by Peter Freyne
“Politics Has Gotten Ugly in America”
That’s the opening line in GOP congressional aspirant Martha Rainville’s first-in-her-life political TV commercial. (Obviously she's been watching the recent rather "ugly" TV spots being aired by Republican Senate candidate Rich Tarrant, eh?)
“The two Parties are barely civil to each other,” says Marvelous Martha looking straight into the camera. “I’m running a different kind of campaign that respects my opponent, respects you.”
Rainville then lets everyone know she’s signed her own proposed “Clean Campaign Pledge.” There’s a shot of her arm signing it. In fact, that shot takes up 11 seconds of the 30-second commercial!
You and I who have nothing better to do than follow this stuff know that her opponent, i.e. Democrat Peter Welch, did not sign her campaign pledge. In fact, Welchie scoffed at it as the set-up, political publicity stunt it was.
What it appeared to be at the time was a ridiculous pitch for a $1 million campaign-spending cap by the candidate with the smallest campaign treasury. Everybody knows that with control of the U.S. House on-the-line big-time on November 7, and Vermont’s one-and-only seat being an open seat, the national parties and pacs will be spending millions on Vermont airtime.
Camp Rainville brass knew going in that Welch wouldn’t sign her campaign spending pledge. So what? What the heck do you expect her to talk about? The great job the Bush administration and the GOP Congress have been doing the last six years?
That’s because Martha’s pledge-pitch wasn’t about “clean campaigns” at all. It was really about playing to the peanut gallery. About Gen. Rainville’s “image.” That’s what counts here, folks, er, voters!
And let’s not forget, Rainville’s is an image Vermonters have known and admired for a decade. It’s the image of a brave, intelligent, competent, and dare we say, attractive, commander-in-chief. The first woman adjutant general of a state National Guard in American history!
Not bad when you’re up against an image that, some say, resembles that of a bald, squeaky-voiced Statehouse retread, remembered across Vermont for his lawsuit-hungry law-firm’s ambulance-chaser TV commercials that ran repeatedly before the Six O’Clock News a few years back.
This inaugural Rainville TV spot confirms that the Clean Campaign Pledge Pitch was indeed part of the larger Camp Rainville battle plan. At least she has a plan, right?
“No negative ads or mail that tear down my opponent,” said Martha, “and no guilt by association...Vermont’s a small state but we can set a new standard for the rest of America.”
P.S. Caught John Dillon’s Rainville story on VPR. JD covered the presser at her Williston HQ where the new TV spot was “unveiled,” as they say. She also took questions - it is America, ya know. Her least favorite question is: “If elected, Martha, who will you vote for in January for House Speaker?”
"I don't know. Would I abstain? Would it matter? I think we spend a lot of time on who are you going to vote for as speaker and it really just detracts attention from what we ought we ought to be talking about. I think it's in some sense a ploy by some who don't want to talk about the issues, or who want to keep Vermonters stirred up about a personality rather than real concerns on Vermonters minds."
Obviously, Peter Welch has a different take.
"It matters enormously to the future of Vermont and to future of our country. It's the most important vote that Vermont's next member of Congress will cast. It's absolutely the most critical vote and it matters."
It’s one issue where it appears Welch has got her by the....ah...."baseballs."
Fact: If elected, Republican Rainville will vote for the Republican candidate for Speaker. Why the hell do you think the national GOP has her on its top-ten list? So she can vote for a Democratic House Speaker?
Got to give Martha a round of applause, though, for the great spin move she did suggesting there might be a “moderate” Republican in line come January.
"With this mid-term election, what I'm hoping is that that moderate voice will be stronger in Congress. And a lot of representatives have come to the realization that we need to change direction. And there are some, particularly in the Northeast, some Republicans that are very strong minded about that."
Nice try, Moderate Martha.