May, 25th 2010

My latest at the Daily Caller

– Liz Mair

I have an op-ed running today at the Daily Caller about Republican candidates' need to "keep it local."  Here's a excerpt:

Last week, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul crossed the nation’s political radar as a result of comments made by him and heavily publicized in the national media regarding his views on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Immediately following Paul’s primary win on Tuesday, national-level scrutiny of remarks he made to the Louisville Courier-Journal on the subject had begun; subsequently, he went on Rachel Maddow’s show to discuss the topic further; Paul was also slated to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, an appearance his campaign ultimately canceled.

Depending on whom you ask, the whole episode has been enlightening, painful, overblown, underplayed or a combination of one or more of those. What is clear, however, is that it has served to further underline a critical lesson that all Republicans who are not a shoo-in for election this fall must learn, and learn now: Focus on your state or district, and nationalize your race at your peril.

This is a lesson that, to be fair, may play off one of the better-known catchphrases that politicians should be familiar with: All politics is local. But somehow, it seems to be one that some of the most attention-grabbing figures who have recently run and who are currently running for national-level office have forgotten, to their detriment. The time for that to be reversed is now.

Last year, Doug Hoffman ran in the special election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, a longtime Republican district. In many ways the original Tea Party candidate, Hoffman had attracted widespread, national-level interest as a result of his issue positions that stood in stark contrast to those of the liberal Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, and the Democrat, Bill Owens. His candidacy struck many supportive, New York-local observers as primarily focused on countering President Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and only secondarily on representing the district. Tellingly, Hoffman’s spokesman Rob Ryan was quoted in October last year as saying, “This election is going to be a referendum on two things… First, it’s going to be a referendum on the first 10 months of the Obama administration. And second, it’s going to be a referendum on the future of the Republican Party.” Hoffman’s home base of Lake Placid was not in the 23rd district; persistent complaints arose from both friendly and hostile forces that Hoffman proved unfamiliar with district issues on the stump and in editorial board meetings.

Undoubtedly, this contributed to a result that was less than optimal for conservatives, including Hoffman himself, on the night: He lost. Now, Hoffman is running again, with Tea Party support, while Matt Doheny, who hails from Watertown (which is in the 23rd district), has, perhaps unsurprisingly, garnered the support of local Republican leaders. Still, Hoffman has the opportunity to change course. [intro]



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