Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Massa v O'Reilly

Eric Massa's call to fire Bill O'Reilly made the Messenger-Post, as well as some big audience national blogs.

For those new to the controversy, it concerns Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, who is serving in Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban under unclear circumstances, and was featured in a recently released propaganda tape. Here's a CNN update on the case.

Fox analyst Ralph Peters, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, said the following about Bergdahl on Fox:

If, when the facts are in, we find out that through some convoluted chain of events, he really was captured by the Taliban, I'm with him. But, if he walked away from his post and his buddies in wartime, I don't care how hard it sounds, as far as I'm concerned, the Taliban can save us a lot of legal hassles and legal bills.

Obviously, calling for the murder of an American soldier by the enemy is a bit beyond the pale, even for Fox News.

In what was apparently a misguided attempt at damage control, Peters appeared on the Bill O'Reilly show, where O'Reilly said he thinks that Bergdahl is "crazy", and Peters said that he's sure that Bergdahl has "shamed his unit", though "I do hope for his family's sake this guy comes back safely". This is apparently what passes for an apology on Fox News.

The Army is running an investigation, and at some point we'll know what happened to Pfc. Bergdahl. In the meantime, over 500 people in the town of 6,000 where Bergdahl grew up are having a vigil for him. Here are a few words from them:

"It was part of his adventurous spirit that carries on," said Blaine County Sheriff J. Walt Femling, who rented an apartment to Bergdahl in 2006, on why he joined the military. "Not only that, but he wanted to serve."
Bergdahl showed up at the Blaine County Gun Club in 2007, looking for summer work. He and manager Dick Mandeville got along well, with Bergdahl's duties including helping shooters on the trap fields, stocking targets and cleaning racks full of rifles.
"He was good every which way you looked at it," Mandeville said.

I don't know what happened to Pfc. Bergdahl, and I doubt that Bill O'Reilly will resign because of this, but Massa's right to make some noise about this one. It stinks.

Reed Staffs Up

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader front page [pdf] (and jump [pdf]) with a story about Tom Reed's new hires. His campaign manager will be a veteran of the 2006 New York State Governor's race who has ties to the national party.

Reed's staff is quite different from Randy Kuhl's. Kuhl's 2006 campaign manager was his son, and his 2008 manager had nothing like the experience of Reed's new hire. This is a clear signal that the national Republican party is taking this race very seriously.

Massa Internet Healthcare Poll

Reader Vincent sends an email from Eric Massa that includes an online poll asking recipients their opinion on the new healthcare bill. The poll was sent to anyone who signed up for Massa's newsletter on Massa's home page. It's another interesting use of technology, one which presumably costs a small fraction of the price of a direct mail outreach.

Rolfe on Reed

Reader Elmer sends Corning Leader columnist Bob Rolfe's take [pdf] on Tom Reed's run. Rolfe thinks that the run is a mistake and that Reed doesn't have much of a chance.

I think any Republican has a chance in the 29th, but I agree with this statement:

Platform? All you did last week was spout the party line – the line of what’s come to be known as the Party of No.

Reed needs a positive, New York-friendly agenda.

Announcement Coverage

Tom Reed's announcement received coverage in the Corning Leader, City Newspaper, WENY and WETM.

From WENY:

Reed says his platform will be built on three planks, personal accountability and responsiblity, less government, and lower taxes. “Government should not be the end all and be all,” said Reed, “it should guarantee opportunity for someone to succeed not their individual success.”

All well and good, but Reed had better put some meat on those bones. Which government should be limited? What taxes should be lowered, and which services will we cut when we cut taxes?

Why This Race Will Be Interesting

We're going to learn a lot about Tom Reed in the next few weeks and months. Reed finds himself in much the same spot as Eric Massa did in 2005. He's unknown in most of the district, never held a legislative position, and he doesn't have a lot of money. How Reed introduces himself will tell us a lot about the kind of candidate he is, and whether he has a chance to beat Eric Massa.

My main interest is whether Reed will be a New York Republican or a rump Republican. In other words, does he have the independence to craft his own message? If he has the originality and ability to be a new kind of Republican, this might be an interesting election. Otherwise, Reed's run will probably be over very soon.

Reed's first challenge will be to articulate clear positions on the issues of the day that are acceptable to a majority of voters. With a hard core of Southern conservatives in control of the Republican party, Northeast Republicans are constantly torn between the dictates of their party and what voters will accept. Jim Tedisco's surprising defeat in NY-20 is a good object lesson of how this bind can't be finessed. Tedisco was caught between the rock of Republican opposition to the stimulus bill, and the hard place of the electorate's desire for such a bill. Tedisco's early hemming and hawing on how he would have voted probably cost him a squeaker election.

