The Spectacle Blog

Christine O’Donnell’s Proxmire Advantage

By on 9.7.10 | 5:21PM

William Proxmire, the late Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, was a smart guy. Born and raised in a well-to do family in Illinois, he moved to New York to do the finance thing. He married a Rockefeller for a while. 

But Bill Proxmire wanted a political career. So he took out a map of America and finally settled on Wisconsin as the place he would make his political fortune. Arriving, he was shortly elected to the state legislature. Then things became interesting.

He ran for governor. And lost. He ran for governor a second time. And lost. He ran for governor a third time. He lost.

By now the political sophisticates thought they had Proxmire pegged. He was a loser, and they branded him as such. But a funny thing happened next.

With the death of the famous GOP Senator Joe McCarthy, there was suddenly a special election to fill McCarthy's Senate seat. Proxmire jumped into the race against a popular governor. The "loser" charge was instantly on everyone's lips.

Proxmire would have none of it. Instead, in the fight of his life against the state's political establishment, Proxmire turned the tables. He admitted that, yes: he had lost three races for governor. He was trying again. But there was no shame in losing, he said, because most average Wisconsites had lost at something, and they could identify with him. He wanted the votes of every Wisconsin voter who had lost in love or in a sport or lost a job or lost a parent or a child or anything or anyone they cared about. And his opponent could have all the voters who had won at everything they tried.

In a stunning upset, Wisconsin voters went with Proxmire. He was a highly popular senator for 32 years

The story comes to mind as Christine O'Donnell's campaign for the United States Senate unfolds in Delaware. Her critics are pointing to supposed O'Donnell "problems" with a mortgage, taxes, the IRS and rent.

Meanwhile, opponent Mike Castle, currently the Congressman, once the governor, before that the lieutenant governor, and now the state party establishment's favorite for the Republican nomination, has, presumably, cruised through life having none of these problems.

So in the style of William Proxmire, let's pose the question. If Christine O'Donnell were to get the votes of every voter in Delaware who has had a mortgage, rent, or tax problem -- and Mike Castle has had zero experience with this and wants the votes of those who have never had any of these problems: who is more in tune with the everyday problems of ordinary Delaware voters?

Is it perhaps worth connecting the dots? That somebody who has no experience with this, who is unenthusiastic about repealing ObamaCare but supports Cap and Trade is part of the reason the rest of the American people are having mortgage, tax, and rent problems in the first place?

William Proxmire had this game figured out once. One suspects the O'Donnell campaign may be getting it as well -- which is what accounts for the flurry of "negative" O'Donnell stories. Are they really "negative"? Or are they an indication that one candidate lives the average life up-close-and personal, and the other is clueless?

Just asking.

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