How blue is this dog?

by on October 29, 2010  •  In Uncategorized

As election day finally nears, the vicissitudes of life have led me to spend a chunk of time in Wilmington, NC, my hometown. It's a conservative place, and the Congressional district in which it is located (NC-7) has sent an extremely conservative Democrat to Washington as its representative for 14 years. Mike McIntyre has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, Chamber of Commerce and National Right to Life. He voted against ENDA in 2007, when it did not include gender identity, and against health reform. And yes – he's the Democrat. 

About the only way you would know that he's a Democrat is from the ads being run by his opponent,Ilario Pantano, which never pass up a chance to mention Nancy Pelosi. Judging from this ad campaign, McIntyre and Pelosi are tighter than a Republican's ass (to paraphrase a local saying), a relationship that no doubt has come as a surprise to both of them. Moreover, it's the "McIntyre-Pelosi stimulus" that has run up the deficit and also, how is not explained, the unemployment rate. Bet you didn't know this guy McIntyre had so much power.

In other words, watching TV gave me a window into the trenches of the fight over control of the House of Representatives, a fight that the Dems can't win without the blue dogs. I've heard this discussed and described endlessly by analysts, but there's nothing like seeing something up close. By local standards, what is a huge amount of outside money is pouring into this race. The "McIntyre-Pelosi" ads blanket local TV, as do ads with McIntyre's main theme: that Pantano wants to privatize Social Security. Pantano has the Tea Party endorsement.

Both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Americans for Prosperity, among others, are trying to add NC-7 to their respective columns by financing these ads, and polls have showed the two candidates in a dead heat. According to the Hill, this shouldn't be a surprise because southern Dems in Congress are an extremely endangered species. My sleepy hometown has apparently become a bellwether.

What has most amazed me about the race is how little substance there is to it, on either side. Mr. Pantano is a native New Yorker and former Marine (who was charged with murder while serving in Iraq, but the charges were dropped) whose ads say virtually nothing about what he supports except that it clearly would not be Nancy Pelosi. Congressman McIntyre, when he isn't calling out Pantano on Social Security, emphasizes endorsements by area mayors and how he has "conservative values." A few days ago, he announced that he supported the anti-immigrant law in Arizona. Thank god gay marriage is not an issue in this race – who knows what these two would endorse. What's missing – I saw no ads by McIntyre that explain why he voted for the stimulus, or from Pantano that actually make an argument for, say, repealing the income tax (which he supports).

This is one of those 2010 races in which, unlike in most years, all politics is national. Yet, at the end of the day, what reaches the voter is virtually an idea-free zone.

I expect to be watching NC-7 closely on election night. You know the old saying: as Wilmington goes…


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