Thursday, October 14, 2010


I didn't intend to go all Christine O'Donnell all the time today, but I wanted to address this, from James Fallows:

Why Christine O'Donnell Could Be More Dangerous Than Sarah Palin

Because she has the idiot bravado of the talk show regular....

In this debate tonight, O'Donnell has not seemed uncomfortable for one second.... The difference is, she is a talk show regular. Among the many things wrong with talking-head gab shows ... is that they reward an affect of breezy confidence on all topics and penalize admissions of complexity, of ignorance on a specific topic, or of the need for time to think.

O'Donnell comes across as a perfect, unflappable product of the talk-show culture. Sarah Palin knows that she is bad under open questioning -- so she avoids it, speaks only to selected audiences, is interviewed only by Fox. If she were to run for president, which I've always doubted, this would make her brittle for the unavoidable main campaign. Christine O'Donnell shows that the other path can create a better, unshakably on-message product for this era....

I don't buy this. I think the distinction he's making is too subtle.

Right now, I'd say there are three big-name Republicans who have TV smoothness combined with "idiot bravado": O'Donnell, Palin, and Newt Gingrich. Every single one of them has been struggling in the polls. I'll throw in a fourth, lesser-known name: J.D. "Infomercial" Hayworth -- also a loser. Maybe a fifth, although he lacks the sharp elbows of the others I've named: John McCain. He had some trouble at the ballot box a couple of years ago, too.

O'Donnell, Hayworth, Gingrich, and Palin are some of the only far-right Republicans who seem to have trouble winning voter support these days . Hell, Jan Brewer, Sharron Angle, and Rand Paul are doing far better, despite apparent stumbles on TV.

It seems to me that feeling overconfident about their TV skills is what's gotten the Republicans I've named into the most trouble -- Palin, O'Donnell, and Gingrich in particular have felt free to make obnoxious and off-putting remarks at the top of their lungs, and (unlike Brewer and Angle) they can't get centrist swing voters to see their over-the-line remarks as stumbles that are "only human," because they're perceived as too slick for that. Angle and Brewer say crazy things and just seem grandmotherly -- and a lot of voters just don't see Granny as a meanie, or even a slick attack dog. Palin and Gingrich and O'Donnell can't hide behind ordinariness that way.

I could throw Linda McMahon in here, too -- voters can tell she knows her way around the media, and, well, she's starting to fade in the polls, too, as female voters in particular say they just don't like her.

Now, I could be wrong about this -- Christine O'Donnell could make a huge, debate-driven comback. But I doubt it. She just seems too slick on TV, and so voters can't give her a mulligan when she says something stupid.

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