Friday, May 28, 2010

Tom Coburn, the only incumbent worth fighting for?

Stephen Moore writing in the Journal's Political Diary e-newsletter:

It's on almost no one's radar screen, but Oklahoma is hosting a Senate race this year—a race, but not a contest. In a year when many incumbents are supposedly in deep trouble, Republican Tom Coburn faces not a single challenger from either party. "He's easily the most popular politician in Oklahoma," says Stuart Jolly, director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity. "No one will run against him, because no one can come anywhere close to him."

One obvious reason is Mr. Coburn's unrelenting battle against the same status quo (e.g., earmarks) that voters this year have decided they are sick of. It began when he first arrived in the Senate and Democrats immediately slapped him with an ethics complaint for continuing to practice medicine, which Dr. Coburn said he would do partly to avoid becoming too attached to his Senate salary and perks.

This week, Dr. Coburn, from the town of Muskogee, made a startling revelation that should silence his critics. He lost $11,000 in his practice last year because, while he has kept seeing patients, he doesn't charge them. "I want to keep practicing medicine even if I don't make money at it. I'm prouder of being a doctor than a Senator," he recently told me in all seriousness.

Mr. Coburn is already being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, and his stock will certainly rise after what looks like a runaway re-election victory in 2010, especially because he's been freed up to put his time into raising money for other candidates. "He's one of the godfathers of the tea party movement," says Matt Kibbe, director of Freedom Works. That gives Mr. Coburn a growing national base that few other Republicans have shown any knack for tapping into.

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