Guess The Candidate

Dana Milbank has something of a blind item in his Washington Sketch column today in which he describes a meeting with a nameless Republican candidate “in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country” that is trying to distance himself from the Bush administration and his Republicans colleagues in Congress:

On the Iraq war: “It didn’t work. . . . We didn’t prepare for the peace.”

On the response to Hurricane Katrina: “A monumental failure of government.”

On the national mood: “There’s a palpable frustration right now in the country.”

It’s all fairly standard Democratic boilerplate — except the candidate is a Republican . And he’s getting all kinds of cooperation from the White House, the Republican National Committee and GOP congressional leaders.

Not that he necessarily wants it. “Well, you know, I don’t know,” the candidate said when asked if he wanted President Bush to campaign for him. Noting Bush’s low standing in his home state, he finally added: “To be honest with you, probably not.”

The candidate gave the luncheon briefing to nine reporters from newspapers, magazines and networks under the condition that he be identified only as a GOP Senate candidate. When he was pressed to go on the record, his campaign toyed with the idea but got cold feet. He was anxious enough to air his gripes but cautious enough to avoid a public brawl with the White House.

Still, his willingness to speak so critically, if anonymously, about the party he will represent on Election Day points to a growing sense among Republicans that if they are to retain their majorities in Congress, they may have to throw the president under the train in all but the safest, reddest states.

It’s not an ideological matter. Even as he berated the president, the candidate allowed that he opposes a pullout from Iraq, agrees with Bush’s veto of human embryonic stem cell research, and supports constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and flag burning.

“He’s the best!” cheered Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) when he stopped in to shake the candidate’s hand during the lunch yesterday.

But if such affection is mutual, the candidate did not always show it. “We’ve lost our way, we’ve gone to the well and we drank the water, and we shouldn’t have,” he said of congressional Republicans. “You don’t go to Congress to become the party that you’ve been fighting for 40 years.” Lamenting “the spending, the finger-pointing, not getting the bills passed,” he counseled: “Just shut up and get something done.”

Make sure you read the full piece, which has many hints as to whom this person could be, and then let’s hear whom you think it is in the comments. I know I have my guess.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru has a hint: “He’s running in a blue state.”

UPDATE: It’s Michael Steele.

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Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,


  1. Chaffee, DR-RI

  2. Greg Tinti says:

    Santorum is on the Laura Ingraham show right now and denied emphatically that the mystery Senator is him.

  3. Kent G. Budge says:

    What’s telling is that there are a number of possibilities.

  4. kathy says:

    My guess is Talent of Missouri

  5. Jon Henke says:

    It’s Steele, in Maryland.

    And good. The Republicans Party needs some internicine warfare to force them to think. Rigid conformity makes a Party lazy and corrupts the ideology.

  6. jules says:

    How fun–I love guessing games! It’s definitely Michael Steele. How do I know? Because 1) I’m a resident of the blue state in which he is running; and 2) I’ve heard him speak and this is the shrewd Republican strategy that he is using to get elected. What a great way to get campaign publicity–the mysterious anonymous Senate candidate! The problem is that he can disagree with the Republicans, but he doesn’t have any problem taking their fund raising dollars.