By special request, however, I am going to make an exception to that rule and weigh in on the GOP contest for the United States Senate.
A bevy of candidates are running for a prize probably not worth very much in the end: The right to challenge incumbent Senator Ben Cardin. The standout candidates include former Secret Service agent and businessman Dan Bongino and naval veteran and former congressional staffer Richard Douglas.
Both of these men seem like decent candidates. Both have their respective strengths. But tomorrow I will vote for Dan Bongino.
Bongino’s greatest strength as a candidate is the unorthodox path which brought him to politics. Indeed, his candidacy almost has a screenplay cadence to it: Former Secret Service candidate who, frustrated by politics, decides to enter the fray himself.
His unique story made him immediately appealing to the media, and Bongino wisely leveraged these unearned media opportunities to demonstrate himself to be an articulate, substantive candidate. On the stump he comes across as passionate, sincere, and charismatic. The man definitely has an “it” factor when it comes to politics – the kind of thing that is easier to recognize than to define. But once you recognize it, you have to respect it.
Mr. Douglas’s strengths are his federal credentials: Justice Department, Congress, Pentagon, Foreign Service. Unfortunately, however, Maryland’s political landscape is littered with the bodies of past Senate candidates with strong Washington credentials but scant ties to Maryland - including Alan Keyes, Linda Chavez, and Bill Brock. Mr. Douglas may be a native Marylander, but a newcomer when it comes to the political landscape – as is Ambassador John Bolton, his chief campaign cheerleader, and a native Baltimorean largely unknown in Maryland.
In all fairness, Mr. Bongino is also a newcomer. But, he seems to have compensated for this by connecting among activists and the kinds of people you need to win primary elections very quickly. Among all candidates running for elective office this year, his candidacy has generated the most excitement. Given the challenges facing Maryland Republicans, the importance of this asset cannot be overstated.
Now, just to make myself clear: Barring a seismic event on Maryland’s political landscape, Senator Cardin will be reelected.
But a respectable showing by Bongino might position him for future opportunities within the party, assuming he decides to stay involved and active in Maryland. There are a lot of empty seats on the MD GOP’s leadership bench at the moment. I think Bongino could fill one as effortlessly he transitioned from presidential protector to political candidate.
As far as the 2012 U. S. Senate race is concerned, I see no opportunities for Republicans to win here. But, Dan Bongino’s potential resonates beyond 2012. For that reason, he has my support.