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Posts published in “Day: September 5, 2007”

Craig Watch: Day 10/?

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

The state of play - in this game most people thought had ended Saturday morning - over Senator Larry Craig is, if anything, intensifying. It is probably a lesser deal now for the talk show comics, but it has become more intriguing - by orders of magnitude - as a matter of politics.

What handicaps any evaluation is that we don't yet know what the end game for the central player - Craig himself - is supposed to look like; we can only guess. (Kevin Richert of the Idaho Statesman made that point in his blog today.) But we can speculate that it is evolving. And his role is crucial. Having lawyered up, and having an objective that remains obscure, he is driving this thing now, just as - a week ago - he was being bashed into the ground, in the couple of days after the Roll Call report about his men's room arrest and guilty plea in Minneapolis.

Last Tuesday, when he delivered his first (widely panned) defiant press conference, Craig was being buried under; he was entirely on defense, and the Alamo had been breached. He seemed and probably was at that point still in a mode somewhere between panic and shock, and probably thought that his friends and allies would help him through this. And then they did not - they joined the attacking the forces, led the attacking the forces.

Somewhere around last Wednesday or maybe Thursday, Craig began to come around and think strategically. And since then he has reversed position with his assailants in the Senate Republican caucus - he is consciously executing an extensive and complex strategic plan, while his one-time allies are being thrown back into confusion and panic mode. You get the sense, in sifting through the quotes from Republicans in Washington, that he can't be doing this. A pertinent quote following today's Republican Senate Policy Committee (which Craig once chaired), from an unnamed senator: "If he has the [courage] to fight this, then the least he could do is come here and feel the heat we're feeling." As an expression of mood, that one seems to tell it all.

True: Craig may resign at any point, including September 30; and we don't need to re-recite here why that may happen. You could even call it probable. But there are alternatives, and we don't really know right now toward which of them Craig is headed.

Let's review the sequence, and see what that suggests.

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One on One

Looks like the Reichert-Burner rematch in Washington's 8th is - barring some really odd event between here and there - definitely on.

We'd suspected Darcy Burner likely would win her primary election next year against state Senator Rodney Tom, on the basis of a strong emotional backing from a goodly number of supporters. (Blogs have been an important part of her support, and they have delivered in serious fashion.) When Tom filed, he did so saying he might be more electable, and noting that Burner (the 2006 Democratic nominee for the seat) didn't take out Republican Dave Reichert, in a very Democratic year. He seemed to be moving into a position as a moderate and establishment Democrat, a "safe choice" to take on Reichert.

But this morning, in dropping out of the primary contest, he delivered a tribute to Burner's campaign so far: "Our fundraising was going great, but Darcy Burner's campaign has been phenomenal. Darcy has over 3,200 contributors, an incredible statement to her broad base of support."

That also suggests she won't be getting any more (serious) primary opposition. The rerun match appears to be set. And evaluation can reasonably proceed on that basis . . .

Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn

These days you couldn't say this about but so many Republicans in Washington state, but you can about Jennifer Dunn: Had she simply so chosen, she almost certainly would have been, right up to this week, a member of the U.S. House from a western Washington district.

Elected first in 1992, and most recently in 2002, she was as close to unbeatable as you get in the 8th district. The Republican who followed her after her opt-out in 2004, Dave Reichert, has had tough contests both cycles, a good deal tougher than she faced, and is headed into another at least as difficult next year. But even in the changing conditions of the King County eastside, we're pretty sure Dunn would have ridden the wave. She was well liked; her political skills were of an unusually high order; but she also had a fine sense for practicality.

Her death in Virginia - yesterday, we gather, though details are sketchy - was abrupt and unexpected, from a pulmonary embolism. At 66, she was still working actively and involved in politics, in both Washingtons. Washington state Republicans will feel a definite loss there, in addition to the personal.

And some of the shock that comes with the reminder that we none of us know when our time is up. Dunn, highly active politics for many years (she was a state party chair before her election to Congress), made a lot of the time she had. Her voters were among those who certainly seemed to know it.