January 26, 2010

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The Next Martha Coakley?: The shocking GOP upset in Massachusetts has put Democrats on notice: Lackluster candidates are vulnerable, even in the bluest states. Steve Kornacki on Kirsten Gillibrand’s weaknesses. (Steve Kornacki, 1/26/10, Daily Beast)

Ford, a far more natural and nimble politician than Gillibrand, has delighted in portraying the incumbent as a hothouse flower who owes her survival to the intercession of party bosses. His Blue Dog track record, coziness with Wall Street, and tone-deaf boasts of a pampered Manhattan lifestyle all do serious violence to his plausibility. But Ford’s taken a leave of absence from his day job, and has begun blasting Gillibrand in a series of op-eds—a drumbeat of criticism that can only weaken her position, even if it doesn’t help elect Ford.

Gillibrand’s assumption (and the assumption of Democrats in New York and Washington) has long been that if she could secure the Democratic nomination, she’d coast in the general election. That’s what Democrats do in blue states like New York.

The one potential catch would have been if either of the state’s two big-name Republicans, Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki, got into the race. (Giuliani put an end to his latest empty threat to run for office last month and Pataki hasn’t lifted a finger—even as polls showed them both topping Gillibrand.) Against a no-name Republican, though, Gillibrand would be fine.

But this was Coakley’s thinking, too. [...]

If Brown, an unknown quantity to Massachusetts voters until days before the election, could engineer a win in the Bay State, then it means the GOP doesn’t need a Giuliani or Pataki to knock her off. They just need a Scott Brown.

This is especially evident in light of Gillibrand’s chief deficiency as a candidate: dreadful communication skills. She talks, often for far too long, almost exclusively in political clichés. There is no blood in her veins, at least not in public. This would have been fine in a year like 2008, when the playing field was so slanted in the Democrats’ favor. But not in 2010.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 26, 2010 7:34 AM
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