The prospect of losing an election can make a politician say some interesting things. Take Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS). Locked in a tight race with Republican state Rep. Steven Palazzo, Taylor admitted this weekend he voted for John McCain in 2008 and vowed not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker should he win re-election.
In an interview with the Biloxi Sun-Herald Taylor said of Pelosi that he is "very disappointed in how she’s veered to the left" and that he "will not support her for speaker again." And while no direct quote is provided, the paper says Taylor admitted he cast his 2008 presidential ballot for John McCain.
The admission is just one more example of how embattled Democrats are scrambling to distance themselves from their party's agenda and leaders. And the media is picking up on it.
Politico opens its story on the admission like this:
How scared is Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor about his reelection prospects? Over the weekend the 10-term Democratic congressman made a startling admission: He voted for Republican John McCain for president in 2008.
The Biloxi Sun-Herald frames the refusal to vote for Pelosi this way:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is so toxic in so many midterm races, Democrats are not only running away from her, they are not promising to vote for her as speaker if Democrats hold the House.
Taylor's shocking statements come as his opponent has been hounding him for aligning with Pelosi. In a new attack ad, Palazzo calls Taylor's vote for Pelosi "the moment Democrat Gene Taylor turned his back on us" and tells constituents Taylor has voted with Pelosi 82 percent of the time:
But as Palazzo works hard to portray Taylor as a Pelosi puppet, Taylor is working equally as hard to cast himself as a Pelosi detractor. Besides saying that Pelosi has lost his speaker vote, he emphasized to the Sun-Herald that he's broken rank on key votes such as cap-and-trade and health care reform.
On his website, he makes his point with a visual. "Palazzo and his cronies have spent 100s of thousands of dollars running television ads that lie about my voting record," Taylor says. "Here is the truth. The 111th Congress convened in January 2009. Since then, I have cast 1,466 votes. Of these 1,466 votes, Nancy Pelosi agreed with my vote 34 times." He includes the following graph:
Yet it's important to note that Taylor is not your typical Democrat. The Sun-Herald calls him a Rep. that's at risk of switching parties (his district is generally conservative) and he boasts the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
That may be why he's not worried about claiming to break rank.
Pelosi's also trying not to worry about it. Earlier this month, she brushed off the increasing number of Reps. running from her: “All of a sudden, this is a new thing. No. This is not a new thing. This is politics. And I just want them to win their election. I don’t care. It is not about me.”
Whether Pelosi truly cares or not, the tactic seems to be working -- at least for Palazzo.
RealClearPolitics currently has the district, Mississippi's 4th, as leaning Democrat. However a poll by the National Republican Congressional Committee released last week shows Palazzo slightly ahead of Taylor.
That seems to be echoed by even the New York Times. The Times's Nate Silver is now giving Palazzo a 65 percent chance of winning (compared to a 35 percent chance for Taylor).