Friday, October 29, 2010

Hands-On Politics: Clinton and Palin Get Touchy

Did former president Bill Clinton privately ask Kendrick Meek, the Democrat running for senate in Florida to step out of the race and endorse independent candidate Charlie Crist?

Will Sarah Palin's upgraded endorsement of Republican senate candidate Joe Miller revive his sagging campaign?

These two intriguing questions, coming from opposite corners of the country, come amid uncertain polling and TV-ad blitzes marking the end of the 2010 mid-term election. Visually, they are represented in these two pictures, both from today's New York Times:

Meek and Clinton, by John Raoux/AP
 This is Clinton, arm-in-arm with Meek at a Orlando campaign stop, in a photo by John Raoux for Associated Press. According to reports, the former president asked Meek to leave the three-way race for senate in order to clear the path for Crist, a former moderate Republican governor who was defeated in his party's primary by the more conservative Marco Rubio. Apparently, Meek has decided to stay in the race. The image belies the back-room deal-making; the traditional political embrace is a visual message only, as if often the case.

Miller and Palin, by John Moore/Getty Images
Palin's touch in Alaska may be deft, or daft. Her initial Facebook endorsement of Tea Partier Miller helped him oust Senator Lisa Murkowski, Palin's queen-bee political rival, in the Republican primary, and that seemed deft at the time. But Murkowski started a write-in campaign and the bearded Miller started emitting vibes weird even by the standards of Alaska, or Florida, or New York, or Arizona, or Nevada. Maybe especially Nevada. Or Kentucky.

In this picture, Palin lays on some skin in person, another piece of political theater meant for the cameras only.

While the images--or the events the images document--may be disingenuous, they both represent endgame moments in a fractured, unpredictable political season. We can simply view them as such.

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