I’ll admit it… my natural inclination in Mississippi’s US Senate race is to vote for Chris McDaniel.
To put it succinctly: he’s closer to my age and unencumbered by the weight of years spent in elected office. On the surface he’s as good as any and better than most who would seek the job.
McDaniel has a youthful exuberance that is attractive to the “sick and tired of overreaching government” crowd, of which I’m one. He’s a good orator, charismatic and engaging. He can seemingly hold his own in whatever setting he’s placed, whether in a courtroom, an interview, a fish shack, or the Senate chamber. His ideology resonates with my own for the most part, striking the right chords on reducing government spending, liberty, and personal responsibility.
Yet there’s something that disturbs me, not necessarily about McDaniel personally, but rather his campaign and the tactics they employ.
Now I know as you read on, those who support him will dismiss me, call me names and deride me. But as an old pastor once said, “If the shoe fits, wear it and if the truth hurts, bear it.”
The McDaniel campaign machine and many of its supporters are not helping Chris McDaniel win a US Senate race. He’s a capable candidate mired in the mishandling of a handful of instances that had they been properly coordinated and responded to would not be negatively impacting McDaniel to such an extent as they currently are as we quickly approach June 3rd.
In that lies the hesitancy of many would be McDaniel voters – the company the candidate keeps and who has his ear.
It does matter who candidates listen to, associate with, and from whom they seek counsel.
Voters want to feel comfortable with their representative’s decision making and if they feel the candidate is listening too much to the extremists it gives them pause, and rightfully so. Politics is about the possible and building coalitions to support your agenda. Routinely being on the fringe doesn’t provide the avenue for productive work on behalf of the people.
There is a fringe element – and by that I’m not necessarily lumping the entire Tea Party in this – that sincerely believe they are helping him but in actuality, they are damning McDaniel’s candidacy, and if he wins, his characterization as a freshman Senator. He will be labeled in such a way that his colleagues will exclude him as they have others, making him ineffective in the short term, something Mississippi cannot afford.
And while guilt by association isn’t always fair (believe me, I’m hit with it everyday), it’s human instinct for onlookers to make assumptions candidates simply cannot control. Knowing this, candidates must control what they can, that being messaging, responses to inquiries, and the overall tenor of their campaign. Saying it’s “your campaign, your movement” may sound good but it’s not how to run a tight campaign ship.
Candidates cannot allow supporters to go rogue and create an “us versus them” environment in an intra-party primary. Such a narrative always favors an established, overall well liked, highly regarded incumbent. Yet that is what has happened. The McDaniel campaign has been coopted by such tactics and would be voters are taking notice.
Instead of demonizing the so called establishment it would have been prudent early on to cultivate their support.
But it’s in those decisions campaigns rise or fall.
When the story broke about the Firearms Freedom Day, the vendor by the name of Pace who has questionable ties, and the McDaniel campaign’s connection to the event, had they not so swiftly denied the candidate’s confirmation to speak and sought to withdraw from the event, the story would have wilted. Yet it was the campaign’s response that cued media outlets to pick it up, inflate the storyline, and create the scenario that has resulted.
Campaigns are gambles and as Kenny Rogers sang, you have you know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.
The campaign’s inability to properly address this matter shows someone isn’t quite up on their game and that hurts McDaniel.
It hearkens back to when Steven Palazzo knocked off Gene Taylor in 2010. His first year in office was riddled with issues with staff which threatened to negatively impact Palazzo’s future runs if not corrected. Add in the fact that Gene Taylor left Palazzo nothing to work with and you had a recipe for failure, not of Palazzo’s making but of others he trusted. Yet Palazzo took charge and settled the ship before it sank.
That’s McDaniel’s problem now. Poor decisions, knee jerk reactions and questionable advice are saddling an otherwise viable candidate with baggage. McDaniel has to right the course.
Now comes these radio recordings from McDaniel’s The Right Side show.
As a former radio and TV political talk show host I find most of what’s said typical conservative talk radio banter you would hear on Supertalk, Beck, Limbaugh or Hannity any day of the week. It pushes the limit but isn’t off color enough with most average Mississippians to gain too much traction in state (out of state is a different story). But then again, there’s a reason these aforementioned folks haven’t run for or currently hold elected office – what they’ve said in the past will surely come back to haunt them.
However, again, it’s not necessarily what was said (although the more that creeps out the more of a story it becomes) but how the McDaniel campaign has reacted to it that continues the storyline and gives the media more fodder. They knew the audio was out there yet were not prepared when it hit the mainstream. It’s such improper handling that gives his opponents the opportunity to pile on, and they will as long as the campaign makes itself vulnerable.
The best thing Chris McDaniel could do is to tell the SCF, Club for Growth, Tea Party and others to back off, take control of his own messaging, and be himself, warts and all. The more the campaign buys their own concocted press and places McDaniel in impossible predicaments the longer the clouds will hover. He has to step up and lead from the front, address the swirling ancillary issues, put them to rest, and get back to the message of what he stands for.
If McDaniel loses it will be because he was just too big of a gamble for Mississippi. What’s more, a McDaniel loss will be more of an indictment on those around him and the overzealous, outspoken fringe than Chris McDaniel himself.