Friday, January 22, 2010

Martha Coakley = Dick Blumenthal = Chris Dodd

One might express mathematically a Republican strategy for winning departing Sen. Chris Dodd’s congressional seat in this fashion: Martha Coakley = Chris Dodd = Dick Blumenthal.

Coakley is the Massachusetts attorney general who lost to a relatively unknown Republican candidate her bid to occupy the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat. Towards the end of her failing campaign, Coakley brought in the once famously popular President Barack Obama to stump for her. After the stumping and the stomping, and following Coakley’s Daedalus like decline in the polls, the White House now seems particularly anxious to remove its fingerprints from the failed campaign.

The Massachusetts and Connecticut campaigns are eerily similar. Functionally – except for a gubernatorial office that occasionally floats between the parties – both are one-party Democratic states in which elections are determined by independents who collectively outnumber Republicans. In both states, Democratic candidates vying for the U.S. congress have replaced two famous time-servers: Kennedy in Massachusetts and Dodd in Connecticut. Kennedy’s seat had been held by a member of the Kennedy family, first John and then Edward, for a half century or more; Dodd’s seat had been held by Chris and his father, Tom Dodd, for about 40 years. In both states, the Democratic candidates for senator are attorneys general, neither of whom shies away from publicity. Both Democratic candidates have expressed political solidarity with their predecessors. In a recent interview on “Face the State,” Blumenthal appeared in the cast off political skin of Chris Dodd and vowed to continue his work in the senate – more vigorously than had his political paradigm. Coakley sounded the same grace notes in her campaign.

The overarching economic, social and political landscapes in both states are so similar that it may be convenient, as well as accurate, to regard them as political Siamese twins joined at the liberal hip.

One of the reasons Coakley found it difficult to present a humble ambitionless aspect to Massachusetts voters is that the attorney general’s position precludes these virtues. There is not in the whole United States a humble attorney general undriven by a relentless ambition, not one who does not mug for the cameras or offer titillating press releases to a vanishing news media, sometimes at the expense of innocent victims they choose to despoil and wrongly prosecute. In this regard, Blumenthal’s hands are as soiled, if not more so, as many of his confederates. But for some reason a Shakespearean inversion occurs in the case of attorneys general: The good they do lives on after them; the evil is of’t interred with their bones -- or unexpectedly uncovered when the attorneys general pick up stakes and move on to greener political pastures.

There are important differences, of course. Blumenthal’s time before the cameras is more extensive than Coakley’s, and he is confident in his ability to distinguish between Red Socks and Yankee players. Neither Coakley nor Blumenthal’s car of choice is a pick up truck, and both subscribe heartily to Voltaire’s definition of the art of government: “In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class to give to the other."

Blumenthal has begun something of a listening tour around the state, a devise is sometimes used as a blind that permits long serving politicians from being pressed by a curious media into answering questions of moment about health care plans, the extent to which the national government should involve itself in business decisions, and the wisdom of allowing the U.S. Attorney General unilaterally to make decisions about trials that may impinge upon the war powers of the president, among other conundrums that cannot be settled by politicians lending their ears to their constituents.

The remains of Coakley’s shattered campaign have washed up on Connecticut’s political shores. At a recent meet and greet at Vito’s On The Water in Windsor, Brown’s name was much on the minds of Republicans courting support from Hartford, Windsor and Bloomfield.

Young Republicans feel the political sap rising in their veins. Justin Bernier, a senior legislative aide in the U.S. Congress who served in Afghanistan in 2007 as an intelligence officer, has been tearing up the turf in the 5th congressional district. Bernier, his feet firmly planted in the terra firma of the private sector, has a masters degree in economic policy and international relations. He is a dynamo that thinks. State Rep. Christopher Coutu, a hard charging campaigner and a superb political organizer, has expressed interest in state senate a seat held for years by octogenarian Edith Prague.

Prague thinks Coakley lost because she ran an inept campaign.

There is now a shortage of ineptitude in the new Republican Party.
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