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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why give them a chance?

Maria Cantwell

Antiwar Critics Spare a Senator in a Close Race

Published: September 19, 2006

SEATTLE, Sept. 18 — Even as Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington has faced frequent criticism for having voted for the war in Iraq, her re-election campaign appears to be benefiting from a cold dose of pragmatism among many of her fellow Democrats.

After looking east to Connecticut, where another supporter of the war, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, lost the Democratic primary last month, many Democrats here say attacking Ms. Cantwell in Tuesday’s primary seems flat-out foolish because it could benefit the well-financed Republican challenger in November.

“Those people were looking for a reason to vote for her anyway,” said Hong Tran, an antiwar advocate running against Ms. Cantwell who has stayed in the primary race despite polling in the low single digits and raising about $40,000.

Cathy Allen, a longtime Democratic consultant here who is not involved directly in the race, said, “If anything, what you would succeed in is poking yourself in the eye.”

After all, unlike in Connecticut, the question here is not whether another Democrat will unseat Ms. Cantwell. Instead, the wild card is whether antiwar opponents will peel away enough support to leave her vulnerable to the Republican opponent, Mike McGavick, a former insurance executive who recently put $2 million of his own money into his campaign.

With a practical eye on that very different political reality, Ms. Cantwell and many of her antiwar critics have moved closer to each other, and the senator’s lead over Mr. McGavick has increased to double digits in some polls.

If the primary in Connecticut proved the power of the war issue among Democrats, it has not necessarily been a template for other prominent races in which Democrats have been criticized for their war stance.

“People are not saying ‘Throw the bums out’ in these other races,” said James H. Dean, chairman of Democracy for America, the national coalition that played a crucial role in Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut primary.

“In Connecticut,” Mr. Dean said, “we didn’t have to worry about a Republican becoming a senator.”

Mr. Lamont had voter demographics, liberal bloggers and a strong grass-roots operation on his side. And he had money, putting $4 million of his own into his campaign.

Here in Washington, the two most prominent antiwar candidates still running against Ms. Cantwell are polling in the low single digits and have little money. One, Aaron Dixon, is a former Black Panther who is running as the Green Party nominee in the general election in November on an antiwar platform. The other is Ms. Tran, a lawyer for a nonprofit organization who said that if she lost she would vote for Ms. Cantwell.

Ms. Cantwell, who was first elected in 2000 by just 2,229 votes, has strong union support and has won praise from environmentalists for helping to fight oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

With Washington’s history of close elections, both national parties consider the race critical and plan to spend time and money here this fall.

The war is far from the only campaign issue. Democrats and outside analysts say Mr. McGavick has stumbled in discussing events in his past, while some Republicans say Ms. Cantwell has had a recent rise in the polls largely because she ran new television advertisements when Mr. McGavick was off the air.

What is the point of a losing anti-war candidacy. Even Cindy Sheehan saw the light on that one. The only way to end the war is to elect Democrats who have no stake in it's success. They can walk away from it, while the GOP refuses to.

Ms. Tran better realize, like Jonathan Tasini didn't, that just opposing the war and sucking up to bloggers isn't going to cut it as a campaign strategy. As much as I disagreed with Hillary Clinton, she was clearly the more competent candidate when it came to oh, helping 9/11 workers, school funding and the other issues which matter in New York State.

Losers cannot oppose anything. Which is why the Green Party has become increasingly irrelevant. As long as you rather be right than win, you'll be right.

Cantwell, like Harmon, can be talked to. Lieberman was tone deaf. He wasn't going to wake up or change. He had to be defeated, now defeated twice. You can say "I won't vote for Cantwell because she voted for the war" but does Bush need another vote to kill the estate tax?

posted by Steve @ 12:39:00 AM

12:39:00 AM

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