Will a “JetBlue” Election Make Wacky Republicans Electable?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 9:16 am

Two big, competing narratives are dominating media coverage of the upcoming 2010 elections. The first is that the GOP primaries keep producing candidates who are too wacky to be electable. The second is that the populace is so pessimistic about the economy and cynical about Washington that they just might elect them anyway.

For the first narrative: Democrats rejoiced when Rand Paul and Sharron Angle both committed big public gaffes soon after snagging the GOP nomination, and this last Tuesday’s contests gave them even more cause to celebrate:

Elections this week in Colorado and Connecticut yielded a new crop of oddball nominees. Ken Buck, a gaffe-prone prosecutor once ordered to take ethics classes for his handling of an illegal guns case, defeated former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton in a Republican Senate primary. In Connecticut, Linda McMahon, who founded World Wrestling Entertainment with her husband Vince, was linked to steroid investigations and appeared in numerous violent and sexually suggestive sketches, bested Rob Simmons, a former congressman and decorated veteran, for the GOP’s Senate nomination. [...]

“There’s no way [the National Republican Senatorial Committee] could tell you they’d rather have Ken Buck than Jane Norton, or that they’d rather have Sharron Angle than Sue Lowden, pre-chicken bartering comment,” the strategist said, referring to the GOP candidate in Nevada and her defeated primary opponent.

And for the second: There’s those deeply disturbing public opinion polls, including a new one from NBC/Wall Street Journal that indicates just one in five Americans approve of the job congress is doing, while 72 percent disapprove. Those miserable numbers extend to Republicans in congress too, however, and the two pollsters who conducted the survey draw slightly different takeaways:

“Even with Republicans having low numbers, they are the opposition party and are going to benefit from people saying, ‘We’re ticked off and we want a change,”‘ said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the survey with Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “The way you vote your discontent is to say you’re going to vote Republican.”

Mr. Hart said the 2010 contest is being pulled by the sentiment associated with the JetBlue flight attendant who fled his plane via the emergency chute after an altercation with a passenger. Calling it the “JetBlue election,” Mr. Hart said: “Everyone’s hurling invective and they’re all taking the emergency exit.”

It seems pretty clear that Americans are mad at incumbents, not Democrats, but it makes little difference in a year when most incumbents are Democrats. It does, however, seem to make the case that Democrats have a better shot at holding their seats by going negative and talking up their opponents’ wackiness rather than their own records.

Follow Jesse Zwick on Twitter


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