"Mudcat": Webb is Secretariat; Dems can retake the South

bumped from the diaries -- jonathan... we don't have a dog in this primary between James Webb and Harris Miller, but this is an interesting post worth checking out

In today's Roanoke Times, there's an excellent, entertaining profile of Jim Webb senior advisor - and Roanoke County developer - Dave "Mudcat" Saunders (pictured at the far left), one of the most colorful characters I've ever had the privilege of meeting.    Besides advising people like Mark Warner - in his 2001 run for Governor - and Jim Webb for Senate, Saunders is now coming out with a book entitled, "Foxes in the Henhouse : How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must Do to Run 'em Out." The book is co-written with another senior advisor to both Mark Warner in 2001 and Jim Webb in 2006 - Harvard Professor Steve Jarding (the guy in the blue shirt next to Mudcat in the picture).   The book is avaliable in bookstores on March 28, and the Saunders/Jarding team is gearing up to  promote it.  

This should be an extremely entertaining book, if nothing else.  As "Mudcat" says, "Steve wrote the book; I added the cuss words."  As the Roanoke Times points out:

This is the same Mudcat who, as a young sportswriter, asked NFL quarterback great Johnny Unitas why he dried his privates before his face after a post-game shower.

The same Mudcat who, once he decided to stop killing himself with booze, made and lost millions selling real estate and helped Northern Virginia Democrat Mark Warner get elected governor of a red state by, among several other vintage Mudcat ideas, penning a bluegrass campaign song.

I actually had the privilege of listening to Mudcat play me a recording of the song - he wrote the words in the shower and set them to the music of "Dooley," originally sung by the Dillards of The Andy Griffith Show.   The song was a hit, and helped burnish Northern Virginia high tech executive Mark Warner's rural "cred" in the 2001 election.  Sample line: "Get ready to shout it from the coal mines to the stills/Here comes Mark Warner, the hero of the hills." Ha.

Now, Mudcat and Saunders are teaming up again to elect Jim Webb to the U.S. Senate.  If I were George "California Cowboy" Allen, I'd be afraid.  Very afraid.   Jarding and Saunders believe, as I do, that Democrats must broaden their base, specifically in rural America.  As Saunder says, "The swing vote is what's left, and it lives in rural America.  These people have been voting Republican, but they're not really Republicans, and we need to show 'em why."

Saunders certainly has a unique way of expressing his rural, good-ol' boy, progressive populism.  For instance, here's classic Mudcat:  "To me, as far as gays are concerned, ... what's two queer guys gettin' married got to do with me losing my job?"   Ha, excellent point.  Last time I checked, married men in this country weren't being lured away from their wives by gay guys, but by other women and their own "cheatin' hearts."  Can't blame gays for that one!

More seriously, Mudcat believes that - as the Roanoke Times reporter writes - "Democrats need to reframe the debate and start talking about what rural Americans really worry about," although the way Mudcat puts it is much more colorful: "It's unbelievable that Democrats can't figure out that what we're really worried about is health care and jobs, that Mama's got to get a second job and how we're getting Junior to the dentist." You said it, bro.

On politicians in general, Saunders believes that voters are looking for "a dog that'll hunt." And Saunders strongly believes that Jim Webb is exactly that kind of dog.  Or maybe a horse - Saunders mixes animal metaphors by saying of Webb, "The guy is Secretariat." A hunting horse-dog?   Hell, I'll take it!  Ha.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Mudcat talks about bringing "black Democrats and Southern Bubbas together to talk about how to get this race thing behind us and quit letting the Republicans put this wedge between us."   Jim Webb, meanwhile, wrote in 2004:  "the greatest realignment in modern politics would take place rather quickly if the right national leader found a way to bring the Scots-Irish and African Americans to the same table, and so to redefine a formula that has consciously set them apart for the past two centuries." Fascinating.

Looing ahead to 2008, Saunders has an interesting take on Hillary Clinton and how she can win the White House - he's promised to tell me the whole story sometime, and I can't wait.   Basically, though, Mudcat believes that Hillary has proven she can win over "Bubba up in upstate New York." In addition, Mudcat believes that "No one should discount the fact that her last name's Clinton."

