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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: August 2009

The Attack On “Redistribution”

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
It’s becoming more obvious each day that the conservative assault on Barack Obama’s legislative agenda, including his incrementalist efforts towards universal health coverage, isn’t much about the details. It is, instead, a counter-revolutionary campaign to revive 1980s-era middle-class resentments of particular beneficiaries of government social programs. Beneath the hysterical talk about Obama’s “socialism” or the “Democrat Socialist Party,” conservatives are actually revolting against the ancient targets of the New Deal and Great Society, and indeed, against the very idea that “interference” with the distributional implications of free markets is ever morally legitimate.
Consider a long, classic column published at National Review last week by the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson, entitled “Obama and Redistributive Change.” It’s an angry screed against the egalitarian underpinnings of progressive politics, past, present and future. It goes over-the-top in suggesting that Obama is determined to wipe out absolutely every distinction in wealth and status among Americans. But the self-righteous fury against any “redistributive” activity by government seems perfectly genuine, representing as it does a rejection of virtually every way of ordering society other than laissez-faire capitalism:

When radical leaders over the last 2,500 years have sought to enforce equality of results, their prescriptions were usually predictable: redistribution of property; cancellation of debts; incentives to bring out the vote and increase political participation among the poor; stigmatizing of the wealthy, whether through the extreme measure of ostracism or the more mundane forced liturgies; use of the court system to even the playing field by targeting the more prominent citizens; radical growth in government and government employment; the use of state employees as defenders of the egalitarian faith; bread-and-circus entitlements; inflation of the currency and greater national debt to lessen the power of accumulated capital; and radical sloganeering about reactionary enemies of the new state.

Hanson is clearly looking beyond our current political debates at much of the history of civilization, and it infuriates him. But if Obama’s health care reform efforts represent a drive to “enforce equality of results,” what existing government program can’t be described the same way?
Social Security is redistributive. Medicare is redistributive. Public education is redistributive. Public investments in highways, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure are most definitely redistributive. The land reforms that accompanied the rise of every society, dating back to feudalism, are inherently and overtly redistributive. Even defense spending is redistributive, insofar as the benefits of national security are rarely captured by current taxpayers.
Beyond government and politics, it’s not only “socialists” who have embraced “redistributive” thinking. The Hebrew lawgivers and prophets; Jesus Christ; Mohammad–all were blatant redistributionists. All denied that wealth or status was invariably the product of productivity and virtue, and rejected the idea that redistribution was theft.
If Hanson and the many conservatives who so often sound like him want to openly take the posture that much of American–not to mention, world–history is a long, disastrous saga of tyranny in the pursuit of “enforced equality,” they are free to do so. But they should at least acknowledge that the rage against Barack Obama is really just displaced rage at democracy; at the mild forms of collective social action embraced by most Americans during the last century; at the longstanding policy positions of both major political parties; and at many of the very people they are calling upon to kill Obama’s agenda–including Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, people with government-protected mortgages, farm-price-support recipients, military veterans, and public employees tout court. At an absolute minimum, Hanson should rush to publish a column savaging Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele for trying to position the GOP as the Party of Medicare this last week.

Dialing It In

I know it’s the last week before Labor Day and all, when the higher-status pundits are by tradition esconced (with the First Family) at Martha’s Vineyard, but it sures seems like the conservative commentariat, so excited by town hall protests and declining presidential approval ratings just last week, is kinda dialing it in right now.
This very morning, you had a George Will column sniffing that Barack Obama and his allies are “unserious;” a Robert Samuelson column lecturing everyone about federal budget deficits and entitlements; a Max Boot column warning that America’s enemies are chortling in derision at America’s newfound delicacy about torture; and even a “historical” Michael Barone column that manages to suggest the the “royal status” of the Kennedy family was spoiled by its growing liberalism.
And just to prime the pump, there was even a snarling Dick Cheney interview on Fox yesterday.
It was all so predictable and by-the-numbers that it could have been, and may have been, filed a week ago, or even a year ago.
Looks like Barack Obama’s not the only one who needs some batteries recharged.

