By Gail Collins
Some of you appear to be very, very worried about which party is going to win control of the Senate in November. Really, you should stop for a while. Take a break. No fretting about undecided voters until there’s at least a minimal chance that the undecided voters know who’s running.
Right now, we’re in the season where center stage goes to whoever screws up the most. Relax and enjoy.
For instance, Scott Brown, who’s pursuing the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, just had an interview with The Associated Press in which he addressed the fact that he has not actually lived in the state since he was 1 1/2 years old.
“Do I have the best credentials? Probably not, ’cause, you know, whatever,” he said.
Brown went on to point out his “strong ties” to New Hampshire, which included a recent move back into his longtime vacation house in the state, and that residency from birth to 18 months, which we all know is one of the most developmentally important periods in a person’s life.
You do have to love the “you know, whatever” part. This is a guy who once got elected senator from Massachusetts on the basis of his easygoing, truck-driving persona. We will now stop to contemplate whether it is possible to take that act too far.
Brown is hardly the only walking gaffe on the campaign trail. Thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, candidates all over the country have been reminded to make sure that if their feel-good videos include footage of a victorious college basketball team, said team is actually from the home state and not, um, Hated Rival Duke.
Then there’s the Improbable Leap to Glory. In Iowa, there are five people running for the Republican Senate nomination, and early polls have shown that voters have no earthly idea who any of them are. Then state Sen. Joni Ernst unveiled a TV ad in which she announced: “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm.”
The actual theme of the piece was that Ernst planned to go to Washington and cut pork. But it was obviously the castration angle that got noticed. She looked so happy when she said it. The woman was positively glowing. Unlike the famous Sarah Palin interview in front of a turkey-beheading machine, Ernst’s ad featured pigs that were alive, although perhaps looking a little depressed.
The ad went viral, which is, of course, every candidate’s dream.
Going viral doesn’t always work. (We are thinking of the guy who attempted to defeat Rep. Nancy Pelosi by depicting her as a zombie priestess.) But it will usually get you farther than you might have gone without it. And if Ernst winds up winning the primary, we probably will spend the entire fall listening to candidates claim they helped neuter feral cats for the SPCA.
Until last week, the strong favorite to win the Iowa Senate race was Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat. However, Braley locked up the March award for Stupidest Sentient Candidate by warning a bunch of trial lawyers at a Texas fundraiser that if they didn’t contribute to his campaign, Republicans might take control of the Senate and there would be “a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school” running the Judiciary Committee.
That farmer would be Charles Grassley, who has been representing Iowa in the Senate since 1981.
Someone taped Braley at an off-the-record meeting with a special interest group and Republican operatives posted it on the Web! Who ever heard of such a thing happening? No way he could have seen that one coming. The congressman apologized in a statement that stressed his love of agriculture, his youth spent “working a grain elevator” and his confidence that he had the support of “hundreds of farmers across Iowa.” This, too, was somewhat alarming since Iowa has nearly 90,000 farms.
On the plus side, he didn’t say “whatever.”
But New Hampshire’s still my favorite. Scott Brown isn’t the only Republican sniffing around the Senate seat, which is held by Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. There’s also Bob Smith, a former New Hampshire senator who was tossed out of office in a 2002 primary and moved to Florida, where he ran for elective office twice with a spectacular degree of failure. But he kept — yes! — a vacation home in New Hampshire.
Carpetbagger issues are generally meaningless. Hillary Clinton worked out fine for New York even though she was so short on connections that she once transformed a childhood car ride from Chicago to Scranton into a visit to Elmira. But you can understand why actual New Hampshire residents might start feeling a little sensitive at this point.
Or perhaps, there’s room for one more. You know who else has a vacation home in New Hampshire? Mitt Romney! He’s tanned. He’s rested. He’s ready. He knows about hidden tape recorders.
And it’s still early.
— The New York Times