Politics McGavick’s Mixed Messaging
In money terms, Republican senate hopeful Mike McGavick did well last night at his fancy downtown Seattle fundraiser. With Arizona Senator John McCain as the star draw, McGavick raked in more than $300,000.
But in terms of messaging, the event was rather Twilight Zone. And reading today’s papers, I can tell I’m not the only reporter who left scratching his head. McGavick used the event, held in a huge ballroom at the Westin Hotel, to position himself as a maverick moderate in the McCain mold. (How’s that for a lot of M’s?)
Of McCain, McGavick said: “He is exactly my role model for what a United States Senator ought to be.”
Ok, we’re with you so far, Mr. McGavick.
But one question: Your opponent, Democrat Maria Cantwell, often joins forces with McCain when he’s doing his moderate thing on issues such as global warming, campaign finance reform, and healthcare. Cantwell also gets a lot of heat from liberals for being too moderate. So why replace a moderate incumbent who McCain likes (Cantwell) with a moderate challenger who McCain also likes (McGavick)? What’s so urgent about your campaign, Mr. McGavick?
McGavick answered that question by decrying “the mean-spirited partisan bickering that so dominates Washington (D.C.) now.” And McCain amplified the point, telling the crowd: “It’s time for a change.” But as Alex Frier of the Seattle Times pointed out this morning, that call to action was a bit puzzling because…
…it was not clear whom they were targeting.
Exactly my thought as I was leaving the event. If voters are mad at D.C. and find themselves moved by a “time for a change” message, it’s not going to be the Democrats who suffer this fall. It’s going to be the Republicans, who control both houses of Congress and the presidency. So it’s quite strange to hear McGavick running against D.C. and telling people it’s time for a change when this November, he’s going to be the candidate with a big R next to his name on the ballot.
In his Seattle Times story, Frier also has some fun with another bit of McGavick mixed messaging. At the event, McGavick made a point of decrying pork-barrel allocations that have driven up federal spending. McCain echoed this complaint, slamming a proposed “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska as a prime example. But as Frier notes, that “Bridge to Nowhere”…
…was heavily pushed by Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, an early ally of the McGavick campaign.
Got that? The example of what we don’t want is… The guy up north who’s a McGavick backer. The guy who also backed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—until a certain junior senator from Washington famously stood up to him. (Hint: she’s McGavick’s opponent.)
Other coverage of the strange evening is here, here, and here. And while you try to puzzle out where McGavick is going with his messaging, consider this: The latest poll shows McGavick trailing Cantwell by a hefty 13 points.