No, I'm not talking about the lead in the polls, or the lead in the fundraising. I'm talking about taking the lead, as one partner must do on the dance floor. It is time for Mike Arcuri to stand up, hold his head up straight, and demonstrate some leadership.
The essence of leadership is the ability to define the terms of whatever competition one enters. In a race, a leader sets the pace for others to follow, even if he is not at the head of the pack. In a political campaign, a leader defines the issues that matter and forces his opponent to address them.
Right now, Michael Arcuri's campaign is allowing Ray Meier to take the lead. Arcuri has no choice, because he doesn't have any leading moves prepared himself.
The issue that leads the discussion at present is whether the Arcuri for Congress campaign should have taken a check from someone who turned out to be a convicted felon. A number of connected checks, all from people connected to an insurance company under investigation for fraud, were accepted by Michael Arcuri at first, but then, when questions were raised, were returned.
Although many Democrats don't want to admit it, suspicions about the donations are quite valid. There are signs that there's more to the donations than meets the eye. An article in the Observer-Dispatch makes the point quite well in describing the strange behavior of one of the donors, Michele Consiglio:
"I personally made the contribution because I feel Mr. Arcuri is the man for the job, and it came out of my money," said Consiglio, 45.
Consiglio declined to give her salary. The mean average for a paralegal salary in New York state is $47,460, according to the state Department of Labor.
When asked why Arcuri is the best candidate for the job, Consiglio said she had another call to take and asked an Observer-Dispatch reporter to hold."
The article further points out that Consiglio appears not to be registered to vote.
The important thing is that there is no evidence yet that Michael Arcuri did anything that could at all be regarded as a crime. These issues of campaign financing, and who wrote what check, working for what employer won't stick in voters' minds - if voters are given anything else to think about.
Michael Arcuri's problem with this issue is due to the fact that he hasn't given voters much else to think about. All summmer long, with no primary opponent, Michael Arcuri should have been busy defining the debate, communicating powerful positions on the issues that matter to people across the district. Arcuri has been slow on his feet, ignoring many opportunities to land solid blows against Meier, staying silent on most issues, and wasting his time with the NYRI issue, which doesn't motivate voters outside the corner of the district where Arcuri and Meier both already have established political identities.
Jordan Karp, Arcuri's campaign spokesperson, says that voters don't want to hear about who wrote what check to which candidate. Rather, Karp says, voters want to hear about issues like the war in Iraq and health care.
Karp's right. The trouble is that the Arcuri for Congress campaign hasn't really been doing much on the issues of the war in Iraq and health care. Michael Arcuri has yet to develop a comprehensive, coherent, and compelling policy for dealing with either the war in Iraq or health care... or if he has, he sure hasn't done a good job communicating about them. Take a look at Arcuri's web site, and you'll see the two same old tired sound bites that offer vague statements but not much in the way of clear solutions.
When Les Roberts dropped out of the race and endorsed Michael Arcuri, it was suggested that Arcuri's campaign would make use of the considerable experience and expertise that Roberts possesses on both the Iraq War and health care, in order to develop impressive policy positions in both these areas. To date, Arcuri has yet to do so, and that's been a foolish, arrogant choice. Arcuri may have had unbeatable muscle in his political machine, but in terms of content, he was clearly outclassed by Roberts. Arcuri's policy weakness has made him vulnerable and reactive when he ought to be commanding.
We Democrats have been hearing for too long now that we need not worry, that everything is going according to plan, and that the Arcuri campaign has some secret ingenious plan that will make everything all right. Everything is not all right. In a swing district campaign for an open seat in a year in which the Republicans are more unpopular than they have ever been in living memory, the Democratic candidate ought to be making a vigorous performance and maneuvering the right wing candidate into a corner.
It's long past time for Arcuri's campaign to stop making excuses and start taking the initiative. I've been writing articles promoting Arcuri's campaign on this blog for weeks now, though, as longtime readers know, I'm not wild about the way that Arcuri is runnning for office. From the beginning, Arcuri has taken too much for granted, and relied too much on behind-the-scenes politicking.
The reason I'm writing in support of Arcuri's candidacy is not because I've got some naive idea that Arcuri willl be a great member of the House of Representatives. He won't. But, Arcuri has the potential to be a good member of the House, and that's a lot better than can be said of Ray Meier.
I've been working, stretching, searching for reasons that voters in our district ought to vote for Arcuri. I came up with a list of 20 reasons, and the sad thing is that most of those reasons didn't really come from Arcuri's campaign at all. At just over 100 days now until Election Day, that's not how it ought to be. Arcuri ought to have plenty of information supporting his campaign available, ready for supporters to use. Instead, Arcuri's Democratic supporters have to make it up for themselves on the fly. The pro-Arcuri bloggers have largely dried up, making one or two reactive posts per week. Arcuri isn't giving them much to say, and they seem tired of doing all the work themselves.
Campaigning on evenings and weekends isn't cutting it. Michael Arcuri has a job that demands more than 40 hours a week of attention, and that's rough. On the other hand, it's the job that he was elected to do just last November - the job that he's using as his platform for this campaign. Arcuri can't very well quit or take a leave of absence from being District Attorney now. So, it's Arcuri, not Meier, who is in a corner. Perhaps Arcuri ought to have anticipated these problems before he started his campaign.
So, I hate to nitpick, but if Michael Arcuri would stand up and take the lead, he wouldn't have to worry about nitpicking.