After Kennedy: Obama’s Burden…And Ours

This item by J.P. Green was originally published on August 27, 2009.
To get a full sense of the void Senator Kennedy leaves in his party and Congress, consider the likely successors to replace him at the top of the powerful Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), which plays a vital role in protecting living standards across the nation. In order of seniority, they are: Chris Dodd; Tom Harkin and Barbara Mikulski — fine Senators all, but none with the clout and skill of Kennedy. As Paul Kane explains in WaPo:

Kennedy ruled as the top Democrat on the committee for more than two decades, using the perch to serve as the Senate’s lead agitator for increasing the minimum wage, expanding civil rights to cover the handicapped and gay Americans, and for promoting what he long called “the cause of my life” — universal health care.

Atop The HELP committee is clearly a great place to be for aspiring national leaders, addressing core concerns of the Democratic Party. Yet, to run HELP, Dodd would have to give up the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee and Harkin would surrender the the helm of the Agriculture Committee, important committees, particularly in their respective states. The new chair won’t be selected until after the recess.
The stature of Democratic senators shrinks considerably in Kennedy’s fading shadow. As the media turns to other congressional Democrats to articulate their Party’s agenda, the ranks will likely appear even thinner. Kennedy was a mediagenic star of unrivaled magnitude in Congress, as well as a highly-skilled legislator. There is no other U.S. Senator with anything close to the progressive gravitas and leverage Kennedy commanded.
All of which is likely to strengthen President Obama’s hand as the leader of his Party. But it will almost certainly increase the demands on him to speak out more forcefully. Absent Ted Kennedy, there is no one other than Obama who can credibly be called “the real leader of the Democrats.” Obama will have to abandon much of his low-key approach to legislative reform and step up. It might be a good idea for him to hire a couple of Kennedy’s top staffers to help navigate health care reform and other key bills through Congress.
Obama has another burden, to lift the spirits of a nation coming to grips with the end of the Kennedy era. I know it may not mean so much to the younger generation. But I and a millions of other Americans can still remember what America felt like under JFK’s administration, the can-do spirit and sense of hope that was shattered in Dallas. We remember how RFK grew a heart in Marks, Mississippi, and how he went on to inspire a renewed faith in America’s potential as a nation where opportunity and brotherhood could flourish, his journey also clipped by assasination, just two months after MLK was killed. And then EMK, who did much to translate their dreams into legislative reality (see Ed Kilgore’s post yesterday), his life ending on the eve of fulfilling his greatest dream — health security for all Americans.
It’s a huge burden the President is called to bear. Fortunately, he has the smarts and inspirational skills to lead the struggle ahead. But he will need all the help he can get, including the expertise of Senator Kennedy’s best and brightest, and especially the support of America’s progressive community. For the President, and for all who hold fast to the dream, answering this call is the great challenge of our time.

Next Stop For Japan: Ideology?

The most interesting aspect of American media coverage of Japan’s startling “change election” is that nobody much knows what to make of it. Yes, it’s assumed that the opposition Democratic Party, which dislodged the Liberal Democratic Party by a landslide, will be cooler to the United States, even as its leader, soon-to-be Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama makes it clear nothing much will change on the foreign policy front. Maybe Americans just don’t understand Japanese politics.
But Matt Yglesias is definitely on to something in suggesting that systems in which one party dominates for long periods of time don’t tend to be terribly ideological:

One consequence of this prolonged period of one-party rule is that the LDP is not an especially ideological political party. It’s essentially a “party of government” patronage machine that contains diverse factions and different points of view. The Democratic Party, consequently, is more of a generic umbrella opposition grouping than a clear ideological alternative. Thus the Democrats are riding in on a tide of public discontent, but don’t seem to have articulated much in the way of a policy agenda beyond the obscure issue of bureaucracy reform.

Back in the late 1990s, I participated in a international conference in Taiwan sponsored by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the long-time opposition party to the reigning Kuomintang (KMT). The purpose of the conference was basically to draw on center-left experiences elewhere to help devise an ideological and policy agenda for the DPP, which had long been defined as simply the opposition party, and as the preferred party of ethnic Taiwainese who had long resented the domination of “mainlanders” from China. After a period in government beginning in 2000, the DPP (and for that matter, the KMT) has a somewhat sharper ideological focus these days.
Come to think of it, the same dynamic was evident in the “Solid South” of my childhood in Georgia. The governing Democratic Party was a catchment of all sorts of people from serious progressives to hard-core segregationists, and the Republican Party was a motley assortment of transplanted Yankess, older African-Americans, and people interested in federal patronage during Republican administrations in Washington. Ideology was not a particularly clear or important partisan differentiator until the Civil Rights Act, and even then it took a decade or two for the parties to sort themselves out.
So maybe Japan’s parties will make more “sense” to us foreigners once the LDP has been out of office for a while. Serious competition has a way of clarifying things.

