Chasing Charlie
04-26-2010
You may have seen this Washington Post article reprinted in your local newspaper this morning. It ostensibly talks about a rightward shift in New Hampshire’s Republican political discourse, but it mainly appears to be about Second District candidate (and former Rep.) Charlie Bass. It was no doubt inspired by his recent, highly-publicized embrace of tea party politics, which the piece dutifully recounts.
 
I must say that I don’t find the move by Bass to be particularly surprising. His strength as a politician has always been his ability to tack with the prevailing political winds. Bass has always been a bit of a chameleon that way, a hardnosed pragmatist at heart. The reason why this rightward shift in rhetoric seems novel for Bass is that this time he must run in a GOP primary, in order to advance to the general election in November. Over the course of a decade, we've gotten used to him running only as an incumbent in an increasingly Democratic district. The result has been Bass shifting incrementally to the left with each subsequent reelection bid, until the political environment finally swamped him in 2006.
 
So for now, Bass must embrace tea party politics and sound like a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. But assuming that he gets the Republican nomination, my guess is that he will once again pragmatically shift as necessary, in order to better reflect the majority view of the Second District, probably somewhere closer to the center of the ideological spectrum. If it turns out that moderates and independents in the district are still unhappy with the Democratic status quo in November, however, then Bass may be able to capitalize on that reality without having to move quite so far from his current position.


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