I hope to goodness I'm wrong, but in tomorrow's special election, Tim Burns in the PA 12th CD is looking like a loser. Of less interest to me -- but a source of pleasure -- Arlen Specter is an almost certain loser.
If (key word), I'm right about Burns, this is a race he could have -- should have -- won. As for Specter, former Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat, he's been an embarrassment for a long time, and he will have gotten his defeat the old-fashioned way -- i.e., he earned it. At age 79, Arlen has the charisma of a salamander, coupled with a Godzilla-sized ego.
Whoever ran the Burns campaign should seek another field of "expertise." Poorly run Republican campaigns (remember Jim Tedisco in a New York special election?) are becoming almost a fact of life. The Democrats ceaselessly attack -- and the Republicans respond with hurt feelings and lame commercials. A candidate who becomes a punching bag for Democrats is not a happy sight.
Tim Burns should have won in a walk. He was ahead in the polls (but not by much) several weeks ago. I hear that the polls (I hate the things) have gone South for Burns -- and no wonder. This is supposed to be a Republican year, right?
Burns's opponent is a guy, Mark Critz, I'd never heard of until recently. As Jim Geraghty pointed out in a National Review article, Critz was John Murtha's bagman. He was the guy who worked out the earmarks deals, figuring out who would get the tax-dollar handouts -- and how much Murtha would get in campaign "donations." In short, Critz is a petty crook. (Here's the link to Geraghty's article: http://article.nationalreview.com/print/?q=ZWEzZmYyNWI1YWYxNmE2MjI4YTcwMmNmOTZlZDA4YTE=)
In speeches and in (endless, expensive) ads Burns started out with happy talk -- "hey, I'm a hockey dad -- get it?" Meanwhile, Critz, led by the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee (DCCC), was hitting Burns both in the jaw and the solar plexus. He branded Burns as a millionaire (not a good thing in PA, or most places), a job outsourceer, and "not one of US." In western PA, if you're not one of us, you're not going to win elections. John Murtha, even when he was calling us "rednecks" and "racists," remained -- somehow -- "one of us."
Thus, Burns, born in Johnstown and pretty much a lifetime resident of the district, came across as the (dreaded) . . . outsider. Critz, a Washington insider, is about as much a part of the district as Mt. Rushmore, but he -- in commercials -- became "the hometown boy." Critz talked with emotion about how he, through Murtha's earmarks, had "created thousands of jobs." He forgot to mention that the 12th is a place of chronic unemployment, rapid population loss, and low per-capita income. Tim Burns forgot to mention that either.
It's a mess. Tim Burns is a good guy. But he's rich (less rich now, after having spent one of his millions on this campaign), and rich people sometimes have a false sense of invulnerability. For all the money he and the national Republican entities spent, this was a campaign that almost always gave off the scent of a loser. Tim listened to the experts, and they gave him a steady stream of bad advice.
I'm in western Pennsylvania, and I got to see the train wreck happen. I'm not saying everything Burns did was wrong, but he always seemed at least a step behind the opposition. In politics, being a step behind means the other guy wins the race. A campaign needs A PLAN TO WIN. If Tim's did, it was undetectible by ordinary mortals.
Admittedly, Critz is a good liar. He proclaimed that he was "pro-life" and "would have voted against the health care bill" (that Murtha voted for). He was "against the Medicare cuts" in the health bill. These comments were all incredible, but he said them with a straight face. Pelosi, whom Critz will worship as he once did "Mr. Murtha," will tell Critz what to do, and he'll salute and stand at attention.
Let me say it: if I'd managed this campaign, maybe we still would have lost, but we would never have allowed ourselves to be beaten senseless day-after-day, week-after-week. We would have turned Mark Critz into a four-letter word that also begins with "cr" and ends with "p." Everybody in the district would have gotten a free copy of the Geraghty article.
As for Arlen Specter, I have only four words: goodbye and good riddance. Sestak will be the favorite in the race against Republican Pat Toomey. "Republican year?" Hmmm.
Tim Burns, Mark Critz, 12th congressional district, Arlen Specter, Joe Sestak, John Murtha, Nancy Pelosi, Johnstown, PA, Pat Toomey