What’s the lesson of Primary Night August 24th? According to the always-on-button-team at MSNBC’s First Read, anger trumped accomplishment and the conventional wisdom and even pollsters proved flawed.
For instance, one question was whether Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President and late-night-punchline Dan Quayle, was going to lose in his bid for the GOP nomination for a Congressional seat in Arizona. The answer was n-o — or as his father might have spelled it, n-o-e.
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Anger trumps accomplishments: So much for the idea that insiders were making a comeback last night. In a stunning development in Alaska’s GOP Senate primary, incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R) trails virtually unknown Joe Miller, who was backed by the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, by 1,960 votes with 98% of precincts reporting. In Florida, meanwhile, wealthy outsider Rick Scott bested establishment politician Bill McCollum, even though McCollum led in some late polls. And proving that all it takes to triumph in a crowded GOP field in Arizona is to air an incendiary TV ad aimed at the president — plus have a famous last name and the most money — Ben Quayle won the Republican primary for the open congressional seat vacated by Rep. John Shadegg (R). In addition to being blows to Conventional Wisdom and some polling, these results tell us something very significant about American politics right now: The candidates who are channeling the public’s anger best are winning, especially on the GOP side. One observer put it this way: If 2008 was about “hope,” then 2010 might be about “fear” — with Republicans running on fear of Obama/Dems, while Dems will be running on fear of returning to Bush/GOP policies.
*** Why McCain won and Murkowski is in trouble: In fact, this explains why someone like John McCain cruised to victory last night in Arizona and Murkowski didn’t. McCain — though it meant reversing himself on some key issues like immigration — picked up the pitchfork and channeled the growing anger on the right. Murkowski, on the other hand, touted her record and what she had done for Alaska. Indeed, how McCain ran his campaign could very well be a model for Democrats or any troubled incumbent in November: go negative and peel the paint off of your opponent. Incumbents who run on what they’ve done in D.C. and for their constituents back home are wasting their time and money. Or as one observer put it to us: “Anyone running positive TV ads right now is better off giving that money to charity.” Positive doesn’t work until you’ve completely dismantled your opponent (see: Hayworth, J.D.).
So welcome to what promises to be a quintessentially, and perhaps unprecedented, negative election year. GOPers and Tea Partyers see the message here and so — presumably (but don’t hold your breath) — does the White House and the Dems.
May the loudest, angriest candidate with the biggest tub of mud win.
UPDATE: Chuck Todd on the Today Show said McCain’s campaign will be the model for incumbents:
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.