Dennis Roddey, writing in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, offers a well-researched postmortem on Lynn Swann's ill-starred effort to unseat Democrat Governor Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania.
Here's a telling snippet:
In his first major break from the strategy of avoiding interviews, went on national television with George Stephanopoulos of ABC.
It turned into a disaster. Asked about abortion, Mr. Swann's answer made clear that he did not understand the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court. Should the court overturn that ruling, he said, abortion would be illegal. Not so, Mr. Stephanopoulos had to point out. Roe v. Wade merely limited what restrictions states could put on abortions. If it were overturned, individual states would still have to pass laws outlawing abortion.
Asked about embryonic stem cell research, he gave a line that suggested he could master the subject in due course.
"I am not an expert on stem cell research at this particular time," he said ….
Mr. Swann's advisers were stunned by his poor performance, insiders say, and kept him under wraps for much of the spring to avoid repeating the missteps.
As Roddey notes, Swann's inability to build alliances within the Pennsylvania Republican Party (especially in reaching out to supporters of Bill Scranton after their candidate was pressured into withdrawing from the primary) and his failure to establish his message until well into the fall campaign left him unable to exploit Rendell's many weaknesses.
With a competent strategy and the right campaign team (and, of course, some better speechwriting), the governor's mansion could have been Swann's for the taking. As things turned out, however, Swann never managed to get within fewer than 20 points of Rendell.
A real shame, since it would be hard to find a more likeable, charismatic or articulate candidate than Lynn Swann.
Let's hope he's willing to give statewide office another shot in four or six years' time.
On the brighter side …
Okay. It hurts.
But consider …
- A little less conversation, a little more action please. For the first time in more than a decade, Democrats will be expected to do something more than criticize every move Republicans make. Whether or not they can do so remains to be seen, but if they can't articulate a positive new agenda for the country in the next 24 months, the Democratic majority will disappear as quickly as it materialized. This is a no-lose bet for the country and—given the Dem's penchant for self-destruction—a safe one for Republicans as well.
- Don't make any sudden moves. With a much more important election cycle looming in two years, the Dems are unlikely to fritter away their newly-won political capital on anything so irrational as a Bush impeachment drive or an effort to de-fund the Iraq war. Will we see a spate of congressional inquiries into everything from contracting in Iraq to global warming? Sure—and a few more Republican heads may roll as a consequence. But if an inquisition—and the ensuing partisan rancor—is all the Democratic Party accomplishes in the next two years, don't look for voters to embrace them warmly in 2008.
- Waste not, want not. By the same token, the Republican Party has received a painful lesson of its own on the dangers of wasting political capital. As John McCain remarked last evening on FOX News: "We went to Washington to change government, and government changed us." Let's hope that when we regain a majority in both chambers, we'll use it to accomplish something voters will gratefully remember us for.
- Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. The Republican strategy of "energizing the base" and ignoring moderates has finally been repudiated by the people who really matter—the voters. Let's hope the Karl Rove wannabes of 2008 are taking careful note. While they're scribbling, they might also want to recall that we were once the party of small government and big ideas, not the other way around.
- Pro-war, you get six more. The Ned Lamont Democrats got a healthy drubbing in Connecticut—and the political survival of Joe Lieberman offers hope that at least one member of the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party still survives in the wild.
- Does that make us crazy? Possibly. The election result may actually help convince on the Maliki government in Iraq to crack down on the militias and help find a way to end the sectarian violence that threatens to destroy the progress we've made in that country since ousting Saddam in 2003. Would the U.S. actually be crazy enough to pull out of Iraq and allow a civil war to ensue? Not while President Bush still sits in the Oval Office. But the Iraqis don't necessarily know that.
- Na na hey hey kiss them goodbye. A number of the Republican Party's most problematic and contentious figures bit the dust last night. while others were at least temporarily neutralized. This can only bode well for the GOP's chances of capturing the political center in 2008. And, of course, we won't have Don Rumsfeld to kick around anymore.
- Hang down your head, Kevin Dooley. ACORN is finally getting the scrutiny it deserves. Will outfits like MoveOn.org be next?
- California dreamin' Ah-nold! Ah-nold! Ah-nold!
- Jagshemash! Finally, there's at least one thing Republicans and Democrats (heck, even moonbats) can agree on: "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" is one of the funniest films ever made.
So, pace the nattering nabobs of negativism at The New York Post, The Weekly Standard* and elsewhere, the Bush presidency didn't end last evening nor is a Democrat in the White House inevitable (or even likely) in 2008.
Get real, people. We're talking about the party of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Howard Dean here—not the party of FDR, Harry Truman and Jack Kennedy.
We're not exactly playing the "A" team.
Okay. Feeling better?
Now go out there and start making some lemonade.
UPDATE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average just hit a record high of 12,176. Guess the Republican gloom and doom hasn't reached Wall Street yet.
* Was it just me, or did Bill Kristol seem to be taking a perverse delight in watching Republicans go down to defeat in his appearance on FOX News last night?