Post-Election Letter
BruceNews.com
Inside the Notebook of Reporter Bruce DePuyt
EXCLUSIVE:
Click here to read Blair Ewing's letter to Michael Subin and Steve Silverman
Random reflections on the September 10th primary and the upcoming November 5th general:
Election 2002...
Rep. Connie Morella KNOWS she's facing a Montgomery Democratic party that is united as never before. The coming-together of the Van Hollen and Shriver forces, post-primary, is like nothing I've ever seen before, and it defies ALL the predictions that were made about the Democratic primary. I disagree with my friend and "21 This Week" colleague Roscoe Nix. I think the Democrats are pulling out all the stops, at the elected official level and at the grass roots, because Montgomery County has a chance to participate in a fundamental, national shift of power. When you look at what this activist, "progressive" county stands for at the state and local levels, why would voters here not want to help flip the U.S. House of Representatives from R to D....


When the House was safely in the hands of one party or the other, voters seemed to like the idea that their Representative was an independent-minded moderate. And it seemed to be a luxury they could indulge. But I think the bitter taste from the 2000 election has changed things and Democrats now seem quite eager to extract their revenge this November....

Morella has all the advantages she's had before: she's an incumbent with high name-recognition, a record of strong constituent service, never a whiff of scandal, and she's a ubiquitous presence in the district. She also has two things she's never had before: help from an incumbent President (a popular, wartime President, at that) and she will benefit from the Bob Ehrlich vote. It's too early to say whether Ehrlich's gubernatorial campaign is a steamroller just getting warmed up or whether he's peaking now, but if he remains strong, there will almost certainly be a coattail effect that helps Connie....

Having said that, her decision to go into "attack" mode is already quite something to watch. Saturday night at the Common Cause forum in Chevy Chase, Morella challenged Van Hollen to foreswear "soft money." It was a smart ploy, especially given the audience. But something fascinating happened that didn't make the paper. When Morella said a second time, "Chris, I challenge you," Van Hollen got up to take the microphone. As he approached, she pulled it back and said, "Now, I asked you a question and you have to answer Yes or No." With that, the crowd booed for several moments. Morella had a huge smile on her face, frozen, waiting for the moment to pass. I couldn't help but think: I've never heard Connie Morella booed by an audience in Montgomery County. It HAD to have been an odd feeling. The challenge for her is this: circumstance has put her in a position where she has to attack to avoid being run over; attacking is not what comes naturally to her, nor has she had much practice at it. Stay tuned....

Mark Shriver's super-strong endorsement of Van Hollen has raised his standing enormously. If I had a dollar for everyone who has said, "What a class act," I'd be a wealthy man. Watching the two former rivals campaign together at the Silver Spring Metro, I was struck by how many people recognized Shriver first. But Mark very smoothly and un-self-consciously guided each person over to Chris, saying "I'd like you to meet Sen. Van Hollen; I hope you'll support him." One commuter approached the pair and said -- unprovoked -- "I'm glad to see the two of you together."

Everyone says they plan to support the winner of the primary, but few do. Mark Shriver has set the standard....

Van Hollen's win didn't shock me, because I've always thought his earnestness and results-oriented approach -- the passion and creativity he brings to the legislative process -- suited the 8th district perfectly. Chris's win did shock a lot of people though. There was a strong assumption that Shriver's name ID and money would carry the day.

The sheer number of Van Hollen bumper stickers told me there was a deep grass roots-level enthusiasm for this man. He built his win a vote at a time. The challenge for him is to harness and focus all the energy coming his way and direct toward a task that remains formidable: knocking off a scandal-free incumbent member of Congess.