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Political Animal

A State Holiday

By Brian Morton | Posted 3/16/2005

Oh, frabjous day! Put out the bunting! Call forth the parades! If there’s any moment that makes Maryland’s pundit class gleeful, it’s the day an open U.S. Senate seat arrives.

In case you somehow missed it, Sen. Paul Sarbanes announced last Friday that he will not be seeking re-election next year. In the land of the Old Line State’s punditocracy, this is the equivalent of the death of a Pope. In Maryland, an uncontested Senate seat comes along with the same frequency as Halley’s comet, and with the same amount of exuberant ranting and lighting of fireworks.

The TV news directors will be dragging Matthew Crenson of Johns Hopkins, Richard Vatz of Towson University, Herb Smith of McDaniel College, and maybe even Ron Walters of the University of Maryland out from the kitchen gulag of the pundit party and into our living rooms, where they can opine and pontificate about What It All Means.

As someone who has spent a good part of his life in that same kitchen, I can attest to the joy I feel at this moment. For too long I’ve had to watch the Sunpapers (and I mean “Sunpapers,” as I miss the days of The Evening Sun joining in the garden party) try to anoint the next person to ascend to the heady heights of political stardom that is the bathroom-sized chamber of Maryland’s political elite. Now, we get to look forward to the breathless hypotheses of media pundits for the better part of a year and a half as to who will succeed one of the state’s most storied and solid politicians—one whose record and conduct even the most mouth-breathing right-wing loon jobs (get well soon, Mr. Kinsolving) can’t argue about. And look at who’s lining up for the job:

So far, The Sun and The Washington Post have, on the Democratic side alone, named Ben Cardin, C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, Al Wynn, Elijah Cummings, and Kweisi Mfume. Martin O’Malley, Doug Duncan, and Steny Hoyer also have been mentioned, and each has taken great and almost instantaneous pains to take himself out of the race (as has Wynn): O’Malley and Duncan because they’re getting ready for the Clash of the Titans in their quest to push Robert Ehrlich out of the governor’s mansion, and Hoyer because he’s spent a long time waiting to become majority leader in the unlikely event the Democrats manage to retake the House of Representatives.

And the Republicans? Woo-hoo—they’ve got a bench as deep as the water two feet from shore at Sandy Point State Park. The national party is burning up the phone lines trying to get Bobby Smooth to get his No. 2, Michael “Our Black Guy” Steele, or even his wife, Kendel Ehrlich, to run for the seat. Why is this? Look around: There’s E.J. Pipkin, who spent buckets of his own money to discover that most of the state was perfectly capable of asking, “E.J. Who?” And, of course, there is—nearest and dearest to our black little hearts—Alan Keyes, who, after his recent foray to Illinois and his trouncing by Barack Obama, can come home to the glory of another sound beating at the hands of a Marylander.

Plus, if Alan Keyes comes back, I can think of at least 20 more minutes of comedy material I can get out of it.

Q) Which of these is not like the other: a drill, a screwdriver, Alan Keyes, or a slice of toast?

A) A slice of toast is not a tool.

Just think of it—18 months of unmitigated speculation about each party primary, and then two more months on top of that about the chances that another perfect storm might come along and land a Republican in the U.S. Senate chair from the state of Maryland. But it’s not likely. One of the oldest rules in politics is “You can’t beat somebody with nobody,” and the Republicans in Maryland have got a whole bench full of nobodies. But that won’t stop us pundits from rejoicing for a year and a half about our liberation from the kitchen, where all the political geeks get bottled up at parties. So let the good times roll.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

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Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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