There’s nothing quite as dispiriting as a political campaign gone bad.
Staff members jump ship, support evaporates and the candidate has to soldier on and pretend that everything’s just hunky-dory.
To make matters worse, the media just won’t let it (whatever “it” is) go. They ask the same pesky questions, they roll their eyes, they uncover new stuff that makes the candidate look even worse, but the campaign continues on its self-evidently futile path.
That was the case this morning at a downtown coffee shop, as GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis held a sparsely attended meet-and-greet.
Flanked by his spouse, a few aides and escorted by half a dozen local pols, McInnis didn’t look like a man who had admitted to plagiarism, who had taken $300,000 from a foundation in return for “work” that any reporter could have turned out (without plagiarizing!) for $1,000, and who had tried to pin the blame for his own ethical lapses upon an 82-year-old family friend.
No, he looked every inch the friendly, confident, credible candidate.
He stopped to shake my hand. I introduced myself as a reporter, and asked him why he hadn’t quit the campaign. After all, I noted, the behavior to which he has admitted would have gotten me summarily fired. Should politicians be held to a lower standard than journalists?
“I’ve taken responsibility,” he said, “and we’ve moved on.”
“No, you haven’t,” I said, “You may have admitted responsibility, but you haven’t done anything.”
“This man’s a reporter,” he said to his aides in the tone one might use to describe a particularly repellent criminal. “I’m not talking to him.”
And he walked away.
I stayed outside, talking to some of the veteran pols who had accompanied him on this desultory tour.
Why, I wondered, is he still going through the motions?
“He’s our candidate,” said one, “and he’s human – he has flaws.”
Yet another wise politician took the time to break it down.
“It’s all a game, John; don’t you remember?” he asked. “Scott’s in trouble, but he’s all we’ve got.”
“It’s a long time until the election, so if he survives the primary, then we’ll see. The buzzards are circling. (Former state Sen. Mark) Hillman planted something in the Denver Post this morning. Obviously, there are people in the party who would like to see Scott win the primary, quit the campaign, and let the vacancy committee appoint someone else. But I don’t see why. The new guy would probably lose, and Scott probably figures that this scandal won’t last, and that he’ll have a shot come November. And if Dan Maes wins the primary — why, I wouldn’t vote for Dan Maes if he were running against Ward Churchill.”
“And by the way,” he concluded, “those questions weren’t very smart. Remember all those exclusive interviews (Gov.) Ritter gave you? I don’t think Gov. McInnis will be returning your calls.”