Friday, May 7, 2010

Coats vs. Ellsworth: Shortsighted Primary Voting Republicans Pick Wrong Candidate



Dan Coats is, for lack of a better term, a has-been. Yes, I'm sorry folks on the right. Dan Coats is, right now, a has-been.

That doesn't mean that Coats can't work his way back into being a Senator from Indiana, but that is going to be a tough race for him. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Once Hoosiers get around to knowing Brad Ellsworth, they will see that he's anything but a liberal.

In fact, Ellsworth may actually be able to make a play for many of the conservative endorsements Republicans typically get. Ellsworth, with a tough law enforcement background, has an impeccable record as Vanderburgh County Sheriff. The NRA endorsement will be in play as will many of the anti-choice organization endorsements. Besides these political issues, he also has built a fine record as a conservative Congressman. One, by the way, he is categorically not running from.

While Coats swung away at Ellsworth's yes vote on health care Wednesday in Evansville, Ellsworth told the Indianapolis Star that he's proud of his voting record and that he will not back away from it. Accountability for one's voting record? What a shock!

It's certainly a shock for Coats. Coats, as the Star pointed out, has stumbled all over himself trying to disavow votes for gun control and for the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Supreme Court Justice in 1993. It's clear that the lobbyist is still trying to slime his way out of things.

I don't think it's going to work. While both the Republican and Democratic Parties will send, no doubt, millions of dollars into Indiana for this seat as it's seen as critical for both sides. Coats will try to paint Ellsworth as the second coming of socialism, and Ellsworth will try to paint Coats as an out-of-touch, out-of-state, Washington lobbyist.

Which one will hold more water? Let's look at the facts.

Brad Ellsworth is one of the bluest of the blue dogs. At one point, he was ranked as the fourth most conservative House member. That does make him more moderate than the far right conservatives, but it could also mean that he's not that far left of where Coats was when he left the Senate in 1999. Coats went whimpering away...seemingly scared of losing a tough race to Evan Bayh.

Ellsworth has his issues, and I know that LGBT Hoosiers are, frankly, not jazzed up about BE's candidacy. They look at his Human Rights Campaign rating of 30/100 and scratch their heads. I also know that many in the progressive caucus really have concerns about Ellsworth.

To me, though, Ellsworth's greatest strength is Brad Ellsworth. We saw it in the way he shrugged off Coats early shots at his, as Coats puts it, vote for "Obamacare." Ellsworth comes across as honest, genuine, and, even though you disagree with him, you kind of have to do it honestly. He's going to run playing up his law enforcement background as evidenced by the choice of a sheriff star for his logo and the brown/white/black color scheme on his early campaign pieces.

When the DSCC tears into Coats, he will be exposed as a move-in lobbyist with dubious clients. We've already seen that he cuts and runs when things get tough, and that he won't stand up for his own votes. I don't think that Dan Coats will play well statewide, and, when Ellsworth and Coats stand side-by-side in a debate setting, Ellsworth wins that battle, too.

I've blogged here about my concerns for Ellsworth's candidacy, and I would be disingenuous if I didn't say that I still carry many of those concerns. However, having spoken with Ellsworth face-to-face and knowing some people who have sat down in this lead up to the campaign, I'd have to say that he's winning over the hearts and minds of many.

Will he get a unanimous vote at the Democratic Party State Central Committee meeting to nominate him as the party's candidate? I don't know. However, pending some unforeseen circumstance, he will be the party's standard bearer. I think that he can and will win the race in November because people just won't be moved by Dan Coats.

Coats is easier to define because the facts show exactly who and what Coats is. I don't foresee the charges from the Republicans sticking to Ellsworth. For better or worse, Indiana at-large is probably more center than almost any state in the union politically.

Just think, Ellsworth may actually end up drawing conservative votes away from Coats! Wouldn't that be a trip?

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