This is out of the English Der Spiegel in Germany, complete with video.  They’re in the final weeks of a relatively boring, sanitzed campaign there – it’s hard not to be boring coming from four years of Seinfeld government – and apparently some local wags have decided upon a relatively, shall we say, unique campaign.  Flash mobs are dispatched – a singularly inappropriate word, I know – to speeches by the Chancellor (and Chancellor-candidate for the CDU/CSU) Angela Merkel.  At the end of every sentence – every single one – the mobbers shout “Yeah!” in the manner of an American tent revival.

Behold:

At one point Merkel apparently chided the crowd for simply saying “Yeah!” to

Presumably, this is not what theyd intended to cheer.

Presumably, this is not what they'd intended to cheer.

everything, so the crowd immediately started shouting whatever word Merkel’s last sentence ended with, regardless of relevance.  The article cites cheers of, “Growth!” “Five!” and – yikes – “Back door!”  I’ll bet her speechwriters will learn a valuable lesson about ending sentences.  Or perhaps they’ll work with it?  Can you end sentences in a preposition in German?  I’d delight in the spectacle of 20,000 people shouting “With!  Of!  For!”

Most of the people interviewed for it confessed that it was basically for fun.  However assholes like me can’t help but search for political subtext in it.  (And to be fair there are reasons things come across as ironically funny.)  Spiegel suggested, via a blogger, that the “protests” (?) were “all about reclaiming public space for debate.”  Another confessed a desire to find “a subtle [Huh?] way of presenting the other members of the crowd with a big question mark.”

Personally, I see it as no small reaction to the scripted, anemic character of modern political events.  Anyone who has ever watched the excruciating display of a presidential speech, with every other phrase interrupted by polite semi-spastic applause from an acceptably docile audience (and despite exceptions this is no more true of anyone than of Obama) can appreciate the desire to break loose from this stultifying spectacle.  In this sense the crowd’s repetition of whatever word Merkel concludes with is rather trenchant, wrecking the careful rhetorical balancing act that has turned every political statement into an act of Byzantine diplomacy, endlessly-dissected by a political lumpenproletariat that would make Marx blush.

In the event, I would be pleased to see this trend spread.  Perhaps I could even recommend a theme song for the Yeahppie movement.

So Mel Martinez resigned.  Peter Schorsch has a pretty comprehensive list of reactions here, to which I’m sure he’ll add his own soon.  Whatever I have to say would be fairly boring boilerplate reflecting the fact that I don’t know anymore than the Politico website tells me, and I’m not convinced they know much either.  (They certainly didn’t know about this.)  I prefer to propose a thought experiment.

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Grist for it comes from this un-self-consciously ridiculous article at a website called “Red County.”  I’ve not heard of it before, which may not say much, but the quality of this piece doesn’t suggest I’m missing a great deal.  The jist is that what’s best for the Republican Party is to lock down the seat by allowing the strongest available candidate to run as an incumbent.  That means appointing Marco Rubio.  (The article falsely describes this as “beyond fanciful” because it would require Crist to “set aside his ambitions for the good of the party.”  It is in fact beyond fanciful because it belies all reason by suggesting that Rubio is best for the Republican Party.  I could go on, but…)

Now granted, I’m not exactly pulling for a Republican win.  But I would certainly prefer Crist if I had to have one of them.  (Available data suggest a lot of Republicans agree.)  Rubio would certainly be an easier target in the general election, but not Katherine Harris-easy.  Indeed the fact that the opposition to incumbent Bill Nelson was so weak in 2006 means that in terms of statewide politics we really don’t know what the race will look like (though the fact that Harris kept Nelson to 60% despite being just a touch nuts doesn’t bode well).  There’s no indication yet whether turnout will be permanently up but my instinct is that it probably won’t, and chances are that 2010 will look more like 2004.

Now this is bad for Crist.  Martinez was the more conservative of the two candidates in 2004 and in some ways less well-known; Bill McCollum was a Congressman who had stood against Bill Nelson in 2000, losing narrowly in a fairly narrow year but acquitting himself well-enough.  (He’s now Attorney-General and the prohibitive nominee for Governor.)  Martinez was of little repute until he became HUD Secretary and even then sailed in mostly on the strength of Bush’s coattails.  What a strange idea that sounds now.

