Friday, October 29, 2010

Maine And Florida Democratic Party Pathos... I Mean Bathos


Paul didn't have time for his makeup before the shoot

If really stupid and extremist teabaggers like Paul LePage (R-ME) and really corrupt and extremist teabaggers like Marco Rubio (R-FL) don't have quite the heft it takes to win high office on their own... well, that's what the Democratic Party is for. LePage, who has an ugly 51% disapproval rating, is about to be elected governor of Maine. And Rubio, with too many financial impropriety scandals to mention, can use those drapes fellow crackpot Joe Miller was too quick to measure in the Senate office building. Three-way races propelled each to a position where there's little that can stop them now. Keep in mind that in 2008 Obama won both states, Maine with a very solid 58% and Florida with a tighter, but more startling 51%.

Since few outside of Maine are following that race, let's start there. The Democrat state Senate President Libby Mitchell, is well-liked inside the political establishment but has run for so many thing so many times that voters seem tired of her. 56% of Mainers polled by PPP say they disapprove of her (an even worse ranking than LePage's). But compared to her, the part time mayor of Waterville [pop. 15,605] and the General Manager of Marden's Surplus and Salvage, is a fresh face-- even if he is a crank and a threat to much of what Mainers hold dear (outside of crankdom itself). The fact that the best-liked of the candidates is an independent, Eliot Cutler, makes it impossible for Mitchell to find a path to victory.
What's most remarkable about LePage's likely victory is that it comes despite the fact that a majority of Maine voters don't like him. 51% of them have an unfavorable opinion of him to only 42% who see him in a positive light. But because he has a relatively unified conservative base while Democratic leaning voters are splitting almost evenly between Mitchell and Cutler he's in a position to win without coming anywhere close to 50% of the vote.

LePage is winning Republicans, who because of the enthusiasm gap are actually the largest group of voters in Maine this year, by a 71-18 margin. Mitchell is pretty much out of contention at this point because she is barely taking even a majority of Democratic voters, holding a 51-30 advantage over Cutler. Cutler meanwhile has the advantage with independents at 40% to 31% for LePage and with Mitchell registering at only 17%.

There's one way to keep LePage from winning and, if he can, ruining the state. Mitchell would have to step aside and endorse Cutler. If she would, it's likely he'd win. But she won't. There's a similar situation in Florida. In fact, people have been not sending in early ballots in anticipation of either Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek dropping out to stop Rubio. Apparently that ain't happening either. The latest polling in the Florida race for the open Senate seat shows Rubio with a 42% plurality to 35% for Crist and 15% for Meek.

First a little background: Dan Gelber was muscled out of the race to make room for the highly unaccomplished Kendrick Meek's sake. Why, when Gelber would certainly be an A+ as a senator while Meek struggled between a D and a C? The thinking was that no one really expected Meek to win but there was the hope he would inspire lots and lots of energetic "Obama voters" for Alex Sink and other Florida Democrats. I'm sure she must have almost had a heart attack if the most unreliable reporter at Politico happens to have his facts right (for a change) and Clinton really did nearly talk Meek into dropping out and endorsing Crist.

Personal experience has shown me that Ben Smith is a ridiculous and credulous excuse for a reporter who can be effortlessly drawn into anyone's personal agenda. But he's asserting that the White was aware that Clinton was persuading Meek to endorse Crist and that Meek actually agreed... twice!
Meek, a staunch Clinton ally from Miami, has failed to broaden his appeal around the state and is mired in third place in most public polls, with a survey today showing him with just 15 percent of the vote. His withdrawal, polls suggest, would throw core Democratic voters to the moderate governor, rocking a complicated three-way contest and likely throwing the election to Crist.

The former president’s top aide, Doug Band, initially served as the intermediary between Meek and Crist, and Clinton became involved only when Meek signaled that he would seriously consider the option, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna confirmed to Politico.

“The argument was: ‘You can be a hero here. You can stop him, you can change this race in one swoop,’” said another Democrat familiar with the conversations, who said Clinton had bluntly told Meek that he couldn’t win the race.

Democrats really should just try to pick the best candidates and stop with the fancy strategies. They're really bad at it. And now we'll have Marco Rubio to deal with for God-knows-how-long... even if Florida does wind up with a governor wearing a blue t-shirt... whoopie!

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