A Name For Our Dying Decade: “The Ooze”

This is a guest post from Mark Ribbing, Director of Policy Development at the Progressive Policy Institute.
The time is coming to give this decade a name. We are four months from its end, and still we have no handy moniker that captures the spirit of the 2000’s, their odd blend of dislocation, dissolution and hope.
Back at the start of the millennium, commentators offered various spoken shorthands for the 00’s, but none have caught on. The most logical choice, “The Two-Thousands,” is unwieldy. Playing on the multiplicity of zeros, some pundits suggested “The Zeros” or even—in an antiquarian turn—“The Aughts.”
Others chose to see all those circles not as numbers, but as letters, and to pronounce them as such—“The Oh’s.” This, it turns out, was a step on the right track. But let’s consider a different pronunciation, one that captures not only the numerical identity of the 00’s, but also their historical essence: “The Ooze.”
This name’s been suggested before, mainly as a gag entrant in the dub-the-decade sweepstakes. Now it’s time for us to embrace its aptness for our times. Let us ponder ooze.
My desk version of Webster’s dictionary lists its first definition of “ooze” as a verb meaning “[t]o flow or seep out slowly, as through small openings.” The second is “[t]o vanish or ebb slowly,” and offers as an example the following phrase: “felt my confidence ooze away.”
But “ooze” is not just a verb for things that seep through small openings (like an infiltrating terrorist, or a flu virus) or for things that vanish or ebb over time (like Arctic ice, or the U.S. manufacturing-job base).
For “ooze” is also a noun. It is mud, goop, gunk, but its meaning goes a bit, well, deeper than that.
Back to the dictionary. It turns out that ooze is the “[m]udlike sediment covering the floor of oceans and lakes, composed mainly of the remains of microscopic animals.” In other words, it is the inert decayed matter of that which was once alive, and moving, and whole, however fragile it turned out to be.
This was our national condition all too often in the 2000’s—a perceptible wearing-away of living, intact structures that upheld our sense of security, liberty, prosperity, and mutual obligation.
This sense of national loss and unsettlement was a continual theme of the first eight years of the decade. It was an undercurrent running from the September 11 attacks to Hurricane Katrina, from the abuses at Abu Ghraib to the implosion of our financial sector.
Yet before we mire ourselves in pessimism, let us once again consider the floors of oceans and lakes, where microscopic beings settle and separate into the mud. The resulting stew is a vital staging ground for life itself. It is a place where ecosystems filter and regenerate themselves.
In short, ooze need not only signify decay. It can also represent the conditions for lasting growth and renewal—the kind that emerges from the ground up.
Such emergence is often hard to see at first. Ooze does not lend itself to clarity or rapid fruition. But down there, beneath the surface, things are happening that will one day become visible to the wide world.
Somewhere, a laid-off worker is taking her career into her own hands and starting up a new business. An abandoned building is reborn as a charter school. A vacant lot becomes part of the growing nationwide push toward local, sustainable sources of food.
The American instinct for renewal was crucial to Barack Obama’s electoral appeal, and it may yet manifest itself in a national willingness to confront such challenges as our deeply flawed health-care system, our educational dysfunction, and our increasingly costly dependence on fossil fuels. These are big problems, and anyone who expected them to be solved easily or without opposition has forgotten the basic truths of human nature, and of democracy.
What matters is this: Progress toward change is indeed taking place, on all of these fronts and others besides. That progress may seem too slow, and it may send its tendrils down the occasional dead-end channel, but it’s nourished by something quite real—a keen desire to see our nation do better, to reclaim its inventive, expansive soul. The Ooze is where we have been, and our future is forming in its depths, nourished by the broken shells ofwhat had come before.

