Campaign for Sale

Posted November 1, 2004 at 6:41pm

Since there are do-it-yourself kits to build everything else under the sun — cars, homes, canoes, tiki bars — why not a dark-horse Senate campaign kit? [IMGCAP(1)]

Art Small, the little-known Democratic candidate for Senate from Iowa, has no illusions about Election Day: He has already put his entire campaign for sale on eBay. The kit includes everything from Art Small for Senate posters and yard signs to the campaign fax machine, refrigerator and coffee maker — even his headquarters, and the RV he slept in and

drove all over the Hawkeye State. The eBay listing reads, “CAMPAIGN IN A VAN!! ALL YOU NEED TO RUN FOR US SENATE!!”

“Some politicians sell their votes,” the listing continues. “Some sell their souls. Art Small is selling … [e]verything you need to run a grass-roots campaign for U.S. Senate!” The RV also includes photos of Small, pens and Post-It notes, bug repellent, sunscreen and balloons, silly string, napkins, charcoal and other tailgate-party supplies, as well as bulk-mailing supplies and pre-coded maps of Iowa.

The Small campaign hopes to send a message to journalists and other naysayers in Iowa who dismissed the Democratic underdog’s campaign to unseat Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who received about $7 million worth of campaign contributions compared to Small’s $100,000. “All the coverage was about money,” Small’s campaign manager, Jennifer Hemmingsen, complained to HOH. “Well, if you guys wanted this to be a race for sale, then here it is.”

At press time, the highest bid for Small’s campaign was up to $3,550. A $1,000 deposit is required at time of close. The camper is available for pick-up in Iowa City in mid-November, according to the eBay listing. “All materials will be loaded into the THINK BIG – VOTE SMALL camper, ready to drive away. When you unload, you will be set to run for U.S. Senate!” it says.

And if the unthinkable happens? “If Art wins, this is something that could go to the Smithsonian,” Hemmingsen predicted.

RNC Election Party a Bust? Republican insiders are ticked off about tonight’s Republican National Committee 2004 Victory Celebration, or the lack thereof. Three senior Republican strategists — all three of whom typically make a Who’s Who in Washington list and most certainly a Who’s Who in GOP Circles list — who were not invited to the RNC party at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center are scratching their heads. Several other VIPs, including former Members of Congress, were told they are on a “waiting list” for tonight’s event, sources say.

Perhaps that’s because no one at the RNC seems to know anything about the party. RNC spokesman Christine Iverson told HOH she was not sure how many invitations were issued, or to whom they were sent. “It’s a ticketed event,” she said. “We’ll be distributing tickets to people who are interested in attending.” Basically, she said, if you have a ticket you are welcome to attend. But how exactly one obtains a ticket is anybody’s guess.

One problem with the party is that there may be more reporters invited than civilians. The RNC says it has approved credentials for 1,200 journalists (which is hard to believe, given that much of the working Washington press corps is on the campaign trail). And once inside the party, journalists will be quarantined in a filing center. “We can rotate you in and out of the party,” Iverson said.

One GOP heavy hitter who was not invited to the RNC election-night party said he will not pursue it given the event’s apparent disarray. Instead, he will attend a party for senior Bush campaign staff in Arlington, Va. — a party for which he got a proper invitation via mail.

(Of course, there’s always the Votergasm party at the Lucky Bar, where partygoers pledge to foreswear sex with any nonvoter for the next four years … and leave open the option of sex with a voter on Election Night.)

NASCAR Vote. Both candidates in the North Carolina Senate open-seat race have been vying for that crucial NASCAR Dad vote. Earlier this year, Democrat Erskine Bowles hopped in a stock car and rode around the track at speeds topping 160 mph, while his opponent, Rep. Richard Burr (R), dropped the flag at the Coca-Cola 600.

But the opposing generations of NASCAR drivers, rather than the candidates, seem to be the ones trash-talking each other on the trail. NASCAR legend Junior Johnson has been campaigning for Bowles, an old friend, riding with him on the “Red, White and Blue” campaign bus and firing up loyal supporters at rallies throughout Eastern North Carolina. In the meantime, the scion of the Earnhardt racing clan, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has been making get-out-the-vote calls for the GOP.

And what did Johnson have to say about that Earnhardt upstart at a Bowles rally in Lillington, N.C., last Saturday? “That boy is still suckin’ on a bottle,” Johnson said. “He don’t know which way is up.”

Vets for Kerry. A young Army captain has been playing a high-profile role in Sen. John Kerry’s campaign. Patrick Murphy recently left Iraq, where where he was prosecuting alleged war criminals as an Army lawyer, and has been spearheading Veterans for Kerry in Pennsylvania, one of the three most crucial states that will decide today’s election.

It’s a dicey route for Murphy to take, given that his name will remain on the “ready reserve” list for another three years, virtually guaranteeing that he’ll be recalled to Iraq if the war proceeds as is.

But Murphy, who turned 31 last week, is hoping the Kerry campaign will be a springboard for his own political aspirations too.

Murphy told HOH, “I do not ever disrespect President Bush because he’s my commander in chief. But I believe in John Kerry’s plan vehemently. He has a practical and smart plan to win the war in Iraq — and to kill Osama.” In addition to prosecuting war crimes, Murphy won a Bronze Star in February for his service in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Murphy has been traveling around Pennsylvania recruiting veterans to vote for Kerry. When he started back in July, internal polls showed Kerry lagging 30 points behind Bush among veterans. Today, the same internal polls have Kerry 2 points ahead. Murphy proudly takes credit for that shift. “We’ll have a beer at the legion hall and I’ll tell ’em why I believe in John Kerry. A lot of times it’s eye-opening for them,” Murphy said.

His idol is Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who, like Murphy, is a West Point graduate and who, also like Murphy, was a captain of the 82nd Airborne. “Public service is pretty terrific,” Murphy said. “Do I aspire to be somebody like Jack Reed? Yes. That would be awesome.”

Murphy is basing much of his decision on how Democrats fare today in Pennsylvania’s 8th and 13th districts. “If it doesn’t go our way, then they’re pushing Patrick Murphy for one of those seats,” he said. And with the intent of humor, which inevitably comes across as earnestness whenever a budding politician talks about himself, Murphy said, “But if Sen. Kerry wants to make me the next Bobby Kennedy, that’d be great.”

Murphy was one of the youngest faculty members at West Point, teaching law. Most recently the Kerry campaign has used his youth, speaking skills and telegenic looks to respond to Bush and his GOP supporters on the stolen munitions story in Iraq, pitting Murphy against former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has blamed the troops rather than the president.

If looks still get politicians elected, Murphy may succeed. As one Democratic staffer at the Kerry campaign office in Philadelphia confided to HOH, “He’s a hottie!”

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