Katy Burns: Rejoice! Bob is back! Well, maybe . . .
Former senator Bob Smith sits for a portrait at Newt Gingrich's campaign headquarters in Manchester on Friday, December 9, 2011. Smith is back in New Hampshire to campaign for Newt Gingrich. He's been back for almost two weeks.
(Andrea Morales/ Monitor photo)
Former senator Bob Smith answers a phone call in his work space at Newt Gingrich's campaign headquarters in Manchester on Friday, December 9, 2011. Smith is back in New Hampshire to campaign for Newt Gingrich. He's been back for almost two weeks.
(Andrea Morales/ Monitor photo)
Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Apparently Bob Smith’s gotta run for office – any office – and so New Hampshire columnists and political reporters gotta be happy!
Yes, Bob is back. Or at least as I write this, he is. The indomitable former New Hampshire congressman and senator told the folks at WMUR-TV last weekend that, yes, he is throwing his hat into the ring for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s Senate seat. Which, come to think of it, was also once Smith’s Senate seat. Before John E. Sununu beat him and held it for six years, only to be ousted by Shaheen.
This really is a small state. We have maybe 10 major politicians, and we just keep shuffling them around to different offices.
But I digress. The important thing is that Bob Smith is back. At least for now. I am aware of the fact that – before Bob announced he was running – he said he certainly would not run.
But that was in October. This is December! A fellow can change his mind, right? Of course he could change his mind again and decide the glories of Florida, where he’s been living for the last 10 years or so, are calling him back. But for now, he’s ours. And a good thing.
We’ve missed Bob Smith. We need Bob Smith. Bob Smith is good copy. Bob Smith isn’t a cookie-cutter politician.
Bob Smith is different.
Now it’s true that “difference” means different things to different people. That’s certainly illustrated by a number of comments about Smith, from Republicans and Democrats alike, after he made his grand announcement. Smith is “a blubbering idiot.” “A craven free-media seeker . . . (who offers) comic relief.” “A loser.” “A gadfly.” “A class clown.”
Maybe. But, more important, he is not dull. We are plagued by dull pols these days. Certainly Jeanne Shaheen, Smith’s would-be rival, is a hard-working, dutiful senator who takes her job seriously. She is no doubt a lovely person as well. And she even might – secretly – be something of a cutup, perhaps fond of celebrating New Year’s Eve by dancing with a lamp shade on her head.
But Shaheen’s public persona is – sadly – boring. The same can be said of John Lynch. And Maggie Hassan? Don’t even get me started. Nor do Democrats have a lock on boring. Consider Judd Gregg. Charlie Bass. We are surrounded by earnest policy nerds.
As opposed to Bob Smith. He certainly stood out. He was a man of strong opinions, pungently expressed. Not enough for him just to say that he was unilaterally opposed to any limits on firearms. “I fought the gun grabbers in Congress for 18 years,” he proudly proclaimed when he ran for the Senate three years ago.
Oh, I should mention that at the time he was running for the Senate from Florida. As he did in 2004. A good man isn’t going to be limited by geography.
So when voters here booted him out in 2002, he hightailed it to the Sunshine State to peddle real estate.
Before that, though, as a sitting Republican senator from the Granite State, Smith had presidential dreams and traipsed all over the bayous of southern Louisiana seeking support.
Why the Pelican State? Hey, you know the old adage: As goes Louisiana, so goes the nation!
I do love state nicknames.
When Smith’s quest for the GOP presidential nod didn’t pan out, he decided he’d try for the nomination from the Taxpayers’ Party.
That didn’t work either, so when he had a chance to head a top Senate committee he leaped – he’s quite nimble for a big guy – back to his Republican roots.
In 2000 Smith drew national attention – much of it bad – by entering the fray in Florida over whether to return 7-year-old Elián Gonzáles to his father in Cuba.
And even before that he garnered headlines when he crusaded against allowing elephants to visit Capitol Hill. And proposed that the nation establish a retirement home for chimpanzees.
Wouldn’t he be fun to have around again? If not necessarily in a good-government way?
Well, enough reminiscing. Smith – should he stay in the race – is unlikely to prevail, providing he even makes it through the primary. Shaheen certainly doesn’t seem too worried. Her crack fundraising team sends email blasts the instant Scott Brown, the peripatetic former Massachusetts senator, even points his truck in our direction. “Emergency: Scott Brown seen at Nashua gas station. Send money NOW!”
But when Smith told WMUR that he was in the race, it took Shaheen’s folks more than 24 hours to alert the donors. That’s like sending notice via the Pony Express.
Maybe those of us looking for a candidate with a little pizzazz should look elsewhere.
Wonder what ex-Governor Craig (“I am a loose cannon!”) Benson is up to these days . . .
(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)