When Stu Rothenberg, political prognosticator extraordinaire, finds that his latest candidate interview is the most "refreshing and unusual" of his 20 year career, that ought to make even the harshest cynics of the politics game sit up and take notice. Rothenberg is referring to a construction company owner named Richard Hanna, who, despite being ignored by his Republican Party in the last election, nearly defeated the incumbent, Mike Arcuri, in New York's 24th congressional district.
As Rothenberg notes, Hanna wants a rematch, and the National Republican Congressional Committee is definitely willing to help him win in 2010. Hanna is a very independent Republican...so independent, in fact, that he doesn't really consider himself a Republican, and he defies political characterization: civil unions, yes. Cap and trade? No. Sarah Palin? "She's not me," he says.
Afghanistan? He "seems conflicted," Rothenberg writes. Hanna doesn't know John Boehner and supposes he has to meet him at some point. What Rothenberg really liked about Hanna is that Hanna didn't read from a script -- and anyone who has participated in these candidate interviews knows -- the NRCC and DCCC take them from Charlie Cook to Amy Walter to Rothenberg as if they were a traveling side show -- the candidates, even in off-the-record scenarios, tend to stay very close to the line. Hanna doesn't. He was taken aback when Rothenberg asked whether he would allow the interview to be on the record. Hanna seemed not to understand why candidates would ever speak off the record. And his message is quite different from the Tea Party tone that most Republicans seem to be embracing. The race will be tough to win, because the incumbent is popular, but Hanna will have the money -- and he can throw some of his own into the mix -- and in this political environment, he might be able to pull off a surprise victory.