By Jon Christian Ryter
May 29, 2004
The Washington Post headline said "Battle on Daschle's turf underscores partisanship." Excuse me? Isn't that what political campaigns are supposed to be? If not, someone needs to tell MoveOn.org and Theresa Heinz-Kerry's Tides Foundation to stop slinging mud at George W. Bush because it's too partisan.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle [D-SD], who is running is now a neck-and-neck race with former GOP Congressman John Thune, is viewed by the Republican Party as "vulnerable." Because of that, the Republicans have pulled all the stops in an effort to unseat Daschle. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has thus far made two very recent trips to South Dakota to campaign for Thune. With only 4% of the electorate in South Dakota undecided at this time, Daschle has a razor-thin edge over Thune in the polls—49% to 47%. What makes that most troubling for Daschle is that he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV ads in South Dakota since last summer. Thune, thus far, has not run the first advertisement. Daschle's in deep trouble and the Democratic Party knows it. And that's why Frist's campaigning for Thune is construed by the Democrats as an unheard of form of "partisanship." South Dakota overwhelmingly voted for George W. Bush in 2000. Al Gore garnered only 38% of the vote. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the South Dakota statehouse 75 to 30. Yet, both US Senators are Democrats.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Robert C. Byrd [D-WV] chastised Frist for campaigning for Thune when he said: "It used to be unheard of for Senate leaders to seek an active role against other [Senate leaders] in campaigns...Who cares about honor when a Senate seat might be gained?"
Joel Johnson, a Democratic lobbyist and former aide to both Tom Daschle and former president Bill Clinton, was appalled by Frist's appearance in South Dakota. "The Republicans are pulling out all the stops because they realize that's the way they have a shot at winning." Dah?
With Daschle flooding the TV and radio airwaves with commercials designed to brainwash the voters of South Dakota it would seem that he's pulled out all of the stops in an effort to win votes. That is, after all, what it's all about. That's what politicians are supposed to do when they want to get re-elected. The Democrats have argued that Frist violated an unwritten law in the US Senate when he became the first party leader to actively campaign in the State of the opposition party leader in an attempt to unseat him.
That may be because high profile Congressional and Senatorial leaders never expend political energy on lost causes since when they aspire for higher office, they would become viewed as a person without coattails if the candidates they campaign for lose in the general election.
Generally speaking, since the party leaders in either the House or Senate are viewed as invincible, the opposing party leaders will not expend political capital to campaign for their opponents. Nor, for that matter, will the Republican National Committee, Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee or Congressional Campaign Committee provide those who run against strong, tenured incumbents with financial support. It's viewed as "money down the drain" since the smart money says the incumbent will be reelected—particularly if he is a House or Senate leader.
Daschle, on the other hand, is very vulnerable. The conservative folks of South Dakota are more than a little miffed with their senior Senator. Daschle singlehandedly held up all of Bush's conservative judicial nominees. Further, Daschle—as the minority leader—refused to stop a Democratic ic filibuster of a Republican crafted energy bill that his constituents wanted passed . Interestingly, it was an energy bill that Daschle—who privately opposed the measure—publicly supported. This is, after all, an election year in which Daschle's Senate seat is up for grabs. Daschle had to support the bill, but as a liberal, he couldn't afford to let it come to a vote since he would have had to have voted for passage. (That's just part of the game politicians play. Senators, when they are up for re-election and under close scrutiny from the folks back home, will actually trade votes on measures they oppose [that the folks back home favor] with senators who favor the legislation but are not up for re-election. Senator "A" who opposes the measure, will vote for it so the folks at home think he's working for them. Senator "B" who favors the measure, will trade his vote with Senator "A," and he will vote against the measure he wants to pass. The vote remains static. No gain. No loss.) That's how the game is played inside the beltway. That, by the way, is the "honor" Senator Byrd mentioned so poignantly in his denunciation of Bill Frist.
But there is an irony in this whole thing that I find amusing. In 2002 Thune, a popular Congressman, was asked by the White House to unseat Sen. Tim Johnson [D-SD in order for the GOP to regain control of the Senate]. The polls, once again, showed that Johnson, a one term Senator at the time, was extremely vulnerable. Thune took him on. Daschle spent most of his time campaigning across the State for Johnson. In a photo finish race, Johnson edged out Thune by a margin of 524 votes. Had Thune demanded a recount, and the ineligible Indian voters and the Daley Dead votes secured by the Democratic machine in South Dakota been disqualified, Thune would have become Senator John Thune in 2002 and Daschle would have an uneventful reelection.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website. E-Mail: BAFFauthor@aol.com
"With Daschle flooding the TV and radio airwaves with commercials designed to brainwash the voters of South Dakota it would seem that he's pulled out all of the stops in an effort to win votes."