Friday, November 28, 2008

Will Chris Matthews Be The Democratic Candidate Against Snarlin' Arlen In PA?


Man, I used to hate Chris Matthews. To me, he was just a conservative Democrat kissing up to then-dominant Republican insiders by always sticking it to Democrats, particularly to the (unjustly) embattled President Clinton. I'd be too embarrassed to delineate exactly what I used to wish on Matthews for his pandering to the fascists. But, as we all know, MSNBC shifted to the left this year, at least in the evenings, and Matthews became part of a very partisan-- and very successful-- juggernaut that included Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. I have really enjoyed Matthews as a Democratic partisan, part of cable TV's answer to the Hannity-O'Reilly Republican Party spin machine at Fox. But now Matthews, whose contract with MSNBC expires in June, wants to run for the Senate seat currently held by 78 year old Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter. (Matthews is 62, youngish by Senate standards.)

If it were Rachel Maddow or Keith, Blue America would probably be starting a fundraising drive. But Matthews? What do you think? What should we do? Remember we're not a Democratic Party committee; we're dedicated to progressive values, not to strengthening a party apparatus that, more often than not, will betray the values and ideals we think need to be in the forefront of American politics.

On Wednesday a hackish Pennsylvania political journalist based in DC, Josh Drobnyk, writing for the cash-strapped/standards lowering L.A. Times jumped the gun and reported that Matthews was probably going to run. "The Philadelphia native has been toying with a run for months, and this week he sat down with state Democrats to discuss the prospect of taking on the five-term GOP senator."
"There are a lot of compelling reasons why serious Democrats would aspire to run in 2010," said Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney, who said Matthews had been in Pennsylvania Monday meeting with other Democratic leaders.

"You look at what has gone on in this state in the past six or seven years, and you think nothing is out of reach," Rooney said. Since 2002, Pennsylvania Democrats have grabbed the governor's mansion; unseated the Senate's No. 3 Republican, Rick Santorum; and picked up five U.S. House seats. But just as relevant to the party's optimism is what has happened outside the state. The Northeast lost nearly half its slate of Senate Republicans in the previous two elections, leaving Specter with just three GOP colleagues from the eight Northeastern states: Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

Specter can probably expect a tough primary from the right, one he can probably fend off like he has in the past, but that will cost a great deal of money, energy and push him further to the right than he would otherwise position himself for a general election.The lunatic fringe head of the neo-fascist Club for Growth, ex-congressman Pat Toomey may run against Specter again. In 2004 he was within 2 points of beating him in the primary.

This morning pollster Nat Silver reported that Matthews is staffing up for a run after meeting with Obama operatives who are working on the Jim Martin Senate campaign in Georgia. Political junkies all know who Chris Matthews is, but not that many people have ever even heard of MSNBC, let alone Matthews, to give him some kind of advantage in an election. In fact, early polling-- basically a measure of familiarity-- shows that the far better known Specter would wipe him out. "Sixty percent of those polled said they didn't know enough about Matthews to form an opinion of him, while Specter has a 62 percent approval rating."

Specter is one of the 3 moderate Republicans who are occasionally willing to vote with Democrats on key substantive issues, the other two being Olympia Snows and Susan Collins. More often than not, however-- in fact far more often-- Specter has been a rubber stamp supporter of all the worst policies that have made up Bush's toxic and catastrophic agenda. Over the past 4 years Pennsylvania voters have punished elected officials who have supported the Bush agenda-- defeating Senator Rick Santorum and Congressmembers Curt Weldon, Melissa Hart, Mike Fitzpatrick, Don Sherwood, Phil English.

Democrats seem enthusiastic to get a celebrity candidate and Matthews is well-positioned to win a primary against one of the Democratic congressmembers (Sestak or Schwartz). His bother, Jim, is a County Commissioner in suburban Montgomery County and he has strong ties to Governor Rendell and to local Democratic machines.

He's always seemed like a stereotypical Irish-Catholic middle of the road Democrat. After being a Goldwater supporter, he swung hard against the Vietnam War and away from the GOP. He ran for Congress in 1974 but lost to the crooked machine Democratic incumbent, Joshua Eilberg (who was eventually convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to 5 years in prison-- although not before pulling strings and getting U.S. Attorney David Marston fired by Jimmy Carter, a disgraceful episode presaging the Bush Justice Department scandals.) Meanwhile, Matthews took a job as a speechwriter for Carter and then as a chief legislative assistant to House Speaker Tip O'Neill, his main claim to electability for many people. Of course the other, less attractive side, to that old fashioned meat and potatoes blue collar Democrat is the unacceptable reactionary social positions. Matthews has been a serial sexist and will have a real problem with women voters. Anyway... worth noting and watching. We're interested in hearing alternatives to Mathews and Specter.

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At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthews leaves me completely unimpressed. He's not a conservative or a progressive; he'll simply roll over for anybody who is famous and will stroke his stomach. Who can forget his manlove for McCain? It was embarrassing watching Matthews slobber and hero worship. Sure, I'm glad he has a nose for the way the wind is blowing, but that's the kind of quality above all I think progressives need.

As for Specter, I keep hearing him discussed as a moderate, but he's simply a conservative with an eye to the main chance. He votes the wrong way far more often than not. His ability to sound tough and then back down almost rivals Reid. I'd love to see him defeated, but it's going to take somebody with a lot of power and few negatives. Specter's got the years, the clout, and enough obfuscation to paint himself as should pardon the expression...maverick.

