Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October surprise

Chuck Todd over at Hotline has a good take on why the Foley scandal has taken some flatfooted Republicans unawares - namely, the Repubs being caught up in the Foley October surprise are the ones who felt secure in victory months earlier. However, because this scandal only went public in the final month, these Republican incumbents have done virtually no campaigning and have not defined themselves to their constituents. A snippet of his "Backseat Driving":

The most embattled Republicans, many of whom we identified 18 months ago, seem to be weathering "Hurricane Mark" better than expected. The reason: Incumbents in places like Connecticut, Missouri or Pennsylvania have been preparing for what they feared would be a rough 2006 for nearly 18 months.

What this proves is that campaigns are rarely won or lost in October; the decisive moment happens much earlier in the cycle.

For some races, the decisive moment was filing day (see Florida Senate). For other races, it could have been Election Day 2005 (see New Jersey Senate), and for still others, the campaign's mindset going into the cycle will determine the outcome (there are too many of those to single out).

Ouch! He slapped Kathleen Harris a new one! This whole snarky political reporter bit is puzzlinig though, and new to me. . .

Todd does a thorough overview of the most discussed races, and has an insight on why Lamont is still trailing Lieberman: he didn't go in for the kill when he had the most momentum.

In the two weeks immediately following Lamont's primary victory, Lieberman was reeling. He had no party, little support, little staff and not much money. And what did Lamont do during this critical period? He took his foot off of Lieberman's throat.

There was a period when Lieberman could have been branded a sore loser. In fact, it wouldn't have been the first time Lieberman would have felt that sting. (Think back to the national landscape in 2000.)

There was a period when Lieberman could have been branded a sore loser. In fact, it wouldn't have been the first time Lieberman would have felt that sting. (Think back to the national landscape in 2000.)

But Lamont (and the media) gave Lieberman enough time and oxygen to become an "independent," and that seemed to marginalize Lamont's victory. Too many Connecticut Democrats view Lieberman positively right now. Lamont could have gone on the air immediately in August -- even guilted his new Democratic friends to cut TV ads for him -- and created an atmosphere that might have made Lieberman think twice about continuing his bid.

But that didn't happen. Lamont could still win, but Lieberman seems to be framing the debate and appears to have the momentum. If he wins re-election, Lamont and his supporters will look at August as their "woulda, coulda, shoulda" moment.

I hada a fear that Lieberman would win in the end, given that Connecticut is no California, and doesn't like radical populists, instead prefering staid known quantities. I just hope Lieberman doesn't screw Dems over badly if he gets reelected. Okay, I mean, screw us over more by NOT voting for Reid as Majority Leader.

"So while every move a campaign makes these next few weeks seems incredibly critical, don't underestimate the problems caused by a February, March or April decision. Remember, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., didn't vote for or against anything in October."

Ultimately Todd concludes that it's the mistakes earlier on in these races that cost elections (and the Lamont-Lieberman race will be expensive indeed. Lamont's pouring another 2 mil of his own cash into the race.)

I wonder if part of the problem is that Lamont's campaign manager, being a lefty, knew how to win an intraparty skirmish but didn't know how to appeal across the broad swath of Connecticut voters and their values? After all, you know that it's kind of a desperate move to say that one reason Lieberman might not win is because of his ballot placement. I'd guess that ballot placement will only make the difference in a very tight race, and I give the voters of Connecticut more credit than that. I think they'll stick to what they know, and look for the Lieberman name regardless of where it falls, or what party he's listed with. What is worrisome is how many Connecticut Dems Lieberman is taking with him - he's retained a goodly number more than I would have liked. And I worry that if Senator Joe retakes his throne, he'll decide to reward the loyalties of the Republicans who fundraised for him and threw their support to him from the national level (Rove, Bush) down to the local.

It could have been a different story if Lieberman had decided to drop out of the race and it was a race between two relative unknowns, Lamont and Schlesinger (Republican candidate who is like a proverbial straw man.) Then it would have been an even playing field. I sure hope that hindsight isn't 20-20, because I would not like Lieberman to be a permanent albatross around the Democratic party's neck, like a Zell Miller who just won't go away.

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