Red-state Democrats understand their only hope of avoiding disaster in November is to keep as quiet as they can. When Michelle Nunn, who won the Democratic primary in Georgia for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, was asked whether she would have voted for Obamacare had she been a senator four years ago, she went to tedious pains to say she dared not say.
“It’s impossible to look back retrospectively and say, ‘What would you have done if you were there?’” she replied. Pressed twice more by a television interviewer for a simple yes-or-no answer, she continued to duck and dodge, running out the clock with talking points about the need to work “across the aisle” to fix Obamacare, the affordability of premiums, pre-existing conditions and children staying on parents’ policies until age 26. She said everything except an answer to the simple question.
Under pressure from NBC’s Kasie Hunt, who insisted on knowing whether the candidate thinks Obamacare should be repealed, Miss Nunn dared not give her Republican opponent a sound bite for later campaigning through unfriendly territory, where an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll finds that 57 percent of Georgians don’t like the law. But she finally succumbed to pressure and answered the question: “I do not.” Like all 60 of the Senate’s Democrats in 2010, she obviously would have voted for the health care takeover.
Miss Nunn cruised to a primary victory on the strength of a famous name — she’s the daughter of Sam Nunn, a former senator — that enabled her to skip several debates with her Democratic rivals and avoid taking positions on the issues she insists are important. She’s so committed to remaining a political tabula rasa that she won’t say whether she would vote to retain Harry Reid as Senate majority leader or even whether she thinks President Obama is doing a good job. “My name is on the ballot,” she told Politico, the Capitol Hill daily. “The president is not on the ballot this time.”
In Kentucky, another Democratic Senate candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes, employs a similar strategy. In her bid to replace Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, Mrs. Grimes characterizes herself as an “independent thinker” and distances herself from a president who won just 38 percent of the state’s vote the last time he was on the ballot.
“I am not an empty dress,” she protested. “I am not a rubber stamp, and I am not a cheerleader.” Mr. McConnell didn’t let her get away with it. “Barack Obama’s candidates preach independence,” he said, “but they practice loyalty above all else … Kentuckians will not be deceived. Alison Lundergan Grimes is Barack Obama’s candidate.”
Michelle Nunn and Alison Grimes learned from the master of camouflage. In his autobiography, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama described his vision of the empty suit. “I serve as a blank screen,” he wrote, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” That’s not the way to win in red states, but an empty platform is the best a Democrat can run on.