Sunday, August 19, 2007

How Rove Stole My Vote and Lost the Senate

Last November, my Congressman, Christopher Shays, was the only Republican House member in New England to be reelected. I didn’t vote for him, but Karl Rove did. Ironically, in doing so, the “boy genius” missed a chance to keep Republican control of the U.S. Senate.

Today’s Washington Post singles out Shays’s campaign as an example of his work:

“Under Rove's direction, this highly coordinated effort to leverage the government for political marketing started as soon as Bush took office in 2001 and continued through last year's congressional elections, when it played out in its most quintessential form in the coastal Connecticut district of Rep. Christopher Shays, an endangered Republican incumbent...

“Between April 2006 and Election Day, Shays was able to announce at least 25 new federal grants or projects totaling more than $46 million, including a new veterans medical facility and a long-awaited installment of federal money for ferry service...Seven different Bush administration officials, including two Cabinet secretaries and the chief of the highway administration, visited his district during that time.

“In contrast, Shays announced just $39 million in grants and got just one visit by a federal official in the prior 15 months, the analysis shows.

“No federal generosity was too small to tout. A top official of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was on hand with Shays when the NOAA awarded a single severe-weather alert radio, valued at $23, to an elementary school in Norwalk, Conn., two months before Election Day.

“Shays wrote Bush on Sept. 8, 2006, to seek the early release--before the election--of heating assistance money for low-income residents in his state. Just four days later, the White House released $6 million.”

Before Bush, Shays was a relatively independent Republican but after 2001 was dragooned into blindly supporting the war in Iraq to the point that a Democrat, Diane Farrell, came close to unseating him in 2004.

But he was still a popular and credible enough figure in the state to have won the U.S. Senate seat that was in play after Joe Lieberman was defeated in the Democratic primary.

In a three-way race with the Democratic newcomer Ned Lamont and Lieberman running as an Independent, Shays might well have been elected with less than 40 percent of the vote.

But the Republicans, in love with Lieberman as their Democratic cheerleader for the war, put up a non-entity, a small-town former mayor tarnished by gambling scandals, who drew 9.6 percent of the Republican vote. The rest went to Lieberman and reelected him to caucus with the Democrats and give them control of the Senate.

In 1968, Joe Flaherty wrote “The Selling of the President” to show that Nixon’s media manipulators had won the White House for him. But after the chaos of the Democrats’ Chicago convention, Nixon led the polls by 15 per cent. Two months and $20 million dollars later, he won by less than one per cent.

”Evil geniuses” are always overrated.

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