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know Matthews' weaknesses, but I would take him over Spencer in a minute, but then again, I am not from PA so it is their business.

Matthews was undeniably an Obama guy. But, if you notice, being a TV host he always slobbers over all his guests until recently.

What is so apparent to me is the lack of qualifications of most who run for public office. I think Matthews at least has a brain.

He might be teachable where women's issues are concerned. He at least has the working person's well-being at heart which is more than I can say for others.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Bob In Pacifica said...

Arlen Specter, as a young Philadelphia prosecutor, was a staffer on the Warren Commission and was credited with the "magic bullet theory" in the JFK assassination. In short, Specter helped in covering up the coup.

From wiki: "According to the single-bullet theory, a one-inch-long copper-jacketed lead-core 6.5-millimeter rifle bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository passed through President Kennedy’s neck and Governor Connally’s chest and wrist and embedded itself in the Governor’s thigh. If so, this bullet traversed 15 layers of clothing, 7 layers of skin, and approximately 15 inches of tissue, struck a necktie knot, removed 4 inches of rib, and shattered a radius bone. The bullet that is supposed to have done all this damage was found on a stretcher in the corridor at the Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, after the assassination. The Warren Commission found that this stretcher was the one that had been used by Governor Connally This bullet became a key Commission exhibit, identified as CE399. Its copper jacket was completely intact. While the bullet's nose appeared normal, the tail was compressed laterally on one side." And that doesn't count the bullet hole in the windshield of the limo.

Anyone is better than Specter. Specter should have spent his long and prosperous life in a cell as an accessory after the fact.

On the other hand, I have very little regard for Matthews. Isn't there another Democrat in Pennsylvania to run for the Senate?

At 1:10 PM, Blogger VG said...

Howie, If I understood correctly part of what you said was "what should we do", "we" meaning BA. Support Matthews or not?

Two ways to look at it, and both leave me saying "no, don't start a BA page" for Matthews.

First off, he's not a progressive.

Secondly, it seems to me that BA has made the most difference in Congressional races, supporting true grass-roots progressives, where BA dollars and your expertise has made a huge difference for the candidate. This is a generality, in that I'd guess that BA support was very helpful to Merkley. As for other Senate races, I know BA was a vocal supporter of Tom Allen at the outset, but I didn't hear much about him towards the end, and it's not clear to me why he lost- I've seen some Maine bloggers say that he made certain mis steps re: labor that might have cost him the election. On the other hand, Collins obviously had lots of $$.

As an ancillary point, seems to me that BA support for progressive congressional candidates is a good investment- the election cycle time is so much shorter than for the Senate, and even if the BA candidate loses first time around, if they have the willingness to keep at it, they can win the second time around. Eric Massa comes to mind, and man was he ever a hard worker.

And a good progressive candidate helps get the message out there, win or lose- so not all can be measured by win/ lose imo.

All that said, Howie, you are in a better position than anyone to do a cost/ benefit analysis as to the best way to apportion BA $$. I say, put the $$ where they will do the most good in electing true progressives, and getting out the progressive message.

People don't have a lot of $$ to toss around these days. And, I'd guess that people give to various BA candidates, people who would not give $$ via other sites, based on the credibility of the "BA" brand.

My 15 cents.

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with VG's take on this. I simply do not consider Matthews a truly credible Democrat, much less a progressive. Echoing Balakirev's comment, isn't CM the one who could "just smell the Old Spice" emanating from the buffoon Fred Thompson? He strikes me as too ready to adjust his thinking depending upon whomever impressed him last. I have no problems with people who change their minds; certainly Dubya has taught us once again the dangers of hidebound ideas, but Matthews does not exude a sense of true and grounded political principles.

I have a strong feeling that he simply enjoys politics qua politics. It's a game he loves to play. Fundamentally, I think, to him, it's amoral. Not what we need in a progressive Senator from so important a state. I'd vote against a BA page for CM.

At 4:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first thought was, "Matthews isn't SMART enough for politics." I stand by that.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Matthews would certainly be better than Spectre, who is a worthless liar. The reason his approvals are so high is because he takes two positions on every topic, so everyone can agree with him -- whether it's what he says or how he votes, usually completely opposite.

But if there's a progressive alternative to Matthews, it would be great. I think he might be able to bring in the celebrity Democratic endorsers to win against Spectre, but I'd be much happier with someone more closely aligned with progressive principles.

And yeah, Matthews will have a killer tape reel. If we thought the things Al Franken said were cringe-worthy, good Lord, think about Tweety!

At 7:53 AM, Blogger thehaitiman said...

no to Tweety in 2010, 12, 14, 16,18.... - unless he denounces Delay, then we can talk

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you can support Matthews, you can support Lieberman; or vice versa. There are dozens of competent, progressive democrats in PA.

At 1:36 AM, Blogger jayge said...

Sestak has already withdrawn his name from speculation. He's had staff issues and I think really wants to do good things in his district.

There are two names, one totally on the radar and one off, for Senate, at least, Patrick Murphy and Dan Oronato.

First, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D - 8th) is a Bull Dog Dem, and would play well for moderates in PA, especially the Middle and Western thirds of the state, as well as pull tons from his base in the Philadelphia Area (especialy Vets and Union Guys), especially with Sestak out.

Second, Dan Oronato (D), Allegheny County Chief Executive, is a growing star in Pittsburgh and Western PA. He ran unopposed last time around and spent most of his time raising money for the DNC. He has been speculated to replace Rendell, but who knows if he will try to go National instead.

Should be an interesting race, regardless.


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