Sunday, October 05, 2008

Primary Campaigns

Half the comments on my previous post (which is to say, one) raise an interesting point and has caused me to consider my positions regarding the Pipkin and LeDoux candidacies. I have in the past defended, and will continue to strenuously defend wide-open primary campaigns for Republicans. I am in excellent company by believing that the GOP voter will, in the end, be the best judge of who is most qualified to represent them and their party.

Does my continued effort to highlight what should already be glaring contradictions in the stated goals of Pipkin and LeDoux and the likely effect their candidacies would have on the outcome of the contest, somehow call into question my long-held positions? Am I now the hypocrite who is not practicing what he has preached by attacking those who would throw their hats into the ring?

The answer is: I don't know. I would like to think I have been true to my principles throughout my commentary. I don't want to support an arbitrary restriction in participation in our Primary process. At the same time, I want Republican pols to admit that their candidacies will sometimes be at odds with their stated goals.

If your goal is to unseat an entrenched incumbent who wields support from national GOP personalities and organizations, even the President himself, then you must do whatever it takes, including reconsidering the effect your candidacy will have. This includes acknowledging what even neophytes to the political process (me) knew instinctively. The incumbent will be guaranteed 50 percent of the vote and challengers left to split the other half. I learned this in high school civics and again in college political science classes.

Much as I'd like to blame Bill Clinton for much of the misery we are now experiencing, I have to instead blame Ross Perot for siphoning conservative Republican votes away from Bush 41. Then again, I should blame Bush 41 for not being a strong enough President and inviting a strong Third Party candidate to split Republicans and giving the vote to the disastrous Slick Willie.

Now State Rep. Ledoux argues that Don Young's poor showing (and near defeat) could be directly attributable to her campaign. Hmmm this sounds familiar. This is more charitable than her first rationalization, that it was Parnell who drew votes away from her. Even to those unschooled in Alaskan politics, this is a dubious case.

Lets. review:
1. She entered the race first (by a few months)
2. Parnell entered and was a wildly more popular alternative (at this point LeDoux should have dropped out and thrown her support behind Parnell)

In Pipkin's case, he entered extremely late, after even Alaskans, unschooled in the nuances of Maryland politics, could see that Harris was the wildly popular alternative. He acted as either a witting agent of the Gilchrest campaign or as one deluded into thinking he could possible win, that is as an unwitting agent of the Gilchrest campaign.

Would Harris have lost had Pipkin NOT thrown his hat into the ring? Under the LeDoux theory of unseating entrenched incumbents the answer would be yes. Was Pipkin's candidacy actually a ploy to draw ES-GOP votes away from Gilchrest? That would be nice to think so.

But even in the journalistic junk-yard of the Maryland free press, I have to believe that the Kapital-paper would have gone ga-ga over any such hint even if such a hint were written on Gilchrest-for-Congress letterhead. Such a hint dogged (in the blogosphere anyway) Delegate Banks' late-late, last-minute candidacy. I find it difficult to give Pipkin the benefit of this doubt.

This is why it is important for Pipkin to come clean on this issue. Not to settle the past, but for dealing with future Congressional campaigns. A winning strategy is built on accurate understanding of the past. And win we must. Not just party, but candidates with courage and conviction to principles that are needed to face down the pork-barreling, social experimenting and special-interest-pandering practices of the last generation of Congressional worms.

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