Announcer: Both the Republican and Democratic fields have unannounced candidates lurking in the wings: Al Gore shadowing Democrats, and Fred Thompson pacing the Republicans. But there’s one stealth candidate out there who’s stealthier than the rest.
Notes from the New Vermont
Al Gore is no dummy. Far from it. He knows that in the current, insanely extended campaign cycle, the Democratic front-runners are all going to endure a horrible beating, and that over a two-year period.
By the time Iowa rolls around, the declared candidates will look like unwanted end-tables at a political scratch-and-dent sale.
And at that point, if he so chooses, Al can make his move. Ditto for Fred Thompson. As stealth campaigns go, Thompson’s has been purposefully less stealthy than Gore’s but equally savvy.
And polls show that Republican voters are loving it.
But Gore and Thompson aren’t getting an entirely free pass.
In order to prep voters for a possible last-minute entry into the race, each has been forced to elevate his media profile. Gore’s flogging a new book; Thompson’s very publicly announced that he’ll be leaving Law & Order.
And of course, once you seek even minimal media coverage, you open yourself up to maximal political risk. So we’ve seen Fox News make much of Gore’s own hefty carbon footprint, and the Washington Post hint at skirt-chasing during Thompson’s post-divorce years in D.C.
And that lesson hasn’t been lost on one dark-house Vermont candidate: VPR Weather Forecaster Steve Maleski has a bandwagon rolling so slowly and so silently that it’s fair to say he isn’t running for President at all. Per se.
Of course, Maleski would be a dream candidate: Presidential demeanor, high name recognition, a voice people trust to tell them whether their weddings and graduations and clambakes are blessed or doomed.
And if he jumped in now, he’d surge in the polls.
And then the sniping would start. Glenn Beck would run a long, tearful interview with a woman who claimed that a freak hail storm gave her chronic migraines— a hail storm Maleski failed to predict.
That’s why Steve is so obviously not going there.
Very tellingly, Maleski hasn’t raised his media profile in any way over the last six months — a level of consistency that no celebrity can maintain without sustained effort. In other words, no one can look so very much like they’re not running for President without working extremely hard at it.
But consider these tantalizing bits:
1) Most importantly, Maleski has yet to put speculation to rest. At any of the various Eye on the Sky events around the state, Maleski could have issued a Shermanesque denial. He has chosen not to do so. Enough said.
2) Mark Breen suddenly has not one but two blogs up and running, supposedly devoted to “Weather” and “The Night Sky.”
Isn’t it convenient, when you think about it, that a well-known Maleski associate — and potential Vice Presidential pick — would launch a full-scale web presence just months before Iowa?
Add in something called the “Eye on the Night Sky Kiosk,” which Breen’s been casually positioning in one library after another around the state, and the level of infrastructure makes the Dean Campaign look like the Dole Campaign.
So is Maleski running? You bet your life, although you’ll never hear word one from him about it.
Until the convention deadlocks in Denver, and suddenly everyone’s wearing the same T-shirt with the same slogan: “Maleski. Breen. Shelter from the Storm.”
[This piece ran first on Vermont Public Radio. Audio of the piece is available ]