“I’ve got an ‘R’ here, a scarlet letter.”

That’s the quote from Michael Steele who is running for the senate in Maryland. And yes, this guy is a Republican. But, it seems, one who is trying to distance himself from Bush World, Inc. in the hopes that voters will see him as someone who is not part of Bush’s group of neocon…cons. The Washington Post has the full story, but here’s a key ‘graph:

Of Republicans who control Congress, the candidate said: “We’ve lost our way, we’ve gone to the well and we drank the water, and we shouldn’t have.”

“You don’t go to Congress to become the party that you’ve been fighting for 40 years,” he said, lamenting “the spending, the finger-pointing, not getting the bills passed” and counseled: “Just shut up and get something done.”

Asked if he wanted Bush to campaign for him, the candidate initially said, “well, you know, I don’t know” and then, noting the president’s low popularity in his state, said: “To be honest with you, probably not.”

O-U-C-H!

As a guy whose politics are pretty much center-left, I should be happy that the Republican political machine is starting to fall apart. However, I’m having a difficult time getting all “rah-rah” for the Dems because, well, they lack what Bush Sr. called (and the group “Sisters of Mercy” mocked) “vision thing.”

Want proof? Look at who the Dems are running for governor in California. Phil Angelides. Quick! What’s Phil’s vision for California? Tick, tick, tick…time’s up!

Okay, working in radio and also as a former teacher of politics, I know that politics is about marketing a message that’s simple but conveys some of what you stand for. So, if you look at the swag each candidate is offering, you could conclude that their message will be tacked on to bumper stickers, lawn signs, t-shirts and hats. Turns out, I was partially right. With Arnold you get this:

“Protecting the California Dream.” What that means is kind of vague, but it has nice sound to it. People aren’t going to say “Oh, why would someone want to do that!” Or it’s not so specific that people will wonder: “Well, what else does he stand for?” Instead, this is one of those market-tested slogans that people probably find “positive.” That’s good! You want your candidate to have an optimistic outlook. You want that radiant sheen of positivity to emanate outward toward the fence-sitters who haven’t really made up their minds on who they are going to vote for. It’s only once you’ve established that your candidate is “next to God” that the gloves can come off. And that’s when we start to get flooded with negative ads. You know the ones… the low announcer voice, the grainy black and white shots of the candidate that’s being pilloried, and the ominous music. Only at the end of the commercial are we treated to a color graphic with swelling music to promote candidate X over candidate Y. I’m pretty sure most everyone has seen a variation of these ads, slogans, and the like. It’s all part of the political circus, and we bemoan the tactics, but it really doesn’t change.

With that said, let’s go over to Phil’s “store” and see what his swag says, okay? It’s got to say something about what he’s about, right? There’s got to be something that signals to us (the voters) what kind of governor Phil will make if we decide to vote for him, right? In this day of Arnold’s failed initiatives, his status as a Republican who stumped for Bush in 2004, his seeming dislike for nurses, firefighters, and cops (because, you know, they’re union folks), Phil’s gotta have a strong message for us working stiffs who struggle for our wages while we pay more for our benefits, RIGHT! C’mon, am I right! Can I get an Amen! (Amen!) Ladies and Gentlemen of the good state of California, I give you the slogan of Phil Angelides… the next governor of California! (huge applause here)

–PK

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