Campaign Contretemps

Appearances to the contrary, Katherine Harris doesn’t have an exclusive on controversy this Florida campaign season. Among others, there’s Tom Gallagher – he of questionable stock-trading ethics. Politicians, we are reminded, are always hostage to their pasts – especially when it comes to fund-raising and the mixing of business with public duties. Happens. Always will. The parties and the public will weigh and judge.

What was more surprising, however, was the self-inflicted heat now being taken by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis. Ethics will always be fair game, but it’s not an issue that resonates viscerally with most voters. But missing a Patriot Act vote – amid the ongoing war on terrorism — was an unconscionable political blunder. A gift-wrapped gaffe that will stalk Davis should he make it to the general election.

No matter how he spins it in an October debate, opting out of a closer-than-expected Patriot Act vote to play to the cameras after Gov. Jeb Bush’s State of the State speech will cost Davis. No Democrat, ironically even one who is supportive of the Patriot Act, can be seen as anything less than tough on national security. And highly symbolic votes always help. Conversely, choosing raw political expedience can only haunt.

What Davis and other sound-bitten candidates said after the governor’s speech has been old news now for a fortnight. Missing that vote, however, will peak in newsworthiness this fall.

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