The Bad Huck Takes Over

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
It’s debatable whether the latest incarnation of Mike Huckabee represents a turn to the dark side by the genial and amusing 2008 presidential candidate that a lot of Democrats admired, or a revelation of what the man has always really been.
But ever since he became a radio and TV gabber, the Bad Huck has taken over. Aside from his early charges that Barack Obama’s agenda was aimed at creating a Union of American Socialist Republics, and his more recent arguments for a displacement of Palestinians to a homeland somewhere outside Palestine, Huck really went over the brink today, as reported by HuffPo’s Sam Stein:

The 2008 Republican presidential candidate suggested during his radio show on Friday that, under President Obama’s health care plan, Kennedy would have been told to “go home to take pain pills and die” during his last year of life.
“[I]t was President Obama himself who suggested that seniors who don’t have as long to live might want to just consider taking a pain pill instead of getting an expensive operation to cure them,” said Huckabee. “Yet when Sen. Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at 77, did he give up on life and go home to take pain pills and die? Of course not. He freely did what most of us would do. He choose an expensive operation and painful follow up treatments. He saw his work as vitally important and so he fought for every minute he could stay on this earth doing it. He would be a very fortunate man if his heroic last few months were what future generations remember him most for.”

This despicable rant should disqualify Mike Huckabee from any further liberal sympathy, no matter how much he tries to joke or rock-n-roll his way back into mainstream acceptability.

