Last night, as the voting in Florida's 3rd district turned against Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Democratic strategist gloated so hard I worried my email would crash. "So much for Solyndra!" said the strategist. "When Solyndra doesn't win you a Republcian primary, makes you wonder what it does win you."
Since January 2011, Stearns had run the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It was Stearns's investigators who turned up the first embarassing details of the Solyndra collapse, Stearns' investigators who followed up on video stings of Planned Parenthood offices. Stearns was, according to Politico, the "GOP's new star on the hill."
He probably lost last night to a large animal veternarian who had never held public office. Ted Yoho, a self-professed Tea Party candidate, ran on goofball charm, corny jokes, and the help of Republican consultant (and Mike Huckabee son-in-law) Brian Sanders. He spent $169,475 to Stearns's $739,406 -- and that could have been more dramatic, but Stearns sat on $2 million. Yoho made no real ideological argument against Stearns, a conservative who'd voted against TARP. He just ran as an ordinary guy who would serve no more than four terms, who hated himself some Washington. He hired a George Bush impersonator.
He promoted earnest tribute songs performed by supporters.
His endorsement page made up for a lack of elected Republican support by citing author R.J. Yoho, who admitted that "it isn’t clear if we are truly related," and the son of the creator of Gatorade, who called the candidate "refreshing."
I heard last night from a couple of voters in the district who said they'd seen Yoho's funny "pigs at trough" ad a few times. Maybe there's a lesson here about how little attention voters pay to what their member of Congress is actually doing. There's certainly no reason to believe Stearns made too few concessions to the right.
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