Tropical Storm Ernesto, despite its lack of hurricane status, is dumping large quantities of badly needed rain on the mid-Atlantic this morning. The sudden cooling seems to have unblocked my cranial logjam, and now I'm deciding which of a half-dozen topics I can't leave for last.
The race to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Paul Sarbanes is at the top of my talking points this morning, because the crowded Democrat field has pulled into the final two weeks of the primary campaign sounding more like Monty Python than The West Wing. Polls, pundits, and common sense all converge on the reality of a two-man race between Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin, but that doesn't stop the also-rans from demanding attention.
Last night, the Maryland League of Women Voters sponsored a debate among the Democrats, but only the aforementioned two met their established criterion of polling at least 15% support in the weeks before the debate. Three minor candidates noisily and publicly protested the decision at a public rally in Annapolis, but the League stood firm.
Allan Lichtman tried to make the most of the situation, but it may just have backfired on him. Lichtman is probably the only one of the minor candidates anyone outside Maryland has ever heard of. If he stuck to his day job, as a history professor at American University, you wouldn't have heard of him either. But Lichtman is also that cable TV talking head with the annoying voice and the weird hair, who shows up regularly on CNN and MSNBC, flogging his goofy "Keys" system of predicting election results (not to be confused with Alan Keyes, who is another bizarrerie of Maryland politics). He has never polled higher than 3%, he had raised less than $300,000 in a race where one of his junior league competitors has spent $5 million of his own money, and unless he's certifiably insane he could never have regarded this race as anything but a publicity stunt.
(Despite the evidence of your own eyes, these gentlemen are not, left to right, Tim Gunn of Project Runway and Michael Kinsley of Crossfire being studiously ignored by Senate candidate Allan Lichtman. They are Senate candidate Dennis F. Rasmussen and Senate candidate Josh Rales being studiously ignored by Senate candidate Allan Lichtman.)
He's got publicity now. The three excluded candidates reappeared at the debate site in Owings Mills, and Lichtman brought a posse that included his wife, Karyn Strickland. For years, Strickland was head of Maryland NARAL, and no doubt she has much experience of her own in staging political protest stunts. So when the Baltimore County police moved in to arrest the party for criminal trespass she shouted out advice on the proper response, advice that was captured by local radio reporters and played nonstop on the AM airwaves this morning.
Lichtman will never, I predict, be able to live down the fact that he is the man whose wife stood on the steps of the Maryland Public Television studios and bellowed: "Allan, go limp! Allan!! Go limp!!!"
The only possible career move for him now is to film a Viagra ad with Bob Dole.