Ethan: If independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King is running the Seinfeld campaign about nothing, then Republican Charlie Summers is running a campaign as boring as “Shades of Gray” without the sex.
Phil: Didn’t you notice that Summers has been gripping and grinning at the county fairs, and he just finished a tour with Col. David Hunt, networking with veterans?
Ethan: Please. Summers’ campaign must be the most boring campaign in Maine history. Unless, of course, you include all his other most boring campaigns in Maine history.
Phil: Didn’t you see the recent polling showing Summers within four points of King? Didn’t you see his most recent ad? It’s his best so far, and if he has the money to keep it on the air it will earn him many votes.
Ethan: It is an excellent ad, but it’s barely running. And that poll demonstrates exactly what I am talking about. Summers hasn’t been able to move above the base of his party since the primary started. Perhaps that is because King is outspending him two-to-one on the air, but more likely it is because Summers claims volcanoes cause climate change, not humans; he signed a right-wing pledge that will create a crushing deficit; and no one can figure out if he is pro-choice or pro-life. He’s going to need moderates to win this race, and that isn’t a way to get them.
Phil: He better start bringing money in faster. If that dialing for dollars starts to work, then he better have an inspirational message that compels undecided and persuadable voters to come his way. All of the campaigning from March to today was just preparation. Now is the time to prove you are a U.S. senator because now everyone who cares about this election is actually paying attention.
Ethan: Summers’ fundamental problem is that he has to convince people why this version of Summers is different from the version of Summers everyone has already rejected three times.
Phil: It comes down to persuasion and motivation. Summers has to use his previous experience campaigning and serving to persuade voters that his small-business experience, personal experience raising two children after his first wife’s death and his foreign policy experience are the best characteristics compared to King and Democrat Cynthia Dill. He must motivate voters and show he has a positive vision for America and that his leadership skills will get us there. If he can’t, his career in elected office will come to an end.
Ethan: “His career in elected office will come to an end?” It ended in 1994 when he left the state Senate and hasn’t started again since! But again, Phil, people have already rejected the version of Summers you describe above three times.
Phil: I wouldn’t describe prior campaigns as persuasive nor motivational, and so far Summers has not deviated from past performance. That is not going to work this time either. He must tell voters how his energy policy is better. He must describe his experience in foreign policy in the Middle East. He must explain how he will amend health care. And, most especially, he must explain how he will fix the debt mess we are in. If he does, his campaign will gain momentum. If he doesn’t, in the next 10 days you can say I told you so.
Ethan: “Amend health care?” He said he wants to “repeal” health care. To that end, he has got to stop tacking so far to the right. After the primary ended, I said the Republicans selected the most moderate guy on their ballot and congratulated them for rejecting the Tea Party. Now, Summers seems to have decided to take a page out of the Gov. Paul LePage handbook by sidling up to the likes of conservative activist Grover Norquist, by supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and by saying the solution to our energy crisis is to drill, baby, drill. Do you think he means off the coast of Maine?
Phil: You’re confused. King says the Gulf of Maine is the “Saudi Arabia of wind.” Summers wants us to use domestic reserves of energy instead of sending U.S. dollars to buy energy from people who want us dead. The so-called Norquist pledge is to not raise taxes, which would keep the anemic private sector economy from being put on the critical list. America has a spending problem, and our government has paralyzed small businesses from believing in tomorrow because they fear what Washington may do next. By the way, tell me why you insinuate that balancing the budget and following the U.S. Constitution is now considered extreme right?
Ethan: Pretty sure there is nothing in the constitution about balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class. But let me check … hmm … turn page, turn page, turn page. Yup, that’s correct. Nothing in the constitution about following Norquist over the fiscal cliff and bankrupting the American safety net. So, yes, I would say that pledging to uphold a right wing special interest group’s directive over ensuring the financial stability of our country is a bit extreme. That’s probably why Sen. Olympia Snowe never agreed to sign it. Maybe Summers should have followed her lead.
Phil: Actually, following Snowe’s lead is probably the best advice either of us could give if he actually wants to win.