Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Falk and Van Hollen in the General

I wouldn't have been surprised if the primary results went either way on both sides in the AG race. In the end, though, I think the two more moderate candidates came away victorious.

However, Van Hollen hasn't shown much moderation in his campaign, yet. As Ben Masel pointed out on this blog last week, "After the Primary, Van Hollen, should he sttill [sic] be in the race, will no longer have to paint himself as 'as nuts as Bucher.' Bucher, on the other hand, will still be as nuts as Bucher."

Delicately shifting toward the middle will be key for Van Hollen in the general. The early polls have shown there are still a lot of independents out there who don't know quite what to think of Van Hollen. It will be important for him to show them he's not part of the far right in the state.

And it seems Van Hollen may be already working toward this. As he told a crowd of supporters after securing the primary victory last night: "We've been running a campaign based upon fighting crime and restoring integrity. We've been running a campaign that's focused on changing the priorities of the Department of Justice from advancing special interests to advancing law enforcement interests, and we're going to continue to do that."

No incendiary talk of terrorist training or illegal immigration, just a focus on traditional (and ambiguous) aspects of law enforcement like "fighting crime."

At the same time, I expect the Van Hollen camp to do everything it can to paint Falk as a far left "Madison liberal" in order to take some weight off moving its own candidate to the middle.

It will be especially interesting to see the post-primary polls in the AG race. Falk was crushing Van Hollen in the pre-primary polls, but there are still a good amount of undecideds out there who will be key to the general election.

On a side note, Paul Bucher must have given the least conceding concession speech of the night. Essentially his case was that Van Hollen only won because of money. While it's true Van Hollen's cash gave him a big boost on the airwaves, it's questionable whether it was the sole factor in the outcome of the primary.

After all, in the latest polls to come out, Van Hollen and Bucher had about equal name recognition across the state. The fact that Van Hollen still came away with 6 out of every 10 votes from Republicans in the state suggests there was more supporting him than simply TV spots.

Plus, back in July, after the mid-year campaign finance reports were released, Bucher made the exact opposite argument -- claiming at the time, "We will win this race on grassroots support, hard work, and most importantly ideas." While it was necessary then for Bucher to find some way to dismiss Van Hollen's bankroll, to make a 180 on election night just seems like whining.

After how heated this primary was on the GOP side -- particularly in the cheddarsphere -- it will be interesting to see how fences are mended. Jessica McBride's first post on the topic will be telling.

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