The Constant Challenge of Creating an Effective Left Flank

We’re pleased to cross-post from The Huffington Post this piece by Mike Lux, founder and CEO of Progressive Strategies, LLC, and author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came To Be. It is offered as part of the continuing debate over progressive strategiy and intra-party Democratic relations.
I wanted to weigh in on this whole left flank for Obama issue (the idea that Obama needs a strong progressive movement pushing him from the left to get things done), because I think getting it right is probably the single most important thing in creating transformative change. Let me start by talking for a bit about my personal situation, because I think it has lessons from the broader issue.
I am blessed and cursed by this man-in-the-middle life I’ve created for myself.
One the one hand, I am a DC insider. I have served inside of five Presidential campaigns, two Presidential transition teams (sadly, the only two in my adult lifetime), and the Clinton White House. On the other hand, I have chosen to spend most of my life outside of government and the Democratic Party, working instead on helping to build progressive infrastructure and issue campaigns. This being connected to both the inside and outside has created some interesting dynamics.
Last week was in some ways fairly typical for me. I had one senior White house official tell me I was positioning myself in a fairly helpful way, and another who people told me was referring to me as an “(expletive deleted), (expletive deleted), (particularly gross and disgusting expletive deleted).” My blog posts prompted some of my responders to say that I was way too pro-Obama, and what could you expect from a DC insider like me, while the same posts caused another friend to e-mail me, worried that I was being too tough on Obama and was endangering my relationship with the White House.
I am sort of used to having at least some of my friends pissed off at me almost all of the time (let alone what my actual enemies — there are a few — think of me). In the Clinton White House, I got yelled at almost daily from people on the outside about (a) all the bad things we had done to progressive causes, and (b) other White House officials who said I was just carrying water for all the lefties outside. My job there was described by people as being the person responsible for having all my friends yell at me.
This personal experience has made me reflect a lot on what an effective left flank is for a Democratic President. First, on the definition: my view of what is effective is based on my understanding of history laid out in my book, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be: an effective left flank pushes the more progressive party’s President toward big, transformational changes. The abolitionist movement successfully pushed Abe Lincoln and the radical Republicans toward ending slavery and other big changes; the Populist and Progressive and suffragist movements pushed Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson toward making the big progressive era changes in the early 1900s; the labor movement pushed FDR toward the major achievements of the New Deal; and the civil rights and other movements of the 1960s pushed the Kennedys and LBJ toward the big achievements of that era.
Moving toward transformational change is especially urgent when the nation is in crisis. Lincoln would not have won the civil war without the Emancipation Proclamation, and FDR would not have led us out of the Great Depression without New Deal economic policies. In both cases, the country was too broken, and needed big changes to fix it. And the reason that Buchanan, Hoover, and LBJ ended up as failed Presidents is that they stayed with conventional wisdom and weren’t bold enough on the biggest crises of their times (respectively, the lead-up to the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the Vietnam War).
I believe we are at that kind of crisis moment now, and that we can only get ourselves out of it with big, bold, progressive policies. Lincoln, FDR and JFK/LBJ on civil rights all started out in more of a conventional wisdom mindset, but the combination of progressive movement pressure and the crisis itself moved them toward making the major changes needed to solve things.
So how do we create an effective left flank? Given that (per the above stories), I tend to get everybody I know mad at me at some point or another, I’m sure there will be a lot of disagreement on this, but here are some principles I believe we ought to follow in creating that left flank:
1. Understand that whether we like it or not, the progressive movement’s fate, at least for the next few years and probably longer, is inextricably tied to Obama’s. As mad as many of us progressives get at Obama over certain policy or strategic failures, we have to understand that him failing as President hurts the entire progressive cause. In case you didn’t notice, LBJ’s and Jimmy Carter’s failed Presidencies did not usher in eras of progressive reform, they moved the country inexorably to the right. As President from the more left party, most Americans saw them as liberals even though LBJ was decidedly un-liberal on Vietnam, and Carter was the most conservative Democratic President on economics since Grover Cleveland in the 1800s. But progressives were struck with their failures anyway and paid the price. People who think Obama is failing because he’s following a more moderate path, and that eventually helps us move in a more progressive direction, are fooling themselves.
If Obama fails on health care (and, by the way, I consider failure to be either not passing a bill, or passing a bill that doesn’t work for the middle class), we won’t see another attempt at serious health care reform for at least another generation. If he fails at doing something big on climate change, we probably won’t be able to get anything done on it until it is too late to make a difference. And if his economic policies fail, regardless of demographics moving in our favor or Republican extremism, all Democrats will be punished at the polls, and the far-right that has taken over the Republican Party will probably come into power. And this isn’t just about the long term, either: for every percentage point Obama’s approval drops, we probably lose another two or three House seats in 2010.
Progressives’ strategy, then, should not be to attack Obama personally, to undermine voters’ confidence in him, but to shore up the backbone of progressives in Congress — and in his own administration, because I guarantee you, policy debates between more and less progressive staffers are held every day at the White House. If Obama makes a bad policy decision, we shouldn’t hesitate to push back or encourage progressives in Congress to do the same, and if White House staffers are pursuing destructive political strategies (see the “left-of-the-left” quote), we shouldn’t hesitate to bang on them. But our goal should be to do all this while still holding up hope that Obama will move in the right direction, and to praise the hell out of him when he does.
2. We should value the different roles we all play. The “we” in the previous sentence includes insiders and outsiders, different players in the movement, and people who work in that building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We all have (hopefully) constructive and important roles to play, even when we disagree sometimes on tactics and strategies. I think it’s a mistake to assume anything about each other’s motives. These are big important policy debates we are having, and it’s natural that things will get heated. But we have to respect each other’s roles to make this work.
Frederick Douglass excoriated Lincoln for moving so slowly on abolition even while Lincoln was inviting him to the White House for quiet conversations about how to move forward, conversations that were critical in shaping Lincoln’s abolition strategy. Labor leaders loudly announced that no one, FDR included, was going to get them to back down, even as FDR was meeting with them privately and urging them to keep pushing. Alice Paul was chaining herself to the White House fence and going on hunger strikes while other feminist leaders were meeting with Wilson and other congressional leaders, and it took both tactics combined to get the vote. King and other civil rights leaders refused to back down on pleas to stop civil disobedience and the march on Washington, but met constantly with White House officials to keep things moving.
We all have roles to play. Let me throw out some specific examples:
DC coalitions tend, by their very nature, to be clunky, cautious, and a little slow-moving. But they still have incredibly important roles to play in terms of coordinating lobbying, field, and communicating tactics, and keeping a steady dialogue going on important details of legislation with congressional and White House staffers.
Some progressives chose to play an inside role so that they can be at the table on the incredibly important details of the legislative language. That is a really good thing, but to be on the inside, you have to be a team player, and you have to mute your criticisms. That can leave you open to criticism by folks on the outside, but it is an incredibly valuable and important role. Jan Schakowsky (an old friend, so I am biased) is a big example of this kind of person. She is both a strong progressive and is a loyal member of the Obama/Pelosi team. I am thankful every day she is fighting for our cause on the inside, because I guarantee you the important details of the bill would be a lot worse without her.
The bloggers who have been demanding that Congressional Progressive Caucus members stand firm on a public option have annoyed a lot of insiders, but their single-minded focus on the strategy of keeping House progressives united is a big reason why the public option is still alive. If the left didn’t keep pushing, this health care debate would keep shifting more and more to the right.
The kind of silly attitude, that the “left of the left” is the problem, hurts the White House. As I wrote the other day, when progressives are being critical is exactly the time the White House ought to be cultivating them. If people are inside a tent, they generally wee-wee (as the President would put it) outward, and if they are kept out, they generally wee-wee inward. And if you can’t figure that most progressives are trying to be your friends (even if, yes, we are occasionally big pains in the butt), then the White House has a very big problem.
Hopefully this discussion continues, because getting this right is arguably the single most important thing that will determine whether Obama and those of us in the progressive movement are a success. When the stakes are so incredibly high, tempers will flare, sharp elbows will be thrown, and various players will be critical of each other. All that’s understandable, and can be healthy. But we also all need to understand that progressives and the White House need each other to get anything big and important done. Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass understood that. So did FDR and John L. Lewis. So did Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s how big change happens in this country.
In the meantime, everybody feel free to keep yelling at me. I’ve gotten kind of used to it.

