An Almost Perfect Email

-22Days -6Hours -32Minuts -4Seconds

When an unexpected opportunity arises in politics, good candidates seize the moment.

Last weekend presented the circumstances for such a moment. For months, the candidates in CD8 have been debating, foruming (is that even a word? Don’t think so) and otherwise yakking up the same issues. It’s gotten to the point where I can pretty well predict at least the key words that each candidate will employ - name the issue, I’ll give you the words.

 No disrespect to either the candidates or the issues, but it all begins to sound the same after the fifteenth or sixteenth go round.

Then Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia turned up dead Saturday night in scenic Marfa, Texas. Been there! (I was able to scoop Politico by 12 minutes - first, Neal Carter texted me a tweet, and I found a confirmation from a San Antonio media outlet -  it helps to know Texas more than a little). Within an hour, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell drew a line in the sand, calling for Scalia’s seat to remain vacant until 2017. The war is on.

Suddenly, the Supreme Court is not just a theoretical issue that just a few obsessive lawyers like me care about - it’s real. The Court’s entire ambitious, right wing 2016 agenda is in tatters, and control of the court is literally up for grabs. This election is now shaping up as a monumentally consequential one for this reason. And even non-lawyers and moderately interested voters can comprehend the importance of the Court in this situation. (I have a lot to say on this issue, but it’s not one that lends itself to quick sound bites, so it’ll be a few days until I get my thoughts sorted out).

Today, Jamie Raskin seized the new moment. He’s got the experience and the professional chops and the credibility that no one else in the race can match on this suddenly relevant issue. Here’s the blast email he sent, with perfect pitch and tone, appropriate urgency, and even some degree of brevity. I’ll explain why it gets a 99 and not a 100 from me at the end.


The email is a beautifully constructed message. It’s angry when anger is called for, it’s explanatory when a little bit of explanation is needed, it’s self-congratulatory but not too much so, and Raskin manages to work himself into a conversation that in theory doesn’t even belong in a House race. I particularly like this sentence: “As a professor of constitutional law for 25 years, a Maryland State Senator on our Judiciary committee, and a candidate for Congress, I will stand down any right-wing talking head, ideologue or politician who distorts or defies our Constitution.” A great mix of outraged determination with the requisite experience to back it up.

This is the best communication of the entire campaign for Jamie (I understand the haiku was very popular, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m a prose stylist, not a poet). So what kept this great email from a perfect score? While Raskin kept most of the barrage of superlatives that he is usually so free with out of this email, he left in one reference to his “surging campaign.” -1 point for that. Drives me bonkers. Final grade: 99.

I’d strongly suggest that this is an issue he can use to differentiate himself - some people won’t care, but a decent percentage of likely voters will.

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