lobbyist executive candidate Mike McGavick called a press conference today to dramatically announce the “central theme” of his campaign for U.S. Senate: civility.
I really believe that when we look to Washington D.C. right now we see a culture in which to many people are caught up in, of permanent campaigning. For every issue is an opportunity to raise money and issue press releases, have petitions that capture more names to raise more money, to issue more press releases but not to get together to have heart-to-heart conversation and try to solve problems.
I think that’s exactly why people are so frustrated with Washington right now – with Washington D.C. right now – [this] is exactly the kind of voice of Northwestern common sense, of Northwestern civility, that I think by being added to the Senate I can help break that down and get Washington D.C. back to solving the problems that confront families.
Of course, when asked by reporters for examples of Sen. Maria Cantwell acting uncivil, McGavick couldn’t name any. Or perhaps, he wouldn’t name any, because that would be… um… uncivil.
Forget for a moment the questionable strategy of adopting a central theme on which your opponent outpolls you by a 44 to 26-point margin. And ignore the fact that it is politically naive to think that a challenger can beat a popular incumbent, without going harshly negative. The main problem with running on a pledge of civility, is that unless the candidate can hold his surrogates to the same gentlemanly standards, this pledge is a complete and utter load of crap.
There is absolutely no way that McGavick can win in November without knocking down Cantwell’s approval ratings, and while he may very well keep his own official campaign on a positive keel, the state GOP, the RNC and other “independent” PACs won’t show as much restraint. Tens of millions of dollars will be spent on this race, and much of it will go to negative advertising. It’s not that McGavick is any meaner than the typical politician, it’s just that negative advertising works, and if he wants to win, he and/or his surrogates are going to have to use it.
And besides… he doesn’t really seem to have any other issues to run on.
Today’s event — like the 25 other campaign kickoff events before it — was almost entirely devoid of ideas. I mean really… what is McGavick’s central theme? That he’s a nice a guy? That he’s smart? Affable? Financially successful?
He may in fact be all these things and more, but he’s also a Republican, and unless he tells us otherwise, we can only assume that he is a Republican on the environment (he’s for drilling in ANWR,) a Republican on foreign policy (he supports President Bush’s execution of the war in Iraq,) a Republican on the economy (he’s for making tax cuts permanent, deficit be damned,) and a Republican on abortion (he opposes it.) And as a Republican, he’s done absolutely nothing to convince voters that, when it comes to the Bush administration and GOP leadership’s right-wing agenda, he’ll be anything but a rubber stamp… if, a civil one.
See, there’s a reason McGavick focuses on style over substance: he beats Cantwell on style. (I admit it… retail politics just ain’t Cantwell’s schtick.) But when it comes to the issues… oh man is he out of step with Washington voters. And so he’s attempting to run another one of those personality-driven stealth campaigns, where an otherwise conservative Republican deliberately leaves himself undefined, in hopes that moderate Democrats and independents will project on him what they want to see in a candidate.
It almost worked for Dino Rossi. It almost worked for David Irons (until voters discovered he was a lying, resume-faking, mother-beater.) But it’s not going to work for Mike McGavick, because if he doesn’t define himself, I’m betting the Cantwell campaign will be more than happy to do it for him.
I just couldn’t let this go without pointing out the irony of McGavick railing against the “culture of permanent campaigning”… this coming from a man who has held at least 25 campaign kickoff events over the past seven months.
Every issue is an opportunity to raise money and issue press releases, have petitions that capture more names to raise more money, to issue more press releases but not to get together to have heart-to-heart conversation and try to solve problems.
In fact, the real purpose of this press conference was to give McGavick the opportunity to claim credit for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens decision to pull his bill that would have made the Puget Sound a supertanker highway. As the P-I observed:
Stevens’ action and McGavick’s subsequent news conference seemed well coordinated.
The certainly did. But then as McGavick said, every issue is an opportunity to raise money and issue press releases. Hmm. So much for fighting the culture of permanent campaigning.
And to set the record straight, it is Cantwell who deserves credit for killing the bill, not McGavick. Stevens introduced the bill in retaliation for Cantwell leading the successful filibuster against drilling in ANWR, but this bill too was all but dead due to threat of another Cantwell filibuster.
The bill has also proved to be highly unpopular with WA voters, and a drag on McGavicks dragging campaign. That Stevens made the highly unusual (and embarrassing) move of pulling the bill highlights McGavicks desperate circumstances… and shows just how powerful Cantwell has become.