State Politics: Too Rough?

I like reading the daily political "chats" at washingtonpost.com. Sometimes you can learn some new information, but in general it's useful as ...
by | September 9, 2008

I like reading the daily political "chats" at washingtonpost.com. Sometimes you can learn some new information, but in general it's useful as a very time-efficient way to bone up on the latest conventional wisdom and hot topics. It's a lot quicker than watching cable news coverage for same.

Something I read in today's session, hosted by Michael Abramowitz, puzzled me, though. He was asked one of several questions about Sarah Palin. Here is part of his response:

Without delving into the substance, I would offer one political point: I think over the last few presidential campaigns, we have seen the emergence of governors on the national scene like Bush and Clinton. Governors often come from states (like Arkansas) where the politics are messy and dirty and charges fly around. So pehaps Americans are conditioned to take some of this stuff with a grain of salt.

Abramowitz is a good reporter, but I'm really puzzled about what he's trying to get at here. Is he saying that politics is so nasty at the state level that people aren't surprised to see this dynamic in national politics? Isn't that bass-ackwards?

Or is he saying people are used to hearing denunciations of their governors, so they're not surprised when one gets trashed when they reach the national stage? That doesn't seem to gibe even with his own examples.

There were plenty of Clinton haters in Arkansas, but he didn't come loaded with baggage from critics down there. It was only when he became a leading national candidate that Gennifer Flowers and his draft dodging letter emerged. Even with Whitewater, that was an Arkansas mess that really got dredged up after Clinton took office here in D.C.

As for Bush, part of his whole appeal in 2000 was his more genuine uniter-not-divider approach in Austin. He worked with Democratic legislators more than he ever has with congressmen and had the endorsement of the Democratic lieutenant governor, Bob Bullock. If Bush had had the reputation in Austin that he's garnered in the White House, his persona on the campaign trail would have been a lot different and, I think it's fair to say, he wouldn't have beaten Gore.

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