Political campaigns are like a performance
When candidates file for public office, everything from set to design, apparel to script, comprises the show. Audience appeal and applause, and the critique’s assessment, are pretty close representations of the actual electorate and media.
On Tuesday August 19th, 2014, Alaskans will have the opportunity to cast a vote for the Republican U.S. Senate candidate that will challenge incumbent Mark Begich (D) in the November General Election.
As attention to the candidates surfaces, so do the PAC and candidate sponsored advertisements and messaging, in concert with candidate appearances, endorsements and the omnipresent news coverage which makes the job for the editorial staff at APE a whole lot easier.
And then there were three
Three viable candidates want the chance to take center stage alongside Begich.
Joe Miller has the most national notoriety and Tea Party-esque appeal, with a smidgeon of infamy and a dash of spectacle. He’s a West Point and Yale Law School graduate. He’s probably the superior debater of the three candidates, and the most tenacious. Miller’s resonating voice and cadence might afford him a radio host gig if he so chose, and his core supporters remain allegiant and diehards. He’s tried for State House, Alaska Republican Party Chairman and U.S. Senate against incumbent Lisa Murkowski, but without success.
Dan Sullivan seems the Washington DC insiders’ choice. Coming from a wealthy Ohio family (Ohio’s slogan is “So Much to Discover” and that seems to be Alaskan journalists’ goal, not knowing much about the newcomer), he has equally impressive education credentials to Miller with an Economics degree from Harvard and law degree from Georgetown. He’s charismatic and polished. Sullivan has built his resume with a state commissionership and attorney general stint about as fast as Sarah Palin came to and departed from the governor’s office. Sullivan remains an unknown comparatively, and his di minimis time spent and living in Alaska are fast surfacing as an Achilles Heel comparable to Begich’s Affordable Care Act vote. Politico just today (4/16/14) reports that Sully trumped Begich in political donations for a second reporting quarter. His will be a multi-million dollar war chest.
As for military service, Miller is a former Army officer and a Bronze Star Persian Gulf War veteran. Sullivan is a Lt. Colonel in the Marine Reserves. Both are married with children.
These first two candidates either have the name recognition or the out-of-state money to push them into the limelight.
But isn’t there a third character? Who is the candidate who seems to have star quality but keeps getting short shrift in coverage, recognition and stage time?
Enter Mead Treadwell, Alaska’s Lt. Governor
In his first run for elected office, Treadwell stomped former State Representative Jay Ramras so bad it was like the old advertisement in 1970s comic strips where the scrawny kid on the beach is picked on by the huge body builder kicking sand in his face, only Treadwell – as the bodybuilder, after kicking the sand – actually took the kid’s cookies and girl, and the kid stayed wimpy the rest of his life.
Treadwell is smart. He’s thoughtful. He’s good on his feet with facts, figures and knows Alaskan government and process likely better than his opponents. It would be rare to hear someone say Mead Treadwell shows hubris, but most will recall him genuinely (non-election year) attending a NRA, Safari Club or Alaska Outdoor Council event, or charity event for cancer patients who suffer the same long and arduous gauntlet of tests and treatments his wife experienced before her passing.
Is there a difference?
Granted, all three candidates love their kids, but Treadwell raised his alone.
All three men have Ivy League educations, but Teadwell’s Yale undergraduate degree and M.B.A. from Harvard extract him from the growing incessancy of lawyers serving in federal office. He’s not a lawyer! That’s a rare claim to fame.
All three men suggest they have a unique vision and understanding of Alaska and its majesty, but Treadwell is the one candidate who is an entrepreneur and has owned and managed sizeable state and national corporations. He’s also an expert on Arctic development, infrastructure and policy as the former chairman of the Arctic Research Commission appointed by President George W. Bush.
If you toss all three men into the spotlight, one certainly has the far right’s nod, while another gets the wink from the richest of the rich and political powerbrokers. This demographic is typical in most states where money and affiliation matter, as do notoriety and appeal from the nation’s capital.
But it’s time to pay attention to the fact there are actually three stars in this performance
In the middle there’s a third choice, and Mead Treadwell has the heart of a leading man. To many behind the scenes, he’s the one that’s been getting the job done, success after success, with tenure, absent fanfare, and powered by a purpose driven faith in his public service journey.
Most will agree that Shakespeare was the king of metaphor. Recall in “As You Like It” his famous words:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,”
If the Alaska U.S. Senate Republican Primary is a stage, and the aforementioned candidates are the performers, don’t be surprised should the consistent, structured, less flamboyant character draw the most applause (votes) in August.
The political “performance” continues with four months to go. Whether you label election politics “theater” or plain old campaigning, the person most observed, or most critiqued, isn’t necessarily the favored cast member.
APE simply asks that you hold your Academy Award speculation until the end of the show and pay attention to the lines and passion of all the candidates. In Lt. Governor Treadwell’s case, he’s on stage too, quite relevant to the storyline, and may turn out to be the headliner.