A SEVENTH DISTRICT CAMPAIGN COMMENTARY
By Verne Strickland
Mike McIntyre, now in his fourteenth year in the U.S. Congress, has become excessively incumbent.
This was made abundantly clear in Debate #2, August 27, at Kenansville, where Ilario Pantano dismantled the congressman’s sketchy claims of bona fide conservative credentials.
The GOP contender didn’t have it all his way, though, as McIntyre pounded away with his now-familiar laundry list of Washington largesse he has brought back to the Seventh District.
But if this is what McIntyre’s handlers view as his greatest strengths, the appearance of being a “money mule” for liberal Democratic insiders has also turned into a campaign liability.
In fact, while one might concede that McIntyre really knows how to get the big bucks, this dubious achievement has been ballyhooed in the debates in a way that subordinated weightier issues, such as the alarming federal deficit, high unemployment, the failed stimulus, term limits, illegal immigration, and a gaggle of other thorny problems.
Money, as the Beatles assured us, can’t buy you love. While Mike has tried valiantly to disprove this, he hasn’t succeeded.
Even in Robeson County, where McIntyre was raised, defections of some of his most ardent supporters are surely proving to be embarrassing and unsettling.
We reported earlier the decision by McIntyre’s long-time friend and ally, Burt Benson III of Lumberton, to withdraw his backing “for the sake of my children and grandchildren” – and throw his considerable influence to the congressman’s Republican foe, Ilario Pantano, who brings solid conservative credentials to Seventh District voters.
Pantano can win the day, says Benson, if enough voters in the Seventh District get to know him, and perceive his character, moral values, commitment to transparency in government and mission to turn America around.
“We know Pantano is the man to carry the banner,” Benson asserted. “He’s a man who has the courage to stand up against the ultra-liberals in Washington. The Democrats are just interested in funding vote-buying programs and trying to get everybody dependent on the government. That way they can count on those votes. But there are more people riding on the wagon now than out there pulling it. This has to change. Ilario Pantano will work to change it.”
Other personal friends – and generous contributors — will announce their decision to leave the McIntyre fold in coming days, and this reporter will have those exclusive stories.
Something big is happening. These defections involve respected community leaders who have found it very painful to quit the McIntyre campaign and announce publicly that they just can’t take it anymore.
None of these departures seem based on lack of appreciation for Mike’s drumbeat of announcements that he’s home with more pork. It’s just that, in this race, at this time, there are simply bigger pork chops to fry.
If Mike is on the money with the money, he is almost out to lunch when it comes to a demonstrated ability to influence America’s future in a positive manner. And this is what most puzzles and concerns the key opinion leaders who are beginning to jump ship.
Toward the end of the evening in the Kenansville gabfest, Ilario Pantano framed the discussion in a way that goes to the heart of McIntyre’s image problem.
Addressing the audience, Pantano posed this question: “Aren’t you getting tired of a congressman who comes home and talks like Jesse Helms in the district, then goes to Washington and votes for Nancy Pelosi?”
There is growing evidence that this is a fair question, and one that deserves a straight answer from Congressman Mike McIntyre.
*** BE SURE TO VISIT PHILLIP STEPHENS' LATEST FROM ROBESON COUNTY GOP: