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Two Minus One Equals One

Years ago, I read or heard something that stuck in the back of my mind. I don't recall where or when I heard it, but its elegant wisdom was so great that I absorbed it entirely -- where it actually bypassed my conscious mind until recently.

"Primaries are for the heart, general elections are for the head."

In our political system, the primaries -- the first rounds of elections -- are where we can indulge our romantic, emotional side. We can pick and choose between a slate of candidates, seeing who agrees with us on the most issues, who agrees with us on the issues we see as most important, who we like the best, or -- even in some cases -- who will be the easiest to defeat by our truly preferred candidate. You can vote for whoever you want for whatever reason you want.

In my case, it's even better. New Hampshire has open primaries, which means that an independent voter can walk into the polls, pick a party, and cast a vote, then walk out and renounce that party on the spot. For me, I pick the primary that has the more interesting race, and vote for the candidate I feel the most compatibility. That means that I voted for Bill Bradley (D) in 2000, Joe Lieberman (D) in 2004, and Fred Thompson (R) in 2008. A few weeks ago, I took a Republican ballot because the US Senate race was the most exciting contest, but spent maybe 3 minutes as a member of the GOP before walking away from them.

That frivolity goes out the window for the general election. The fuzzy, analog politics are dead and buried, and replaced with the cold, harsh, black and white, binary math of the general.

With very few exceptions, all general elections are simple binary affairs. Either Candidate D or Candidate R will win and take office. The loser gets nothing.

And that simple fact must be foremost in the minds of voters during the campaign. No event, no report, no commercial exists in a vacuum, apart from that simple fact.

Let's take the Delaware Senate race as an example -- it's the one everyone's talking about right now. Christine O'Donnell is the Republican nominee, and the one who's drawing all the attention. Chris Coons, the Democrat, is currently flying under the radar.

It's no surprise that this is happening. O'Donnell is young, attractive, extremely colorful, and has the blessing of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. She also challenged and defeated the establishment Republican for the nomination. She's exciting. On the other hand, Coons is a career pol who's kind of dull.

Here, the binary nature of the Coons/O'Donnell race is being overlooked. Pretty much every attack on O'Donnell is a plus for Coons. And all the talk about how inexperienced, unqualified, unfit, or kooky O'Donnell might be is also a tacit uptick for Coons.

There's a highly underrated political novel from almost 40 years ago called "Dark Horse" by Fletcher Knebel. It's the story of how the unexpected death of the Democratic presidential nominee three weeks before the election leads to a compromise candidate replacing him -- a New Jersey turnpike commissioner named Eddie Quinn. Eddie knows he has no chance, so he runs a totally gonzo campaign. But his attitude and bluntness strikes a chord with the voters, and he starts surging in the polls. That scares the crap out of him -- all of a sudden, it occurs to him that he just might be the next president of the United States.

Then Eddie has a chat with his Republican opponent after a classified CIA briefing. The Republican sets aside politics for principle, and gives Eddie some very profound advice:

"Don't worry about if you're the best qualified man for the job. Only ask yourself if you're the best qualified man running for the job."

That's what it boils down to: no matter how kooky or naive or erratic O'Donnell might be, does that make her a worse potential Senator than Coons? That is the only question that matters.

That's what must be taken into account during the run-up to the general election. Every single attack on a candidate is, in effect, a boost for their opponent. And each must be weighed against the simple question: does this make this candidate less preferable than the other one?

Because, in the end, one of those two candidates must win. One of those two will take office. And rejecting one candidate is embracing the other.

It's that simple. It's always that simple.


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Comments (13)

I can only hope...and pray.... (Below threshold)
Justrand:

I can only hope...and pray...that BEFORE November 2nd the people of Delaware will look at COONS.

A man who describes his embrace of Marxist, not as a High School "fling", but as an intellectual and emotional decision. He later lamented the need for ELECTIONS.

Coons is everything this country used to reject...Delaware needs to reject him now!

In large measure (I think B... (Below threshold)
Upset Old Guy:

In large measure (I think Bob Dole was the notable exception) republican conservatives have voted with their heads in the last 30 years. Maybe even a bit longer than that.

Unfortunately, this season seems to demonstrate that conservatives cannot expect moderate republicans to reciprocate. Yet, philosophically it would seem that the moderates should be the ones most willing to compromise. At least it would seem that way if they were truly REPUBLICAN moderates.

O'Donnell must ignore the n... (Below threshold)
oldpuppymax:

O'Donnell must ignore the national, democrat MSM hacks and concentrate on the people of Delaware EXCLUSIVELY!!! That is where she must expose Coons for who and what he is. Only FOX will--perhaps--lend a hand be reporting the truth about this Marxist thug.

"O'Donnell must ignore the ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

"O'Donnell must ignore the national, democrat MSM hacks and concentrate on the people of Delaware EXCLUSIVELY!!!"

Sound advice. She is running to represent the people of Delaware. Of course, she is already receiving enough scrutiny that one would believe she is the Republican nominee for President.

Chris Coons is an Amherst a... (Below threshold)
galoob:

Chris Coons is an Amherst and Yale Law School grad, so his first problem is that he has been educated at highly-selective schools. Most people can't get into those schools, so they resent that.

Coons also has experience as a "county executive." I don't know what "county executives" do in Delaware, but presumably an "executive" makes budget, staffing and project decisions. Since Coons had to make decisions, those decisions can be questioned and attacked. He is also an insider. That is his second problem.

On the other hand, Christine attended a school that normal folks of average intelligence can get into and since then has had a series of jobs as what she describes as a "social advocate" on her website, http://christine2010.com/meet-christine/

She never made any governmental decisions that can be questioned. She is young, attractive and has been on TV. She has livened up the race by making interesting confessions about trying witchcraft and promiscuous sexual activity. This will excite the imagination of many voters.

Open primaries are destruct... (Below threshold)

Open primaries are destructive to our democracy. Dems constantly vote in GOP primaries to ensure the worst possible choice is on the ticket against their candidate, who is already pre-selected in smoke-filled back rooms. That frees the Dems up to sabotage the GOP primary.

That's what happened to Giuliani in Florida. It's happened elsewhere. Why is this even allowed? Oh, that's why.

County Executives in DE are... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

County Executives in DE are largely figure heads. The CAO does the real heavy lifting.

Odd, talking about Chris Coons' executive experience because he was a local govt (county) official where his opponent is best known as a perennial candidate... why does that sound familiar?
Oh yeah, 2008 Presidential Campaign...

I thought Galoob was talkin... (Below threshold)
WildWillie:

I thought Galoob was talking about Obama. Nothing on his record, no experience, no demonstration of executive leadership. Yeah! That's him.

I think the republicans should start rallying around her instead of acting like a democrat not getting their way. ww

O'Donnell sure is the one e... (Below threshold)
Jeff L:

O'Donnell sure is the one everyone is talking about and for all the wrong reasons. The attention she is drawing is pretty much completely negative. Now today I read that she is no longer going to do any more national media interviews.
"I'm not going to do any more national media because this is my focus: Delaware is my focus, and the local media is my focus."
This is a good tactic, because O'Donnell can't come up with strong responses to her issues.

She has not explained her witchcraft comments other than to giggle them off as teenage rebellion. She sure seemed to enjoy bring the subject up to Maher in 1999 with a HUGE smile on her face laughing several times during the exchange. Looks like true regret to me.

She has not explained her lawsuit against ISI where she sued them for $6.9 million dollars for sexual discrimination. She has not explained her supposed acceptance into a master's degree program at Princeton. This is from the complaint she filed against ISI, "Moreover, Miss O'Donnell has lost the increased earning power that a Master's degree from Princeton would have created" Her acceptance into a ivy league master's course without a bachelors degree. Christine "I can't lie" O'Donnell apparently can and does lie. Her campaign manager Mike Moran acknowledged that "was not admitted to a Masters Degree program at Princeton." So I guess she lies when it suits her....as opposed to hypothetically lying to protect Anne Frank from nazi's.
Then there the complaint about her using $20,000 in campaign finances to pay personal expenses. O'Donnell claims that the charges are untrue, yet she refused to answer specific questions about her finances with an interview with cnn. What has she done for a job for the past 5+ years. How did she pay her bills with no job? I want to see someone do a FOIA inquiry to get her tax returns for the last 6 years. Far as I can tell her job since '05 has been running for Senate.
O'Donnell's definition of socialism is as one in which "50% or more your economy is dependent on the federal government.". And all this time I thought there had to be %60 or more to make it socialist.

All Coons needs to do is do nothing until the election. Absolutely nothing. Take a long vacation. O'Donnell is in all out self destruct mode.

"no matter how kooky or naive or erratic O'Donnell might be, does that make her a worse potential Senator than Coons? That is the only question that matters."
Yeah it sure does. I'm sure she will morph into a completely non kook, non erratic person once she becomes a Senator. Her previous actions and words are not an indication as to the type of person she is or will be. Is that what I am supposed to believe? Keep trying, i'm not sold yet.

I thought Galoob was talkin... (Below threshold)
Jeff L:

I thought Galoob was talking about Obama. Nothing on his record, no experience, no demonstration of executive leadership. Yeah! That's him.

I think the republicans should start rallying around her instead of acting like a democrat not getting their way. ww

LOL....yeah Christine "I can't lie" O'Donnell has zero on her record, no experience, absolutely no demonstration of executive leadership. Yeah that's her.

Well, then, Jeff, isn't a g... (Below threshold)

Well, then, Jeff, isn't a good thing O'Donnell isn't running for an executive position?

You're right to remind us, though, about the lesson of Obama. ZERO executive experience for chief executive? BAD idea.

J.

Anyone familiar with Amhers... (Below threshold)
Thomas Jackson:

Anyone familiar with Amherst will have no trouble believing that Coons is a Marxist out of touch with mainstream America.

But will the people of Delaware be dull enough to vote for him. After all they elected Obama, blessed be his name.

O'Donnell is in quite the s... (Below threshold)
stu:

O'Donnell is in quite the same position as McCain was in 2008. If McCain had, if necessary, climbed onto rooftops and shouted that Obama was a Marxist, a commie or, at least, a socialist it might have made a difference. That's what she has to do in order to win. You go tell em gal...




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