And You, Sir, Are No Carol Shea-Porter

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 16 2010 5:47 PM

And You, Sir, Are No Carol Shea-Porter

Tim Fernholz takes up my argument that "crazy" Republicans can win in 2010, and finds it wanting. Specifically, he says it's unfair to compare Rand Paul or anyone else to Carol Shea-Porter, the Democratic victor in a 2006 upset and the focus of my argument last week.

Was she an outspoken Democrat? Sure, she was -- but her positions opposing the Iraq War and the Bush administration were part and parcel with the national Democrats'message. Perhaps her biggest unorthodoxy was supporting universalhealth care through Medicare, but that's not why Bradley wascomplacent. He was complacent because he outspent Shea-Porter three to one. Compare that to the crazy Republicans of today. No one doubts theirability to raise money, run television ads, or surround themselves withpolitical consultants. What people doubt are whether voters willstomach McMahon's passel of WWE faux pas, or Paul's opposition to minesafety regulations and defense of BP; it's certainly clear thatnational Republicans aren't dying to associate with these views. Essentially, Shea-Porter's critics focused on hercampaign tactics; critics of far-right Republican nominees wonder iftheir ideas can attract mainstream support.

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True enough, and I hope very few people thought I was making a one-to-one comparison between Shea-Porter and, say, Paul. What I wanted to demonstrate was that the success record of D.C. party committees didn't have a lot to do with the success rate of candidates who won without the big D.C. endorsement. There's not enough appreciation for how these base-powered grass-roots candidates can perform in the general. Now, I would recommend checking out Steve Kornacki's take on this, which points out that Senate candidates get more scrutiny than House candidates.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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