Tuesday, October 12, 2010

He's Not a Witch Either

By Mike Dorf

The NY Times has an interesting profile of Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate who got the nomination more or less by default.  The core of the Times story is that Coons has been avoiding direct attacks on Christine O'Donnell, essentially letting the media and his opponent's old videotape do the job for him, while he focuses mostly on his own solid, if boring, substance.  You could have written more or less the same story about Andrew Cuomo's approach to dealing with Carl Paladino (who is also not a witch, or so I'm told).

Cuomo, of course, starts out much better known than Coons for a number of reasons: His father was governor; he was a Cabinet Secretary; he ran for governor himself a few years ago; he has been a successful attorney general; and perhaps most importantly, he seems to have avoided most of the scandals in which NY state politics has been embroiled in the last few years.  But the thing is, Coons will almost certainly end up a star--not just by defeating O'Donnell but in what he accomplishes in the Senate.  If he does, remember that you heard it here first.

I got to know Coons a little when we were both in college because I sometimes debated against him.  He was terrific: knowledgeable, smart, and extremely witty.  Of course, that information is a quarter century out of date, but while poor public speakers can become serviceable or even good at it, I doubt that someone who was a first-rate public speaker at 20 would somehow lose it at 47.

Perhaps more importantly, Coons does not have the resume of someone who always wanted to go into politics.  I never knew him very well, so I could be wron, but based on what's in the public record, he looks like someone who was perfectly happy with a private-sector career and involvement in public-spirited projects on the side.  I'm sure he has ambition, but I doubt he has the kind of driving needs-to-run-for-President ambition that can make a Senator an insufferable blowhard.

Again, I realize this is based on very little, but I suspect that within a decade, Chris Coons will be a national political figure, while Christine O'Donnell will be either the answer to a trivia question or the host of a FoxNews show.