Election years are always times of high anxiety for politicians. That may explain why they say and do so many stupid things.
Such as this comment by Charlie Webster, chairman of the Maine Republican Party: "I'd say the average American is having a tough time. The economy's in real tough shape."
At first glance, this statement may not seem all that idiotic. It could even be argued that it's true. But what qualifies it as dopey is a little matter of context.
Webster issued his assessment on the state of the masses on the February 9 edition of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, while attending the Republican National Committee's annual meeting at a luxurious resort in Hawaii. Palm trees, beaches, hot tubs. The place even had its own submarine.
Webster never wastes an opportunity to portray himself and his party as representing the "working class," a group that was probably somewhat under-represented on those sub excursions. That could be because they were too busy hanging out in the whirlpool baths sipping tiki-bar drinks and ogling scantily clad beachgoers. Or maybe not.
Whatever the "average American" was doing to ease his or her tensions while Webster and his fellow RNC members endured endless meetings and seminars (suggested topic: "As Long As We Have A Clear Agenda Dealing With Homosexuals, Abortion, Guns, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, We Don't Need A Plan To Fix The Economy"), their blue-collar constituency was never far from committee members' thoughts. They had them in mind when they developed talking points (say "working class," because even socialists like the way it sounds), and they constructed strategies to appeal to them (when people are angry, they always vote Republican — just like in 2008).
I don't mean to imply the Maine GOP is arrogant and out of touch, just because its chairman took a little working-class vacation in Hawaii.
I mean to infer it.
(That whirling sound is being caused by my high school English teacher spinning in her grave.)
The state's Republicans are falling into the same campaign mode that's served them so consistently in the past. They're convinced they're going to win, because . . . well, just because. This is their year. All the issues are going their way. And they've got great candidates, many of whom have been trained to avoid making obnoxious comments in public until after election day (remember, they're "the working class," not "the grubby bloodsucking leeches"). This has resulted in an outbreak of optimism among GOP strategists.
"With the Democrats having more people term-limited, it certainly provides us with more opportunities."
That was Dwayne Bickford, a spokesman for the Maine House Republicans being quoted in the Portland Press Herald.
In 2008. A year that would see the GOP lose a half-dozen state House seats and two state Senate seats.
"This year is day and night from previous years. Believe it or not, people wanted to run for public office."
That was Dan Schuberth, vice chairman of the state Republicans, speaking to the Kennebec Journal.
In 2006. That election saw 10 GOP House incumbents defeated, while the Democrats were picking up 14 seats.
So what about this year? According to a letter Webster sent out in January, Republicans are "far ahead of previous attempts to find good candidates for the state Legislature."