Thune vs. Daschle
Tim Russert featured the candidates from the U.S. Senate race in South Dakota on last Sunday's "Meet the Press," and challenger John Thune did fairly well, sticking by his guns even when Tom Daschle (a.k.a. "Mr. Obstruction") practically wept -- wept! -- at the insinuation that his ill-timed bitter criticism of President Bush on the eve of the war in Iraq was less than patriotic. I often wonder whether Daschle's breathtakingly disingenuous affectation of being a plain-spoken country boy gets taken at face value by the folks back in his home state. Probably not, but enough South Dakotans probably like the extra attention and pork barrel money that he brings to the Prairie State that they don't mind his lack of sincerity. Daschle has the edge, according to UVa's Larry Sabato, but Thune is leading by a 50% to 47% margin according to a recent poll cited on his Web site In any case, it's very close.
I keep wondering whether the apparent implosion of the Kerry campaign is real or whether the Democrats are just trying to lull the Republicans into complacency. Josh Marshall provides evidence for the former hypothesis, that the Dems are indeed in full-fledged despair mode, the way he sarcastically invokes the Florida 2000 controversy:
Don Rumsfeld said yesterday that elections in "three-quarters or four-fifths of" Iraq might be good enough.
In other words, run the place on Florida rules.
Only a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat could see any humor in that. They can keep wallowing in past frustrations, as far as I'm concerned. Doing so will only alienate them further from open-minded undecided voters. As for Rumsfeld's comment, I expressed the same relative equanimity about the less-than-optimal prospects for the Iraqi elections on September 15, by the way.
As far as Democratic strategizing, the Rathergate scandal may be taken as a hint of the hardball underhanded tactics to come. Don't forget how the baseless accusations about "W"'s alleged drunk driving record pushed the election in Gore's direction in the final days of the 2000 campaign. Expect more last-minute hijinks this year.
Not that the Republicans are entirely innocent of political nastiness, however. According to the 365Gay.com Web site, the Republican National Committee sent mass mailings to voters in West Virginia warning that the Democrats will legalize gay marriage and ban the Bible if they win the election. If true, it's deplorable, as is any such use of scare tactics. Also, the mean-spirited GOP Whip Tom DeLay and some of his aides are in legal trouble over questionable fund raising in Texas.