There's a three-way race for the US Senate in Florida. An unemployed veteran who lives with his father is up against an almost-certain opponent in South Carolina. A candidate in Delaware gets more press for things she said in 1999 than in this race. Two long-time Republicans are running as independents. Two years after the message of "hope" carried in a sweeping victory for Barack Obama, what on earth is going on with the midterm elections?
Perhaps a better question to ask is: What on earth isn't going on with the midterm elections?
Alaska incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, who lost the GOP primary to retain her seat to the even-more-right-wing Joe Miller, has launched a write-in campaign to keep her seat.
I am Republican. I have been a Republican since I was 18," said Murkowski. "I will always be a Republican."
She is harping on this, lyrically almost, because it's been asserted that she is no longer Republican enough for the people of Alaska. The people who elected Sarah Palin to the Governor's Office, the Sarah Palin who is somehow too Republican to finish her term and who is looking to run in 2012. So Lisa Murkowski, in this context, needs to assert her GOP stalwartness, even from her position as post-primary longshot.
If anything, the midterm 2010 elections seem to be the first national cycle in which candidates across the field are paying for indiscretions, comments, and behaviors of yore. Yes, there was the whole "swift boat" brouhaha during Kerry's run for the Presidency of 2004, but it referred to murky recollections from 30 years earlier, not taped statements made flippantly to Bill Maher, or snarky sentiments made on an Arizona gossip website. What candidates have to deal with now that didn't factor into elections before is the constant recording and inscription of content that they themselves produced in this millennium (and in the late 90s). O'Donnell, running for the Senate from Delaware, need go no further than the closest mirror to see who has painted her into this particular corner.
Ben Quayle's Congressional campaign had to respond, on the eve of the primary, to charges that he'd written a series of articles—I use the term loosely—for theDirtyScottsdale.com, under the pseudonym "Brock Landers," chronicling his attempts—I use the term loosely—to find the "hottest chick" in the city. Even Dan Quayle, Ben's father, had to step forward to defend the candidate, calling the charges part of a smear campaign against his son. Smear campaign? Isn't that a phrase used to unjustly denigrate an opponent in an election? Aren't "Brock's" posts out on the Internet for all to see? What am I missing here?
Across the country from Arizona, in South Carolina, an unemployed veteran, Alvin Greene, beat a popular judge and former lawmaker to win the Democratic primary for US Senate. Democrats on Capitol Hill were up in arms—how did he win with no fundraising and no campaigning? How did he show up in Columbia, SC, at Democratic headquarters with the $10,000 registration fee? Back in June, Democratic leaders seethed and said they'd investigate Mr. Greene because they suspected someone put him up to running. Never mind that it's his right as a citizen to run for office. Never mind also that in conservative South Carolina, up against conservative incumbent Jim DeMint, Greene has almost no chance of winning the election. It's still fair game to trash his reputation in the press.
The big two political parties have a tendency to eat their own. Or at least, not support their fellow ideologues. When asked if she supported Sarah Palin for President, Christine O'Donnell responded, "Is she running for President?" When pressed, she dodged: "Again, these hypotheticals." Oh, these hypotheticals! At least she's learned to avoid bad sound bites since her remarks to Bill Maher that she'd had a date with a witch on a bloody altar.
Charlie Crist, the GOP Governor of Florida, has resorted to running as an independent for the US Senate because he lost in the primary to Marco Rubio. So now it's a three-way race to be the next junior senator from Florida: Crist is pulling in 27 percent, ahead of the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek, with 20 percent, and both of them are far behind Rubio, who has 42 percent in the latest poll. Further confusing this mess, Crist keeps picking up endorsements from the left: former U.S. Representative Robert Wexler, Democratic state Sen. Al Lawson, and even the Sierra Club (which in a nifty twist "co-endorsed" the Democratic candidate as well).
It may very well be that voters don't know where to vote this cycle, with candidates across the country shouting that their opponents are socialists or reactionary right-wingers. Somehow the middle of the political spectrum has gotten no air time. But quietly, some polls are showing a shift: the more the news media focus on the so-called Tea Party, the more Democrats say they plan to vote next month. Time will tell. In the interim, does anyone know what the key issues are this election? Or just who the hottest chick in Scottsdale was in 2007?