GOP Closes Ranks; Too Little Too Late?

Katherine Harris.jpgTwo and a half months after I suggested that it do so, the Party establishment has finally gotten behind Rep. Katherine Harris in her bid to become the next Senator from Florida.  The Harris campaign has struggled since the beginning in no small part due to hesitation and fear on the part of Elizabeth Dole and the Bushes.  As I argued in November, it is entirely legitimate for the Party to seek out strong challengers, but in this case, a number of people simply went too far.

Few would argue that Harris is the ideal candidate, but she is most certainly a viable one.  She has won statewide before and has since won and retained a House seat.  While many have said that Harris ran poorly in her district, she actually carried 55% of the vote, just one percentage point behind the President.  To date, she has been trailing Sen. Bill Nelson badly, in no small part because the state and national parties made it abundently clear to contributors that she was not their choice for the nomination.  Now that attempts to find a different candidate have all but stopped, Harris should be able to raise enough money to be competitive.  Hopefully it is not too late.

Harris is a strong campaigner in spite of some unfortunate statements.  She has personal appeal that will come across if she has enough money to run a serious campaign.  Her positions on social issues combined with Sen. Bill Nelson’s opposition to Judge Alito will help to bring out conservatives while most Floridians will have forgotten about her role in the 2000 election.  What’s more, what many have overlooked is that the person whom she put in office (by doing her job) since won the state by a much wider margin.  While the far left will yell and scream, anyone who would vote against Harris because of her role in the 2000 election would be voting against her anyway.  It’s check marks that count, not the amount of enthusiasm that goes into making them.

Because of the late circling of the wagons, it remains to be seen whether Harris will be able to run the type of campaign that would put her over the top.  In light of the fact that Mel Martinez was able to do so in a much shorter time, though, this race should be considered this cycle’s sleeper.  If her fundraising improves over the next two months, it will be surprising if this race does not go down to the wire.  Here’s betting that it does pick up and the same people who were trying to recruit a different candidate this past September are hitting the stump with her this fall.

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