Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Opportunity Knocks for Conservative 527s

Attention conservative PAC operators - this may be your big chance to make a splash this election cycle.

Any Republican worthy of that appellation has a strong visceral dislike of Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. Murtha has make ridiculous statements about national security affairs (Hey, let's "redeploy"... to Okinawa), and has slandered several good Marines (a few of whom already have had their charges dropped - they're suing Murtha in federal court). He's also the poster child for the corrupting influence of federal pork, and he exploits his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee like a schoolyard bully. He is a longtime buddy of Nancy Pelosi, and if Pelosi had her way Murtha would be House Majority Leader.

And now Murtha has a challenger: William Russell.

Russell has is own military background, which will help to counter the halo of absolute moral authority Murtha has so far successfully exercised with respect to military affairs. While Russell's motivation for running appears to be primarily a reaction to Murtha's statements about national security issues, Russell also appears to be an economic conservative with a libertarian streak.

I know, I know. Murtha has beaten every challenger. Badly. Last time was 61%-39%. And Murtha is the "biggest employer in Johnstown".

Let's say for a moment that Russell can't beat Murtha. A significant scare could tie up some Democratic campaign money that might have been used in other races. (You don't think Nancy Pelosi would let her buddy Jack fend for himself, do you?) Let's talk "earned media" for a moment. National media attention is a "force multiplier", both for this particular race and in helping to establish a Democrat culture of corruption in the minds of voters outside the 12th District. Limbaugh, Hannity, and O'Reilly would probably jump at the chance to interview Russell if enough noise is made in Western Pennsylvania to move the needle on the polling data. Maybe even a Sunday show or two.

But I think Russell has a decent shot. Murtha has slaughtered his previous opponents in part because nobody's ever had the support to challenge him effectively. Murtha's sleaziness is easily established, and a few well-written television ads will drive the point home as it has never been done before. The 12th District is also bizarrely shaped and must have a degree of cultural discontinuity outside of Cambria county. This can be exploited with a good ground game built on the foundation of some solid polling data to show us where the cracks are in the plaster of Murtha's political career.

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