WASHINGTON – Should the special election to replace Mark Souder, who resigned last week after admitting to a sexual affair with an employee, be sooner rather than later?
The savvy Republican will push for as far from now as possible. The politically smart Democrat wants it ASAP.
The ick factor is just too big right now for Republicans to risk having the special election before theres time for the revulsion to fade.
When a popular lawmaker dies in office, the candidate most closely associated with him or her has a huge advantage. Think of the special election won by Andre Carson, the nephew of the Indianapolis congresswoman who died in 2007. In Pennsylvania last week, the protégé of the late Rep. John Murtha won a special election despite the anti-Washington atmosphere.
In both cases, voters were motivated more by whether they liked the lawmakers who died in office than by what they thought of the potential successors.
An admitted affair from a conservative family values pol taints the Republican brand. Some Republican voters would just stay home in disgust with em all. Republican-leaning independents would be much more open to a Democrat. And Democrats would vote with glee. Thats a recipe for Democratic victory.
So from the Republican perspective, its best to put as much distance as possible between the memory of a tear-stained Souder reading his mea culpa from a podium and the special election to replace him.
Gov. Mitch Daniels is the sole decider about the timing of the election, and he is savvier than most. So it would be surprising for him to set the date by early summer.
Folks who push for a later date – or even a double election on Election Day – will have other stated reasons for saying so. Most prominently is the cost.
The expense is certainly an issue, but so is the lack of representation in Washington. The nuts-and-bolts of the congressional office will run as smoothly without Souder as it did with him. Thats not the point.
What wont happen is that for as long as it takes to elect a Souder replacement, northeast Indiana wont have a vote on the zillions of issues that directly affect peoples lives: the financial regulatory overhaul, the spending bills for 2011, whether to postpone a cut in Medicare payments to doctors, Internet gambling.
Bet on it: The people who talk about the cost of a special election will not mention the disenfranchisement of 750,000 Hoosiers.
Of course the Dems will hammer at that. But they have no say in when Daniels sets a date for the election and no leverage that I can think of to influence the decision.
You might say: Well, the person who wins the special election will be in office for only a few months, so can the advantages of incumbency really accumulate that fast and influence the outcome of the November election?
Yes, in this way: If the Democrat (whom we all assume to be Tom Hayhurst) wins the special election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will spend money in the fall to keep the seat in the D column.
The committee rarely involves itself in this race because the groups mission is to protect incumbents. If the incumbent is a Democrat, the committee will provide a big financial boost in the fall campaign.
If the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in the game, the National Republican Congressional Committee has to be, too. If the Republican committee has to defend a seat that is now held by a Republican, it means that much less money for other races.
So many forces will be working to convince Daniels – if he needs much persuasion – that Nov. 2 is a dandy day for a double election.