For months former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz’s strategy against U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy for the Democratic nomination for U.S. senator was to charge him with not being liberal enough. As that strategy failed to prevent Murphy from easily winning the endorsement of the Democratic state convention, Bysiewicz is pursuing a different one.
That new strategy is represented by Bysiewicz’s first campaign commercial on television, 30 seconds featuring a breast cancer survivor who credits Bysiewicz for enacting, as a state representative, legislation requiring insurance companies to cover hospital stays for breast cancer surgery patients. This, the commercial contends, was a matter of standing up to the big, bad insurance companies.
But the legislation wasn’t even controversial; nearly everyone supported it. The General Assembly delights in enacting such mandates on insurance companies, and insurers themselves don’t mind much because when the government requires coverage, competition is defeated and all companies can raise rates together to recover the extra cost.
Further, the issue has little relevance to Bysiewicz’s campaign with Murphy. That Democrats generally are willing to socialize certain aspects of medical insurance is a given. So are many Republicans, despite their theatrical but empty opposition to “Obamacare.”
So her commercial is only Bysiewicz’s way of reminding Democratic women that she’s one of them and of claiming their votes on that basis alone.
That’s too bad, for it’s not as if Bysiewicz lacks positions on real issues; she actually has quite a few. She just doesn’t think they’re as important as pandering to women. Presumably Democratic men can pound sand, grow breasts, or, best of all, forget to vote in the primary.
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Murphy too has begun broadcasting his first TV commercial. It claims the common touch by depicting him grocery shopping with his wife and two young children and being approached by supposed constituents congratulating him for his positions — except that those positions are not really described.
One supposed constituent urges Murphy to keep supporting “women’s rights,” presumably euphemism for unrestricted abortion and a response to Bysiewicz’s exploitation of the gender issue. Another supposed constituent thanks Murphy for supporting legislation to “buy American” — legislation that sounds far more substantial than it was, as it required the Defense Department only to seek bids from domestic suppliers for materials being used outside the United States, materials that, for the military’s convenience abroad, had been exempt from the domestic purchasing law. A third supposed constituent laments “partisan bickering” in Congress, as if any criticism can’t be dismissed that way.
“I’ll never get tired of listening,” Murphy promises, and why not? It’s a lot easier than taking positions and explaining them before the primary and election.
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A couple of Connecticut political columnists favorable toward the Republican state convention’s candidate for U.S. senator, wrestling zillionaire Linda McMahon, recently acknowledged the weakness demonstrated by her refusal to meet newspaper editorial boards before her primary with former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays. While the two columnists noted that most Connecticut newspapers are hostile to Republicans, they urged McMahon to mix it up with them anyway and throw some issues back in their faces, as such controversy might help her with Republican primary voters.
With friends like these opinion writers, McMahon may need no enemies. If she was capable of thinking on her feet consistently and had reasonable familiarity with issues, her managers would not have risked the embarrassment arising from her determined avoidance of informed questions. But her campaign two years ago proved that McMahon unscripted is McMahon self-destructing, that her avoiding questions is less embarrassing than her answering them.
If, for their own perfectly legitimate ideological reasons, opinion writers believe that an uninformed and unqualified candidate happens to be the best on offer, they should just say so and spare everyone, especially the candidate herself, the wishful thinking that she might not be who she is.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.