"Society is frivolous ... but if I go to see an ingenious man, I shall think myself poorly entertained if he give me nimble pieces of benevolence and etiquette; rather he shall stand stoutly in his place, and let me apprehend, if it were only his resistance; know that I have encountered a new and positive quality."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, on Character
Months ago, many individuals, including myself, made the easy call that Joe Manchin (D) and John Raese (R) would be representing their respective parties in the general election. Easy call. Primary fields were weak and both were the odds on favorites to win. However, those same predictions included the notion that Manchin, the current governor, would wipe the floor with Raese's face.
Suddenly, public opinion polls are revealing Raese has gained considerable ground and in some instances, publications are reporting Raese might actually have pulled even or perhaps taken a lead against Manchin (see: Rasmussen Polling or Public Policy Polling). How could someone like Raese make up a massive double digit deficit in such a short time? More importantly, could he be a genuine representative of West Virginia?
My first belief is West Virginians, like many Americans, are frustrated with the perceived lack of progress from President Obama's administration. Readers can make their observations and conclusions about Obama. However, no one can deny the angst being stirred up by Tea Partiers and disaffected Democrats who believe the folks in Washington, D.C. are spending the country into oblivion while not enacting any effective policies the people want.
Raese's strategy against Manchin is to link him to President Obama. Raese's major tagline for each of his television commercials stated, "I won't be a rubber stamp for Obama." Nevermind the fact most West Virginians may not realize what a 'rubber stamp' is, but the big surpise (to me, anyway) is his strategy appears to be working. Without actually stating what he will do if elected, Raese has gained considerable points against Obama ... err, I mean Manchin.
Raese's website provides a great indicator of his lack of any formed policy plans. He has five major issues listed on his site, and I will address four of them (I'm not even touching what Raese calls "Obamacare").
1. A Pro-life conservative -- The exact words: "John is a very strong pro-life conservative. He believes deeply in the sanctity of life. A family man with a loving wife and two wonderful children, John believes life is God’s greatest gift. That is why he and his wife Liz are life-long supporters of West Virginians For Life as well as the Susan B. Anthony list, two fine organizations dedicated to fighting for the rights of the unborn child."
Note that nowhere is the term "abortion" used. Stop being weak on your position and state you do not approve of abortions. Also, I understand the importance of this issue to many voters in this state (myself included) but I know this issue cannot be addressed by the Senate, but by the courts.
2. Immigration -- His stance: "While the Federal Government is suing the State of Arizona, criminals and drug dealers are pouring over our borders. There is no negotiation here – it is a basic responsibility of the United States Government to protect our borders. No comprehensive immigration plan is possible until all of our borders are secure."
No statement here exists on what Raese would like to do about immigration. And though this is an important national issue, should this be a top priority for West Virginians? I don't believe it should be. Because of the vague nature of Raese's position, I called his office in Morgantown for clarification on this and other issues.
When I spoke to a field represenative at the office, he spoke of how Raese disagreed with the clause of the 14th Amendment that allowed citizenship to anyone born in the States. I can see the logic in this, but the representative referred to children born to illegal aliens as "anchor babies." Furthermore, he could not provide any plan on immigration other than his statement about the 14th Amendment.
3. Jobs -- Raese's site states, "The jobless rate across the nation, and especially here in West Virginia, is spiraling upward. At just 3.6% in November of 2007 the unemployment rate in West Virginia has more than doubled ballooning to 8.6% by this summer. West Virginia’s engine to growth is small and medium sized businesses that are encouraged to innovate and create. More government, more regulation and more taxes are never the answer."
Raese's people have done a great job with their verbs and adjectives, but their numbers need a little help. To say that West Virginia's unemployment rate is "spiraling upward" is a falsehood. While his numbers are correct, they are misleading. West Virginia's unemployment rate spiked at 10.9% in February of 2010, but has since decreased to it's current level of 8.6%. Despite this spike during the winter of 2010, the unemployment levels in the state have stayed relatively stable since the start of 2009. (If you are interested in unemployment statistics for West Virginia, please see workforcewv.org.
Moreover, when Raese's representive was asked about how to stimulate job growth in the state, the only suggestion he had was to give tax breaks to businesses to come to the state. I do agree with this position, but I commented that West Virginia's state government could do the same this already if they wanted. He has no real reply and continued to ramble about tax breaks.
4. Run Away [sic] Debt -- Raese's position: "Every West Virginia family is forced to stay within a budget – live within their means. That simple idea has been lost for years in Washington. The current Federal debt is more than $13.2 trillion dollars and is projected to reach nearly $20 trillion by 2015. We cannot choke a fragile economy with a bigger tax burden from political leaders who have demonstrated a dangerous and irresponsible approach to our national debt."
I find the title of the category very humerous -- but again, his description of his stance tells voters nothing about how he would reduce the debt other than he isn't a fan of taxes. I can understand that but tell us what you would do? Also, not every West Virginian lives within a budget. I'm quite certain Raese, as a millionaire, doesn't understand what it means to live within a budget.
Raese, who has never held a public office, seems to have a puncher's chance to win and now it appears, the election hinges not on the issues, but people's opinions of President Obama. While Manchin isn't my favorite candidate and has some flawed information on his own website, I am frustrated by the lack of a viable challenger. Raese's campaign ads should read: Vote for me because I really stand for nothing.
Raese himself would not even be in a position to challenge to for the Senate seat if not for his tremendous personal war chest. Current spending figures from the Federal Election Commission show Raese's campaign expenditures are comprised of nearly 72% of his own money (http://www.opensecrets.org/). Though wealthy citizens certainly have every right to run for office, Raese touts himself as a true West Virginian. Most West Virginians are not millionaires and have homes in three states (Colorado, Florida, West Virginia).
Finally, I asked Raese's representative about the assertions pertaining to the Raese family not living primarily in West Virginia. I was told Raese listed our state as his primary residences, but his two children attend a private school in Florida.
I don't know John Raese personally but after examining his views on various issues, I have serious doubts about his character. He stands "stoutly" for nothing new or positive. In fact, I can't figure out what he stands for at all. He only plays on West Virginia's fears of the current economic crisis and offers no leadership qualities.
And as Emerson also stated, "No change of circumstances can repair a defect of character." Putting Raese into the Senate offers no hope for those in West Virginia. I hope he loses. That being said, I don't know who is in more dire need of character -- John Raese or West Virginia for listening to him.