Fishing in another’s pond

By Sam Patten | Jul 30, 2020

An introduction from Reade Brower...

Welcome Sam Patten and his first op-ed, "Fishing in Another’s Pond."

At Courier Publications we seek differing viewpoints. Patten's no-nonsense approach to politics fits the commonsense mantra.

Going forward, Patten will have his own space every other week, with “Common Sense” returning on Patten's "off-weeks."

Enjoy the discourse; welcome back to Maine, Sam (Patten's father, Bill, is former owner of Camden Herald and Belfast Republican Journal).

“The most valuable possession you own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.” — Carlos Santana, musician (b. 1947)


I vividly remember one image from the 1992 Republican convention in Houston, Texas, perhaps because it is the first time I can remember identifying the moment when the tides were changing.

George H.W. Bush was never one to stoke the base, and it showed on the drab convention floor where delegates struggled to stay awake. Whatever network I was watching it on suddenly switched coverage to a cutaway of challenger Bill Clinton helping ex-President Jimmy Carter build houses somewhere in Georgia for Habitat for Humanity. It was a very brief segment, but I suddenly realized in a split second that the election was over.

Bill Clinton was fishing in Bush’s pond, and you can only do that when you are politically strong. His wife lost the presidency for the second time some 24 years later by campaigning in states like Arizona then a far reach for a Democrat at the expense of Michigan and Wisconsin, which she should have won but didn’t. (According to former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Arizona is now trending against Republicans).

What was an unrealistic stretch in 2016, is now within the realm of the possible for Democrats.

With their hard-hitting TV and digital ads, the ostensibly renegade Republican-run Lincoln Project is laying down much of the ground fire for Joe Biden right now. Having spent my own political life as a “Republican in Name Only,” it is nice to see RINOs dishing it for a change.

But I also worry it may backfire if it appears less like Sen. Richard Shelby telling Alabamians to vote against Republican nominee Roy Moore in 2017 and more like a trick.

From before his election in 2016, I knew in my gut it was counter-productive to mock and attack Trump’s supporters not because one ought be afraid of the reaction, but that’s what The Establishment has been doing to them longer than anyone can remember. What is the goal of such an exercise, to shame them into submission? Pro tip: That never happens.

Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson went on the Don Lemon show earlier this year and mocked southerners as simple rubes who vote for Trump because they’re dumb.

In doing so, he may have made New York media maven Tina Brown titter, but he also insulted millions of voters, which an actual political consultant would be loath to do. For Republicans to break Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment (“Thou shalt not talk ill of thy fellow Republican”), it’s going to take more than this.

This laudable if imprecise effort to get Republicans to jump ship offers a great case study on fishing in another’s pond. You need to start with the right bait.

A full-page ad for U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon that has run in some Maine papers lists former Susan Collins voters who pledged their support to Gideon this time.

I know I’ve been away for awhile, but when I squinted to read the names from places I once knew well, I couldn’t recognize any. The ad was clearly an attempt to “prime the pump” in encouraging defections among Republicans and independents just days after the Democratic primary. It’s the kind of thing you only do if you’ve got all your main bases covered.

The tactic works both ways. Perhaps Collins’ only real shot at reelection rests with Biden voters who might split their ticket, particularly in the first district. The question then becomes whether she can afford to count on that. Maine used to be a state where you could vote for both Bill Cohen and George Mitchell, but whether or not those days are over we’ll only know in November.

As for the national effort, the Lincoln Project is not alone. Mother Jones reported this week that George W. Bush was about to come out for Biden, the Left has been making noises to this effect for over a month now. That may either be true or simply projection, but more recognizable Republicans will have to step forward and advocate a break with the president for such campaigns to work.

Fishing in someone else’s pond implies a lack of permission. A successful parallel campaign based in this concept actually gives Republicans permission to do what many feel they probably must. That someone is bothering to come a courting means our polarized political reality in America may not be as grim as once thought.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant, who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators. He recently completed his sentence for charges brought by the Mueller probe.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Philip J McElhaney | Jul 30, 2020 22:13

Bush publicly supporting Biden? Now there's the mother of all middle digits,

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