WASHINGTON, July 22 — The tables were loaded with untouched platters of food as Senator Elizabeth Dole rose this week to introduce her party’s Senate candidate from Nebraska. Sixty people were supposed to be at the fund-raiser, but Mrs. Dole, the host and leader of the Republican effort to hold the Senate this fall, found just 18 people scattered across an expanse of empty carpet.
Mrs. Dole has been a nearly unstoppable star for 25 years: the secretary of both transportation and labor, the head of the Red Cross and a popular senator from North Carolina, never mind the wife of Bob Dole, the former Senate majority leader and Republican presidential candidate.
But going into the most fiercely competitive Congressional election in 12 years, some Republicans say Mrs. Dole is faltering in her latest job, as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money, recruits candidates, plots strategy and shapes the party’s message.
She has been lapped in fund-raising by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The latest filing, on Thursday, showed Democrats with $37.7 million on hand, compared with $19.9 million for Republicans....
She failed to find strong candidates to run against vulnerable Senate Democrats in at least four states, a shortcoming that could also be partly attributed to the White House, which has often played a crucial role in candidate recruitment....
In interviews, Republican senators voiced support for Mrs. Dole but made it clear they were nervous about the months ahead.
“I’m going to say it’s going well, because at this point in time, that’s what you need to say,” said Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, who earlier this year publicly criticized Mrs. Dole’s recruiting efforts....
Other Republicans had harsher views. “Look, we have a lot of Republicans who are on the ropes, this has not been a spectacular year of recruiting, we are way behind in fund-raising,” said Pat Toomey, the president of the Club for Growth, a conservative political action committee. “I don’t see a lot to brag about”....
Mrs. Dole said some of her recruiting failures had been out of her hands. Even before the cycle began she was counting on Mike Johanns, then the popular Nebraska governor, to challenge Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat. She was surprised when President Bush nominated Mr. Johanns as secretary of agriculture.
“It was like a dagger to the heart,” she said.
Wow. That article's pretty damn hard on Ricketts. First, it uses the embarrassing turn-out at his D.C. fundraiser to demonstrate everything that's wrong for Republican candidates in 2006. Then, it quotes Sen. Dole yearning for a different candidate in Nebraska, likening her being stuck with Ricketts to a dagger through the heart.
Ouch! What's probably most insulting is that Ricketts' name didn't even make it into the article. He's left as the nameless Republican "recruiting failure" from Nebraska whom nobody wanted in the first place.
If there's no such thing as bad press for a politician, this being insulted but not by name might be the one exception to the rule.
Of course, Ricketts and the Nebraska Republican Party would contend and will no doubt try to convince themselves this is just the East Coast Liberal media trying to destroy them, but the facts pretty much speak for themselves. Ricketts' D.C. coming-out party was a flop. And, no one forced Dole to offer Nebraska's race as the #1 example of where she should have had a better candidate. It sounds like she volunteered that candid assessment of Ricketts chances all by herself.
Talk about "a dagger to the heart" - right through the heart of the already faltering Ricketts campaign.
After this article, I think you could probably add Ricketts to the growing list of Republicans unhappy with Sen. Dole's performance. That's not surprising since it sounds like the feeling is mutual.