The bottom line is that Davd "Mudcat" Saunders is a colorful, larger-than-life charater who happens to be a political genius.  Saunders and his friend Steve Jarding represent a huge asset to Jim Webb as he seeks to win the "Four Virginias" - Richmond, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia.  They've already proven they can do it - with Mark Warner in 2001 -  and now they're going to do it again with Jim Webb.   First Virginia, then the rest of America.  Watch out Republicans, cuz Mudcat's on the loose for the Democrats and he's "ready to shout it from the coal mines to the stills!"

Tags: Bubba, Dave Mudcat Saunders, Hillary, Jim Webb, Senate, South, steve jarding, Virginia (all tags)



Real Spine or Squishy Mush?

So far, Webb is long on sound bites in the general direction denizens of these blogs would like, but short on any specifics.

For example, Webb is for civil unions but won't commit to a stance on Virginia's marriage amendment.  I don't expect Webb to get in front of a rainbow parade.  That would be dumb Virginia politics.  But taking a "do no harm" position against the amendment would be one indication of his spine.  He won't ever have to vote on the state amendment, but he could at least make a clear statement against it.

Even more, he talks about providing oversight to the administration, but so far, fudges to leave himself wiggle room on Feingold's censure proposal.  Does Webb support the proposal, and would he support it if elected?  

Talking about more investigation is a non-starter, since no investigation will occur while the rubber stamp republicans control the committees.

Webb should make a clear statement in support of censure to clear any confusion and establish his spine to the netroots audience he seeks to court.  Sound bites without commitments to specific action are too easy to walk back from.  What is Webb made of, as a candidate, not just a soldier?  We don't know.  If he wants netroots support, he needs to become more clear.  We're not unsophisticated, and not an ATM.

I'm a Virginia blogger, and I'm waiting for some answers.

by Pachacutec 2006-03-19 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Real Spine or Squishy Mush?

BTW, I'm not trying to be a prick about this.  I'd be happy to be persuaded.  But right now Webb is making himself a blank slate, and that's not enough.  He is just getting ramped up, so he has a little time.  But the questions need answering before too long.

by Pachacutec 2006-03-19 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Real Spine or Squishy Mush?
It's just so much more than Miller has laid out - I can't even see the comparison.  From what I've been able to garner from both candidates -- Webb seems more progressive and seems to be the only one who could possible beat Allen.
He's got my vote (and $$)
by nova dem 2006-03-20 06:53PM | 0 recs
Calculation vs Conviction

Americans want politicians with convictions (without Club Fed forwarding addresses), but they will also support politicians with calculated positions -- so long as the equivocation is not done in public.

John Kerry came out and strongly supported the Censure Resolution -- until he started second guessing the wisdom of supporting a rival. The equivocating John Kerry is now debating the issue with himself, showing everyone why he was such a lousy candidate.

People want politicians who have convictions, but they want those convictions to be the same as their own -- which is why Gay Marriage is such a perfect wedge issue club for the GOP.

It's hard for a politician to finesse Gay Marriage -- if you support it, you will be tarred as a decadent liberal; if you oppose it, you demoralize the base; only a forcefully delivered it's none of our damn business may be a way for Red State Democrats to find an effective middle ground.

Still, supporting Russ Feingold on the Censure issue should be a no brainer for James Webb -- it will endear him to the base, and it ties the Bush anchor chain around the neck of his opponent.

Censuring Bush is such a winner of an issue for the Democrats, it is mystifying why the DC Dems are distancing themselves from it.

Maybe they were for it, before they were against it . . .

by ck 2006-03-19 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Real Spine or Squishy Mush?

I like the idea of Webb, but I haven't been convinced. Where is he on choice? On the minimum wage? On education? I've seen him do some interviews, and he was not impressive. I'm still a little concerned about a guy who switches parties about as often as he changes his socks.

Plus, I wasn't pleased with what he had to say about Kerry and VVAW in 2004. Came across pretty Swiftboat-ish.

by bluenc 2006-03-19 07:13PM | 0 recs
Rural and urban versus ex-urban and suburban

That's the ticket!

by Nazgul35 2006-03-20 02:56AM | 0 recs


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