Damned If He Did

Over at TNR, Jonathan Cohn asks whether the Obama White House should have promoted a different message on health reform from the beginning, and makes a point that should be pretty obvious by now: administration efforts to respond to demands for cost control measures by deficit hawks earlier this year led to all the rationing talk that reform opponents are now using to scare Americans.

The trouble for Obama is that, in getting serious about cost, he gave critics lots of fat, juicy targets. Obama proposed to tie payments to quality; Betsy McCaughey said he would be giving doctors money for pulling the plug on grandma. Obama proposed to put a board of experts, using clinical evidence, to set Medicare payment rates; Sarah Palin interpreted that as creating a “death panel” that would declare the sick and disabled unworthy of treatment. The great irony is that by trying earnestly to craft a plan that could control costs, as well as expand coverage, Obama has provoked a political backlash that will make cost control harder in the future. He’s tried to tackle health care like a grown-up and, at the moment, he’s suffering for it politically.

The long-range political implications of what’s happened on cost control are, as Cohn suggested, pretty troubling. Right now it appears a lot of Americans can’t distinguish between quality-and-cost based second-guessing of doctors’ decisions, and euthanasia. If for years to come, any suggestions for questioning provider costs or treatments are greeted with shrieks of “Rationing!” Rationing!” we’re going to have a real hard time ever getting a grip on health care costs. It’s ironic that Republicans are the ones who have promoted the backlash against cost control, even as they still wail about deficits and costs.

District by District Impact of Health Reform Bill

Kos flags an invaluable resource for explaining the benefits of the House version of the Democratic health care reform bill — for every congressional district. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce provides the link, “H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, District by District Impact,” which should be of interest to local activists, candidates and journalists. Each of the 435 links has localized statistics measuring the health and economic effects of the bill including: the number of uninsured who get covered; the number of small businesses that get tax credits and the percentage of households that will pay a surtax, among other pertinent district-wide statistics.
For those who want to get up to speed on the legislation, The Examiner provides a summary of the bill’s key provisions here.

Throwing Romney to the Wolves

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
Politics being politics, there’s already talk about who would run in a special election in Massachusetts to succeed the late Edward Kennedy, assuming the legislature there doesn’t change the system to allow a gubernatorial appointment. And in Republicanland, conservative columnist Peter Roff has created a stir by suggesting that Mitt Romney run for the seat.
I don’t know anything about Roff’s loyalties, but the idea is tailor-made to appeal to the Mittster’s intra-party enemies. For one thing, he’d probably lose. For another, if he won, it would have to be by appealing to policy views popular in Massachusetts, which is precisely what earned him the reputation as a flip-flopper or closet liberal when he ran in 2008. And on top of everything else, the shriveled booby prize for a victory would be a term that only lasted until 2012, which would make him either a non-candidate for president or an exceptionally invisible senator. Yes, Barack Obama successfully ran for president as a freshman Senator, but when you are a former governor who’s already run for president once and has a gazillion dollars in the bank, why bother?
Expect Romney to rule out a Senate run within minutes of any official announcement of a special election.
UPDATE: The latest buzz from Massachusetts is that if Gov. Deval Patrick does get the power to appoint a temporary “caretaker” senator prior to a special election, his choice might well be former governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. This would be an appropriate valediction for the all-but-forgotten and much-derided Duke, whose political weaknesses in the 1988 election were more attributable to the general weaknesses of the Democratic Party than most people wanted to admit at the time.