Saturday, July 17, 2010

Simmons, The Half In Half Out Candidate

Rob Simmons, though he withdrew as an active candidate in Connecticut’s U.S. Senate race, has – not inadvertently – left his name on the ballot, a ploy considered provocative by Linda McMahon and her supporters. McMahon is the Republican Party primary nominee for the position.

Simmons has his supporters, some of whom consider McMahon’s campaign against sometime Attorney General Richard Blumenthal – news on the street is that the attorney general’s appearances at the office are increasingly infrequent – a long shot. McMahon has whittled down Blumenthal’s early lead, but she has not been able to shake from the race either Peter Schiff or Simmons.

Unlike Schiff, Simmons has one foot in and one foot out of the race. He has pronounced his formal challenge dead, though he will leave his name on the ballot through the primary on August 10.

There are two very different kinds of Simmons supporters.

Some stalwarts who supported Simmons over McMahon and Schiff have continued to urge Simmons to keep one foot in the race for prudential reasons. They saw him, during his party nomination bid, as the best candidate to prevail over Blumenthal in a general election, and the fact that the Republican Party nominating convention vote went to McMahon has not disabused them of this notion. Primaries, in fact, were always envisioned by campaign reformers as devises to overthrow those anointed by nominating conventions. Simmon’s decision to leave his name on the ballot throws a wrench into both processes. Schiff, supported by many in the Tea Party Patriot movement, has not yet said that Simmons should whatchacallit or get off the pot, but the Simmons ploy is equally damaging to both party nominee McMahon and primary challenger Schiff, a thumb in the eye both to conventions and primaries.

The second kind of “supporter” has no love for things Republican and yet backs Simmon’s ploy for much the same reasons. He, too, will argue that Simmons would be a better opponent in the general election than McMahon. Blumenthal, he will point out, slipped on blood when he lied about his military service, an issue that presently seems to have disappeared from the political radar screens. Recent polls suggest that those questioned by pollsters are willing to put in the justice scale Blumenthal’s one great failing measured against his many virtues as attorney general. His virtues, according to this reckoning, far outweigh his momentary lapse in judgment. Simmon’s military record alone, it is said, would never-the-less give him a leg up over Blumenthal. And Simmons, a typical center-left New England Republican during his years as a U.S. Rep. in the beltway, has experience in the ways of Washington.

In tooting for Simmons recently, one such supporter pointed out that 1) Simmons is “qualified” to be a U.S. senator; 2) the Republican Party -- the larger party not represented by convention delegates who chose McMahon over Simmons -- could “seek redemption” by voting for Simmons in the primary; and finally, capping these arguments, the putative Simmons supporter also pointed out that even ex-Senator and Governor Lowell Weicker, who is aggressively supporting Democrat Ned Lamont in his bid for governor, said recently that Simmons could defeat Blumenthal.

Some of these points may or may not have merit. But, given the temper of the times, it is hardly a positive recommendation to point out that Simmons is the preferred candidate of Weicker, a center-left Republican in the Jacob Javits mode who, as the father of Connecticut’s income tax, triggered a spending spree that has left the state on its knees begging a greedy legislature swollen with hubris and money to stop pouring gasoline on a fire of Weicker’s making.

At a minimum, the encouragement offered to Simmons by those unfriendly to Republican interests means that no dice is ever finally cast: that nominating conventions mean nothing; that polls measuring Republican preferences – among grass roots Republicans, Simmons has not led McMahon in polls since last January – mean nothing; that massive debt, caused mostly by the kinds of Democrats and Republicans Weicker likes, means nothing; that a vast regulatory apparatus fashioned by center-left Democrats and art-deco Republicans to nationalize health care and to cripple what remains of a recession impacted economy by imposing on it a suffocating regulatory scheme fashioned by Barney Frank and the out-going Chris Dodd, Weicker’s favorite living senator, whose dubious reforms still leave Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac virtually untouched, means nothing.

At bottom, this kind of skepticism, poorly disguised as an irresistible forward progressive movement, is a council of despair: Why should people choose at all, when their choices mean nothing.
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