have shown the way to beat the Rs' standard campaign platform of running against D.C., Nancy Pelosi, and those durn "liberal" Democrats, and it's the most basic lesson in politics - all politics is local. The R in the race, Tim Burns, ran as a generic national Republican/Club for Growth candidate, campaigning against Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Critz stumped the western PA district and talked about jobs.

Critz won.

- Lesson: No matter if the pundits think that the trends in a given election cycle dramatically favor one party over another (as they think that 2010 favors Rs over Ds), any single race is usually won by the candidate who runs the better, more district-focused, campaign.

- Dark cloud: Republicans all over Arizona are grasping for the chance to go Congress.

- Silver lining: Their primaries have become cattle call, "I'm more conservative than thou" slugfests.

- - In the race for U.S. Senate, former radio gabber JD Hayworth is looking to unseat fellow Republican John McCain, pulling the heretofore not-exactly-liberal McCain into Hayworth's (and the Tea Party's) nativist, anti-government ideological territory.

All the while, Democrat Rodney Glassman is turning in his sigs, opening his Phoenix headquarters, and reaching out to *all* Arizona voters, not just the nativists.

- - In CD5, Republican perennial candidates Susan Bitter Smith and David Schweikert have been joined by electoral newcomers Jim Ward and Chris Salvino in their race to unseat Democratic incumbent and local icon Harry Mitchell. The Rs are running anti-immigrant/anti-Obama campaigns (Salvino's signs even start with "Stop Obama", not his name). Mitchell is working for his district, reining in Congressional pay, and protecting America's veterans.

-- In the CD3 battle royal to replace the soon-to-be retired John Shadegg, there are at least a dozen open committees on the Republican side (Moak, Waring, Winkler, and Quayle have already filed their signatures) and they're all running as the "real" conservative in the race. They've been whipsawing between toeing the nativist line and nuzzling the corporate teat.

All the while, Jon Hulburd, the only Democrat in the race already in general election mode, talking to voters in the district and honing his message, starting with his number one issue, jobs.

-- In CD8, at least three Republicans, including SB1070 and payday loan industry supporter Jonathan Paton, are duking it out for a chance to face incumbent Democrat Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson). Paton, the presumed R nominee, has been spending time in Phoenix, far from his district, holding a $1000 per person fundraiser at an Arizona Diamondbacks game; Giffords countered with an event held much closer to home - Hi Corbett Field in Tucson at a Tucson Toros game.

- Lesson: We'll see in November. I might be mistaken about where this is all leading, but the Ds are doing things right while their erstwhile R challengers are trying to stick political knives in each other's backs and making the rounds of the usual suspects, hoping to schmooze them into opening their wallets.


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