While Bush may be gone, conservative street cred still counts for something.  Crist, like McCollum, comes up short here, and Florida has an unusually-conservative primary electorate.  Polls being what they are this far out, they lie.  And money burns.  Rubio holds a lot of cards as an insurgent candidate, most importantly the fact that he’s not in office.  He doesn’t have to do much of anything at all, while Crist is trapped in the governor’s mansion compromising and splitting differences.  Not popular measures amongst the diehards.  Even Rubio’s low name ID may be an advantage: he was a disaster in office, like the rest of the Republican-dominated legislature, but nobody really knows it.  People are movable on him.  You already have an opinion about Crist, and his relative popularity belies his electoral weakness: against a poor campaign in 2006 he barely cleared 50%.

So I wonder: perhaps the nutter at Red County is right.  Maybe Crist should appoint Rubio to Martinez’s seat, not in order to sacrifice his ambitions but rather to further them.  It’s a very calculated risk, of course, but my sense is that Rubio’s biggest strength is his ability to sit on the sidelines and snipe.  Forcing him into the poisoned chalice of office would drag him back down to Earth, forcing on him the difficult decisions that elected officials have to take for granted (and which challengers like Rubio cynically exploit).  Rubio could hardly say no: it would reek of ducking responsibility which would play poorly for a “true conservative.”  As a freshman senator with no seniority I doubt he’d gain much traction and frankly he’s totally unprepared to face a situation like the US Senate – when he was Speaker of the Florida House the chamber was nearly 2/3 Republican and even then he’s got little to show for it.

It’s not as if appointing a placeholder is without risk, too.  I sense that people might find it a bit alienating to be a tossed a benchwarmer for these crucial two years.  Appointing Rubio would give him much needed press, it’s true, as well as the opportunity to vote against the entirety of the Democratic agenda but it would also be a legitimate and forceful political appointment and would focus attention on who he is and how he would behave in office.  The vaunted benefit of “incumbency” would be little use against Crist, and two years is a long time for a relatively inexperienced, undistinguished and unscrutinized state politician like Rubio to go without faceplanting all over the Rotunda.  My sense is that he’s so deep-red conservative and unaccustomed to moderating it that he would do just that.  Giving Rubio precisely what he wants might be the easiest way to take him out of the running.

Likely?  Hardly.  And extraordinarily risky.  (What if Rubio shines?  What if his votes are both ideologically-consistent and popular?)  But it would not be the strangest move the past year has seen.  It could just be a notion of subtlety and cunning.  If nothing else it doesn’t require a long period of hemming and hawing like David Paterson required.  There’s something Alexandrian in its simplicity.  That’s probably why it won’t happen.

St. Petersburg, Florida – the test case for the Wild Wild West of political web ads?  Color me surprised.  Story here.

The Florida Elections Commission has decided a mayoral candidate’s ads on Google and Facebook appear to violate the state’s election law because they don’t include a disclaimer that indicates who bought them. Many other states, including Texas, Alaska, Connecticut and Ohio, also require similar disclaimers.

[Mayoral candidate Scott Wagman’s] campaign, however, argues that the messages in question aren’t technically ads, but rather links to ads, and that it doesn’t pay for them unless a Web user clicks on them. When that happens, it says, the person is taken to a Web site that provides the appropriate disclosures.

[…]

“The irony of it is that it feels like we are being punished for being an efficient and an effective campaign[,” said Mitch Kates, his campaign manager.]

And the irony of that is that Wagman’s campaign has been anything but.

Courtesy Creative Loafing

Scott Wagman - courtesy Creative Loafing

The last link might seem a bit odd – most fundraising ever in a local election? – but given the fact that most of the money is his own this can’t be rated an accomplishment.  No slur against Wagman – I think he’s got some good ideas – but it’s always the trend for wealthy neophytes to fight every problem they face on the campaign trail with more money, the “best staff,” etc.  (I can’t help thinking of Mayor Bloomberg in New York, though lots of cases can be made – watch Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California this year.)

Speaking of staff, I don’t know about Wagman’s (except a friend of mine or two who’re involved and are good local people) but somehow I sense that a lot of these mistakes are due to his hiring people unused to running campaigns on a local level/in this area.  Legislative campaigns are not executive campaigns and being part of a state or national organization isn’t the same as running a small one yourself.  It’s not even comparable.  And you can hire somebody with a great CV who just doesn’t get the area.  (An endlessly common mistake here in DC.)

It sometimes seems like Wagman’s matched all of this money with people who think it’s really necessary and desirable.  My instinct is that it all appears a bit tawdry instead.  But that could just be my own unemployment talking.