From Politico: As spring eases into summer this Memorial Day, the political world is fixated on Big Trends:
How deep does this year’s anti-incumbent fervor run? Will the economy make sufficient gains to help Democrats in November? What’s the real meaning of the Tea Party movement?
But high-concept questions can obscure a low-concept reality: Campaigns matter. So do candidates.
The best politicians have a way of navigating the currents of a hostile political environment. Other politicians, to paraphrase Steve Martin, not have way.
It was Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts who reminded everyone of this truth early in the year, with a bumbling performance in the January special election that vaulted Republican Scott Brown into Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat.
Since then, there have been plenty of other examples of politicians who have stepped on a rake, or worse. Here’s POLITICO’s list of this year’s biggest flops, to date: the candidates who remind us that while the race isn’t always to the swift, it is usually to the pol who doesn’t actively sabotage his or her own campaign.
Florida’s governor was supposed to lock down outgoing Sen. Mel Martinez’s seat for the GOP as soon as he declared his candidacy. Crist won the endorsement of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, raised an astonishing $4.4 million in the first reporting period of his campaign and led former state House Speaker Marco Rubio by more than 30 points in a June 2009 primary poll.
But like Specter, Crist had severe liabilities from the start — and did even less than Specter to address them. His open support for the stimulus bill and literal hug of President Barack Obama enraged the GOP base — not since Joe Lieberman embraced George W. Bush has one image so defined a Senate campaign. Crist’s efforts to reconnect with the party faithful were either transparently political (announcing he’d oppose Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation) or inept (denying he’d offered full support for the Recovery Act, before conceding that he had). The fact that Crist is actually more viable running without a party is a testament to his disastrous performance as a GOP primary candidate.