Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Consultant Campaign

Christine Stuart of CTNewsJunkie continues to turn out prose that is readable and pertinent.

In “Lamont’s Latest Ad: Risky Or Smart?” she lifts the covers on some Democratic gubernatorial supporters, which include some old Democratic political hands: Jonathan Pelto, now in the consulting business; Bill Curry, slowly working his way out of the closet as a Ned Lamont groupie; and Roy Occhiogrosso, attached to the Dan Malloy campaign as a consultant.

The boys are cutting the cards on a new Ned Lamont ad in which Ned claims the independent mantle and even – the man’s courage knows no bounds – appropriates for himself in the ad a signature adage that once belonged to ex-senator, governor and self described “turd in the Republican Party punch bowl” Lowell Weicker.

One of the pledges Ned is making to the people of Connecticut is – “I’m going to be no man but yours.”

Not to be overly subtle, the ad is titled “Independent.” It worked for Sen. Joe Lieberman.



Good ad? Bad ad? What?

Good, says Curry: “It’s a smart ad. He’s doing the insider, outsider thing with Malloy.”

Drawing upon his own political experience – what else? -- Curry termed Weicker's slogan one of the best in Connecticut history. “Do not overestimate party loyalty,” said Curry, “who lost the Democratic Party’s endorsement for governor in 1994, then won the nomination in a primary, with a similar independence theme,” Stuart notes.

It was, in fact, a politically opportune slogan for Weicker, since Democrats, then and now, far outnumbered Republicans in a state awash in Blue minded journalists. Chris Powell, one of the most “independent” newsmen in the business, then and now, was among the first to recognized that a post Watergate Weicker, while senator, had long been using his own party as a foil to curry (no pun intended) votes and favors from majority Democrats. When the Weicker-Democratic romance went a little too far, domesticated and abused Republicans revolted and put an end to their quarrelsome marriage. Democrats such as Chris Dodd – now about to exit the U.S. Senate before he turns into congressional dust – mourned the loss, but state Republicans were quite cheery about it.

The political calculus in Lamont’s case is a bit different. Unlike Weicker, Lamont is not a minority Republican but a Democratic insurgent, more independent of party politics than his primary opponent Dan Malloy. However, in order effectively to address a budget hole that has made even Weicker gag, Lamont will have to be more than independent: He will have to put himself in opposition to the spending machine that has created the largest per capita debt in the nation. And that will entail, at a minimum, a life and death struggle with unions, in Connecticut a third rail of politics that even “no man but yours” Weicker shrank from touching.

Powell, by the way, is convinced that none of the Democratic gubernatorial contenders are interested in cutting spending; certainly, party leaders in the legislature, notorious among them Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, once a union steward, are singularly uninterested in calling unions to heel. If Powell is right -- and he has been wrong far less often than Curry -- all the chatter among Democrats concerning responsible deficit reductions and permanent curbs on spending is not worth a bucket full of spit.

But the independent feint may profitably be used campaign fodder to beguile increasingly indigent taxpayers, many of whom, even establishment Democrats might agree, are in open rebellion against party power brokers.

The most amusing line on the new Lamont ad comes from Occhiogrosso, who makes no attempt to conceal his affection for Malloy: “Ned Lamont still apparently doesn’t know who he is. Now he’s trying to be Lowell Weicker. He’s fundamentally wrong in his belief the state should be run like a business. And no 60-second ad is going to change that.”

But of course!

Gubernatorial hopefuls such as Tom Foley, presently leading the Republican primary field, may think that the business of government is business, to quote President Cal Coolidge. But most Democrats in the state – quite unaware that Will Rogers was grinding his teeth when he said “The business of government is to keep government out of business, unless business needs government aid” – have long operated on the principle that the business of Democratic government is politics.

And they are very good at it.
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