The Republican Senate candidate who was about to get clobbered by Max Baucus in Montana has dropped out. Apparently Montana law doesn’t allow a replacement. Former Gov. Marc Racicot “was approached” by Republican leaders about replacing Racicot (maybe as a write-in candidate?) but declined.

Meanwhile, Bill Simon, running against Gray Davis for Governor of California, has been taking podiatric target practice, making a wild charge that Davis had accepted a campaign contribution in his state office — a crime in California — and showing as evidence a picture of Davis taking a contribution in someone’s living room. It’s amazing that Simon, running against the man he accurately calls “California’s first coin-operated Governor,” managed to accuse Gov. Sleazebag publicly of the one fund-raising violation he hasn’t committed.

This blunder probably puts the final nail in the Simon coffin (and, along with his comment that California shouldn’t restrict tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gasses because we’re not sure that global warming is real) means that Simon has finally managed to lose my vote. Partisan Democrat that I am, I swore I would never vote for Davis, but I really can’t vote for Simon now. Maybe I’ll write in Riordan, even if he doesn’t announce.

Davis immediately called on Simon to drop out, which seems like a bad move on Davis’s part: any Republican candidate BUT Simon would probably clean his clock.

So this puts my view about the New Jersey switcheroo to the test, with the partisan advantage reversed. Here are two important offices where the Democrats now have virtual locks, due to the lack of viable Republican candidates. How would I feel if an undamaged Racicot did decide to climb into the ring against Baucus, replacing his battered challenger? Or if Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed his muscles against Davis?

In each case, I’d be rooting (and, in California, voting) for the incumbent. [Schwarzenegger appears to be really bad news.] But I’d still like the voters to be able to decide. Call me a democrat.

A separate issue raised by the Montana events: have the Democrats stooped to gay-baiting? I’m afraid the answer is “Yes.”

Jane Galt, having seen the ad that drove the Republican out of the race, reports that it’s indirectly but blatantly homophobic, playing on the gay-hairdresser stereotype to raise questions about Taylor’s masculinity. The story, if I can make it out correctly, is that the Republican candidate ran a beauty school which, like many proprietary vocational education programs, did a certain amount of cheating on the federal student loan program. The ad shows a clip from “Beauty Corner,” a segment the candidate used to have on a Colorado TV show, years before he started running the beauty school. From Galt’s description, the clip makes the candidate look stupid — like Mike Dukakis in the tank — in addition to whatever sexual innuendo it conveys: “I think the guy should be pre-emptively impeached for the leisure suit they show him wearing.” Still, it seems that Baucus has landed a truly low blow, and an unnecessary one: he was already wiping up the mat with the guy. Ick.

Wait: it gets worse. The ad was actually run by the Montana Democratic party, and the Baucus campaign is denying responsibility. Double ick. If you’re going to be a sleaze, at least don’t be a cowardly sleaze.

UPDATE Josh Marshall, having seen the ad, disagrees. He thinks it’s a legitimate attack on Taylor’s crooked business practices. He also posts a link to the ad itself, which I’ve now watched twice.

Much as I’d like to acquit Max Baucus of wrongdoing — I worked on his first Congressional campaign almost 30 years ago, and found him a really decent human being — and much as I respect Josh’s opinion, I can’t buy it. The issue about scamming the student loan program is completely legitimate, and if the footage was from an ad for the phony beauty school I’d say using it was at least defensible. But the footage is ten years older than the scam, from Taylor’s previous career. It doesn’t look to me as campy as Jane Galt made it sound, but the verdict here is “dirty pool.”

[Ted Barlow does some even-handed bashing on this topic. His reflections suggest a question: Now that Republicans have suddenly discovered that homophobia is bad, are they going to knock off the Hillary-is-a-lesbian jokes and let gays serve in the military? Just asking.]

Just to clean your mind out from that depressing little bit of filth, here’s a Jeanne Shaheen ad from New Hampshire that packs an enormous wallop without going anywhere near being dirty. I don’t know whether it’s actually running on TV, or merely being spread by email. According to the Daily Kos, Shaheen has now pulled even in New Hampshire, which is just as well because Jean Carnahan has apparently fallen back to even in Missouri.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: