Rob Christensen, Staff Writer
Dave “Mudcat” Saunders has taken on what might strike many as “Mission Impossible”: winning Bubba back to the Democratic Party.
Mudcat is under no illusions about Bubba’s current political allegiance.
“Where I live,” he says, “it has become politically and culturally unacceptable for a white man to admit that he is a Democrat.”
Where he lives is Roanoke, Va. And what he does for a living — aside from business deals involving NASCAR, bluegrass music and so forth — is help Democratic candidates become a little more country. His clients in recent years have included former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and presidential hopeful John Edwards of North Carolina.
Mudcat, 57, spends as much time blaming Democrats for ignoring rural voters as he does criticizing Republicans.
“The Northeastern elitists who control the leadership of the Democratic Party don’t understand the culture of the South,” says Saunders, who was wearing a Ralph Stanley II cap and blue jeans when he stopped by The News & Observer last week.
“They stereotype us,” he says. “They think we sit around the dinner table and rather than talk about the job we just lost, how we are going to get health insurance and how our kids are leaving because they can’t find work, instead they think we talk about what new gun we are going to get today, or who we are going to lynch tonight.
“These same people who talk about tolerance have none for my culture,” Mudcat says. “The only real tolerance that these people exhibit is for their own intellectual arrogance.”
He says Democrats are math-challenged. If you write off the South, he says, it is nearly impossible to win a presidential race.
Mudcat says Republicans have done a better job convincing voters that they care more about faith, a strong military and family values — none of which, Mudcat says, is true.
In fact, he says, working people haven’t fared so well under the Republicans: Jobs have been shipped overseas, tax cuts have mainly helped the rich, and they have bungled the Iraqi war effort.
But he says that Republicans are better at praising the Lord for political effect.
Mudcat says that when he was working for Edwards’ presidential campaign, Edwards vetoed any TV ads showing him at a prayer breakfast.
“George W. Bush talks about it,” Mudcat says. “Johnnie lives it.”
Mudcat is contemptuous of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry being photographed wind-surfing “in those spandex britches” off Martha’s Vineyard.
And he thinks Kerry mishandled his one attempt at good ol’ boyism, when after a much photographed hunting trip he had someone carry out his goose. Mudcat says he should have carried it, plucked it and cleaned it himself while the cameras were rolling.
Democrats need to do a lot of things to start winning again, Mudcat says in his new book, co-written with fellow consultant Steve Jarding, called “Foxes in the Henhouse: How the Republicans Stole the South and the Heartland and What the Democrats Must do to Run ’em Out.”
But most of all, he says, they must respect the Southern “culture of freedom and independence.”
Rob Christensen can be reached at 829-4532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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