Big Luther's indecent media exposure: Does Strange work for Fox News now?Strange work for Fox News now?
Incumbency is a powerful thing, even when it's counterfeit.
Last week, Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was again going into to battle on behalf of Sen. Luther Strange, this time fighting with the Trump White House.
"McConnell, who has made the race a personal priority, had spent weeks trying to get the RNC to approve its funding," Politico reported. "The drawn-out nature of the talks became such a point of contention that in recent days the majority leader lobbied White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC head who remains plugged into the committee's operations, to help get the funds released."
McConnell, has taken measure of Alabama's field of GOP candidates and found Strange to be the tallest clown in the circus. To him, it doesn't matter that Strange's appointment by Gov. Robert Bentley has turned a lot of Alabamians against the former state attorney general. In Strange's brief tenure, he has been a team player, which is exactly what McConnell wants.
As a result, Strange has reaped a windfall of establishment campaign cash. Two affiliated super PACs have thrown their support behind Strange, both with money and threats. Washington political operatives got the message -- work with anyone but Strange and you'll be blackballed in the next election cycle.
It was a enough to send Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh into retreat. Marsh strongly considered challenging Strange, but relented at the qualifying deadline. When you've got the resources to bluff a man who owns his own island (albeit one on the Mississippi River) into folding, you've got enough power to be truly scary.
For what it's worth, the Trump Administration seems to be as skeptical of Strange as many Alabamians. At first, the White House refused to bless spending RNC money for Strange's benefit, but last week, they relented, turning loose $350,000.
But incumbency means more than money and advertising. It means media exposure, too. And here's where it gets really grating.
In the last two months, Strange has appeared on Fox News and Fox Business almost 20 times, sometimes twice in the same day. On those shows, he's engaged in the sort of conservative red-meat pandering that sounds phony coming from a silk-stocking establishment Republican. But what's more concerning is what it means for this race. The media arm of the national Republican Party is trying to rig the game for Strange.
This is not a fair fight.
To give you some sense of comparison, the only other Alabama Senate candidate I've seen in that time on Fox was Rep. Mo Brooks, and that was after a nut with a gun and a hit list tried to kill him. Seriously, Brooks got shot at by a crazy person, and he still got more time and attention from CNN and MSNBC than from the news network playing in the living rooms of most Alabama Republicans.
This was the calculation Strange made earlier this year when he took what just about anyone with any sense of ethics would have turned away -- an appointment from a governor he was supposed to be investigating. He had a choice to make then between the moral high ground or the political high ground, and he chose the latter.
He chose the incumbency and everything that comes with it -- the money, the muscle and the media.
It goes without saying that Trump supporters and I agree on few things, but few doesn't mean none. It should concern everyone that we live with a political system that leaves voters with short lists of bad choices. Sometimes we're left with no choices at all, as if we live in a banana republic.
But if there's some comfort to be had here it's that the poll numbers local lobbyists and political operatives have shared with me show all this support from McConnell hasn't moved Alabama voters very much. Like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, the establishment candidate in this race is running up against something he doesn't understand -- an electorate that will gladly blow the whole thing up before accepting a false choice.
There are some things even incumbency can't buy.