Representative Gabrielle Giffords is still in the hospital, but some of her most ardent backers are so enamored of the idea of her running for the Senate that they describe the inevitable campaign commercials: the deep-voiced narrator recounting what happened to her, the images of her wounded, then recovering and speaking into the camera alongside her astronaut husband to call on Arizonans to unite…
While it might be wishful thinking, Ms. Giffords’s noncampaign is already having a major effect on Arizona politics; other prospective Democratic candidates say they feel compelled not to jump in unless she bows out, allowing Republicans to get a head start organizing their campaigns.
“I’m in but only if she’s not,” said one prospective Democratic candidate, who spoke of his deliberations but insisted that he not be named given the fluid nature of the race. “A Democrat running against her would be doomed.”..
“We could do no better for a candidate,” said Terry Goddard, a Democrat who lost a bid for governor last year. “She’s beyond partisanship.”…
She would no doubt benefit from sympathy she would receive as one of 19 people shot that morning. Political analysts in both parties say her rivals would face the difficult task of campaigning against her without appearing too hard-edged.
“Elections are about emotion more than logic, and she will attract a lot of people to her because of that,” said David Leibowitz, an Arizona political consultant who works for Democrats and Republicans.
I of course wish Giffords the best. And if, after making a full recovery, she then wants to run for higher office, more power to her. And for all I know, she may make a darned fine senator.
But that isn’t what’s going on here. Giffords has become an immensely more attractive Senate candidate because she got shot in the head. And, frankly, because she’s still recovering. These whispers actually started weeks ago, before it was even clear that she’d be able to talk again. Try to think of another profession where something like that would immediately make you more qualified for a promotion, before your colleagues even knew what sort of recovery was even possible.
There are many laudable, commendable things to be said about someone who can survive, and then recover from, a point-blank bullet to the head. One thing you can’t say is that any of that will necessarily make Giffords a better legislator. It will, however, unquestionably make her a better candidate, for all the reasons the sleazy political operatives mention above: She’ll get sympathy votes. It will be nearly impossible for an opponent to attack her, even substantively, without looking like an ass. She’ll get a ton of sympathetic press.
And that the qualifications and characteristics that make for a good candidate so starkly differ from the qualifications and characteristics you want in a legislator is really a huge part of the problem.