Voters in Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania went to the polls on Tuesday in one of the first big events of the upcoming 2010 midterm election season, so of course, the “mainstream” news media absolutely lathered itself in The Stupid. Before we get into the freshet of gibberish that came with the coverage of Tuesday’s vote, let’s get our facts straight first.
In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter, a man widely known for changing his mind 17 times before choosing which color socks to put on in the morning, who became a Democrat last year in a desperate attempt to avoid a pre-midterm defeat, failed to sidestep catastrophe and was thrashed by Rep. Joe Sestak by a margin of 54-46. Also in Pennsylvania, the Democrats were able to hold on to the late Representative Murtha’s seat.
In Kentucky, a Tea Party avatar named Rand Paul absolutely obliterated his GOP-backed opponent, Trey Grayson, who only managed to garner 35 percent of the vote despite enjoying the full support of GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and every other big gun the RNC could bring to bear. Also in Kentucky, a three-way Republican House primary went badly for the national Republican Party when their chosen candidate, Jeff Reetz, came in third with an anemic 17 percent.
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In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s erstwhile attempt to appear progressive with several right-voting millstones swinging freely from her neck fell short; the oft-Bush-supporting senator failed by a pretty vast margin to garner the requisite 50 percent required to avoid a runoff election, so we’ll be hearing about her again in the near future.
There were a few other races here and there on Tuesday, but none have been crowned with the title of “bellweather” like the Specter, Murtha, Paul and Lincoln races have been. Apparently, these races amounted to a huge pile of “Tea” leaves – pardon the pun – that the “mainstream” media has been happily rolling in like a dog in its own doo.
To be fair, the Big News people, who have spent the last year massaging the idea that the Tea Party movement is a real thing worthy of attention, got one part right: the Tea Party is for real. Not really, not in any larger national sense, but they are certainly a force within the Republican Party now, and boy, oh boy, it is going to get wildly entertaining from here. While the Tea Party itself is largely a creation of Big Media’s desire to apply “balance” where none actually exists, like it or not, their focus on this ridiculous phenomenon has borne some bitter fruit for the GOP. Rachel Sladja of Talking Points Memo reported it thusly:
In Kentucky, the national Republican Party backed the wrong candidate in not one but two primaries. The Democrats managed to hold on to Rep. John Murtha’s old seat in Pennsylvania. And while Sen. Arlen Specter is no longer a Republican, his defeat by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary means the GOP nominee will face, perhaps, a much stronger opponent than the beleaguered Specter would have been.
It was a rough night for the Republicans.
No one suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune more than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. His hand-picked candidate was trounced by tea partier Rand Paul in the Kentucky Senate primary. McConnell’s pick, Trey Grayson, only got 35 percent of the vote despite his party’s backing. Grayson even lost in his home county.
In a smaller, but no less telling, Louisville House district primary last night, NRCC choice Jeff Reetz came in third in a primary to challenge Rep. John Yarmuth. Reetz only got 17 percent of the vote.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats managed to deny Republicans what would have been a symbolic taking of the 12th district seat once held by the late Rep. John Murtha. There, Mark Critz (D) narrowly won the special election over Tim Burns (R), 53 percent to 45 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Burns reportedly called Critz to concede before the Associated Press had even called the race.
It’s difficult to argue with this perspective. In Florida, Nevada and, now, Kentucky, the far-right, base-crazy monster that was cooked up in national GOP test tubes over the last 20 years has finally crashed out of the laboratory and gone slobbering and snarling down their electoral Main Street. The GOP does not win statewide or national elections without the combination of their social-voter Taliban-Christians and their tax-cutting, rich-people wing coming together to pull the right-side handle. For a time, this was a match made in heaven for the Republicans, but now the GOP base is out of its cage and not following the program, and all of a sudden, a lot of Republican electoral eggs are getting scrambled. If the base deserts the party for a bunch of candidates who can’t hope to compete against well-funded Democrats in general elections, well, that’s the ballgame for them.
But then, there’s the other side of the coin, i.e., The Stupid, in this instance represented by Charles Babington of The Associated Press. The following lines were actually printed by the AP on Wednesday:
Voters rejected one of President Barack Obama’s hand-picked candidates and forced another into a runoff, the latest sign that his political capital is slipping beneath a wave of anti-establishment anger.
Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president’s active involvement, raising doubts about Obama’s ability to help fellow Democrats in this November’s elections.
The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter’s loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama’s influence and popularity even within his own party – and in a battleground state, no less.
Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year.
Still, Obama’s poor record thus far could hurt his legislative agenda if Democratic lawmakers decide they need some distance from him as they seek re-election in what is shaping up as a pro-Republican year. Conversely, it might embolden Republican lawmakers and candidates who oppose him.
Let’s all take a breath and enjoy that first sentence. “Barack Obama’s hand-picked candidates,” the report said.
Blanche Lincoln took a seat in the House of Representatives in 1993, and has been a member of the Senate since 1998, making her a Democratic officeholder for the last 17 years. Hard as it is to believe, the premise that Lincoln was a “hand-picked candidate” of the president is less preposterous than the claim that Specter should enjoy the same designation. Specter, who switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 1965 in order to run for district attorney in Philadelphia, has been a senator since 1980. That’s 30 years in office, and, yet, according to the AP, he was “hand-picked” to run this time around like some fresh-faced neophyte who has never been to the dance.
There’s a moral in this nonsense somewhere, and here’s what I think it is: ignore everyone. Maybe TPM is right, and Tuesday was a debacle for the GOP. Maybe the AP is right, and this last vote somehow translates into disaster for Obama and the Democrats. The reality, however, is that all these races were local and inter-party, subject to a wide swath of circumstances that don’t translate into any sort of national Rorschach blot to be read for the edification of the masses. I mean, really. Rand Paul won by running against Mitch McConnell, who wasn’t even running for anything.
There are five months to go before the midterms go down for real, and a million things could happen to change the dynamic. What happened on Tuesday was interesting and entertaining and utterly devoid of context, thanks in no small part to the machinations of Big Media.
Go back to what you were doing. There really isn’t anything to see here.