Monday, August 23, 2010

Do You Believe in Miracles?

Jim Geraghty at National Review profiles some Congressional races that in any normal election year have no business being competitive. But thanks to the amazing efforts of the President and his Congressional supermajorities, miracles are being imagined:

... with so many promising Republican challengers this year, a bunch of potential upsets are flying well under the radar. And with the political environment going from bad to worse for Democrats, it is increasingly likely the night of November 2 will include some winners that almost no one saw coming. If you’re searching for some of these long shots who are looking shorter these days, here is a dirty baker’s dozen of GOP challengers to keep an eye on. They’re underfunded, unrecognized, rarely mentioned, and given no chance . . . and they may just win anyway.

And coming in at number 11, drum roll please ....

11. Theresa Collett vs. Betty McCollum, Minnesota’s 4th District.

Reasons the challenger should have no chance: This is a D+13 district; McCollum won it in 2008 by 37 percentage points.

Reasons the challenger has a chance: Upon winning the primary, Collett, a University of St. Thomas law professor, challenged McCollum to four debates. She’s still waiting for a reply. On the stump, Collett makes her points in a crisp, clear, direct style. Outgoing governor Tim Pawlenty is giving Collett some help. Collett is severely underfunded, but McCollum has only $160,634 in cash on hand as of July 21, which is fairly low for an incumbent.

For an article promoting the possibilities of a Collett victory, those are awfully thin pegs on which to hang her chances. McCollum has ducked debating opponents, and her record in general, for her entire career. Indeed, not articulating her beliefs in public is a key component of her success. Tim Pawlenty's approval rating in Minnesota is currently sub-50%, and much lower in CD4 I'm sure, so his ability to transfer momentum is limited. And while McCollum may not have a huge campaign treasure chest, relatively speaking, that's more of a reflection of the DFL assessment of how much she needs, rather than her potential for fund raising. Indeed, if polling showed this race to be uncomfortably close, I suspect she'll get as much money as she requests.

And yet. Collett is such a good candidate. And McCollum is so representative of the institutional Congressional dynamics that have brought the United States to the brink of fiscal crisis. If either qualifications for the job or a referendum on the incumbent's record are the deciding issue, Collett wins.

Notice how those issues aren't even referred to in the National Review horse race analysis. In truth, those issues haven't been decisive in Minnesota's 4th district for decades. It's a one party town, automatic victories for Democrat. And along with that kind of monopoly, all the excesses and extreme ideological positions you can imagine.

Why would this year be any different? Something about the constant drum beat of information like this, coming out today from the Congressional Budget Office:

Accumulating deficits are pushing federal debt to significantly higher levels. CBO projects that total debt will reach $8.8 trillion by the end of 2010. At 60 percent of GDP, that would be the highest level since 1952. Under current laws and policies, CBO’s projections show that level climbing to 67 percent by 2020. As a result, interest payments on the debt are poised to skyrocket; the government’s spending on net interest will triple between 2010 and 2020, increasing from $207 billion to $723 billion.
It's now or never for the CD4 to wake up and do something constructive for the country.