Reed's second challenge will be avoiding the tar pit of House Republican political incompetence. A big factor in Randy Kuhl's loss was his reliance on Republican advisors who gave him some terrible advice. Kuhl ducked debates, canceled town hall meetings, and doubled down on party loyalty when when more availability and a few votes against his party would have gone a long way. Kuhl also parroted John Boehner's talking points about the evil of a Pelosi-led Congress, which is procedural inside baseball that's irrelevant to most voters.

Reed will also have to come up with a positive alternative to Massa's positions. Republican attempts to provide an alternative have been almost comically ineffective, with meaningless charts, flowcharts and "budgets" without numbers. It's easy to treat every day like "opposite day" by putting out press releases that negate Democrats' talking points. Reed needs to do something more: tell us what he's for, not just what he's against.

In his first six months, Eric Massa has done quite well. He's on the right committees, he's voting for his district at times when it upsets his leadership, and his service offices are in-place and working well. Reed and the Republicans need to bring their A-game, and I hope they do, because we need hotly contested Congressional races in order to have a functioning democracy.

NRCC Wants Reed

The National Republican Congressional Committee's Executive Director, Guy Harrison, tells political site Five Thirty Eight:

What were are really going to focus on in New England and really all over the country is going after candidates who fit each district and candidates who can really win each district. Some of those prospects include Tom Reid [sic], the Mayor of Corning, NY to run in NY-29 [...]

When a Republican party operative as prominent as Harrison mentions Reed, it's a good indicator that none of the region's political heavyweights are interested. It sounds like the run for NY-29 is Reed's if he wants it.

Tom Reed - First Impressions

I took a look through Tom Reed's YouTube channel and his campaign website to get an idea of what kind of challenge he'd provide Eric Massa if he decides to run.

Reed seems like a reasonable, affable guy, and he's probably well-liked in Corning. Though he was running against a fairly divisive blowhard, Frank Coccho, Reed wisely chose to show, not tell, to get the point across that he'd be a better Mayor. The statements I could find were generally positive and forward-looking.

Even though he makes a good impression, Reed is neither photogenic nor charismatic. Massa isn't either, and political contests aren't beauty pageants. But Reed is going to have to catch the attention of 29th district voters who don't know him, and he'll have to do it through TV and other media.

A fair amount of Reed's appeal in Corning was that he has deep roots in the community. Amo Houghton's endorsement [video], for example, made this point. (That video, by the way, is worth watching just to see Amo in action.) Reed's family history will probably attract some Corning votes, but Steuben County is already a lock for any Republican. His roots won't take him far in the Rochester suburbs.

What's most important about Reed is what he isn't and what he might be. He clearly isn't a hack Assembly or Senate member who's been marinating in the Albany sewer so long that he will bobble a campaign before it gets started. Jim Tedisco, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in NY-20, is a good example of that kind of politician.

Reed might be willing to buck the rump of the Republican party, which is currently running purity tests and expelling anyone with even a hint of centrism. If he's going to win, Reed needs to be able to throw away the John Boehner gameplan, which only works in Red states, and explain to voters how he'll be more like Amo and less like Rush. Since Reed has made no statements on any Federal or State issue, his positions on the topics that will shape the 2010 campaign are unknown.

The New York Republican Party needs more young, reasonable politicians. Reed might be one of them, and though he faces an uphill climb in NY-29, he might be the Republican's best shot in 2010.

Leader on Reed

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader editorial page [pdf] which includes the Leader's positive take on Tom Reed's tenure as Mayor. Reed gets good marks for a number of common-sense initiatives.

Also not to be missed is a letter to the Editor from a local crank who simultaneously complains about being ignored by Eric Massa's office while saying "I must admit it, I got very short with the young gal answering his phone in Corning."

Reed for Congress?

Reader Elmer sends today's Corning Leader front page [pdf], which has a story about the Corning Mayoral election. Former Mayor Tom Coccho is talking about a run because current Mayor Tom Reed is seriously considering a run for the 29th seat.

“If the opportunity presents itself, I’d be flattered and consider it,” Reed said. “It’s something I would think heavily about and I would seriously consider.”

Reed said he'd make his re-election decision by the start of next month.

My guess is that, if Reed chooses not to run, he'll probably be Massa's Republican opponent in 2010. He'll need the rest of this year and the beginning of next to start fundraising, so an early start is smart. None of the other establishment players (such as George Winner and Maggie Brooks) have shown any serious interest in the seat. Reed is well-regarded in Corning, so his main challenge will be getting some name recognition in the Rochester area.

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