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Michael Tucker, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C., echoing Fleisher, sounds positively evangelical on the subject.
"We are very pleased here at the DSCC to have someone of Ed Ranger's caliber running against the incumbent, uh, McCain--McCain, there," Tucker says in a phone message. "We expect McCain may run into difficulty as he proceeds with the fall election. Folks are beginning to wonder if, indeed, he is running for president in 2000. He was just in New Hampshire this week. And with Ed's commitment and his family's support, they represent one of the most driven and focused campaigns throughout the entire country." He goes on to praise Ranger's gee-whiz organization and its fund-raising capabilities--raising questions in the mind of the listener about the health of the Democratic party in general.
"We are very pleased with the progress shown thus far," he proclaims.
But to find a strong argument against Ranger, you don't necessarily have to talk to a Republican. The "official" positions of Fleisher and the national Democratic machine contrast starkly with the dismay expressed by local Democratic consultants and pundits, none of whom is brave enough to be named, for fear they'd lose business for bad-mouthing a fellow Democrat.
One Tempe Democrat whose political experience includes stints on Capitol Hill and in local Democratic congressional offices, as well as on local campaigns, has met Ranger several times.
"I was surprised that somebody who had been out of the country for as long as he had and who seemed to know as little about public issues as he does was thinking about running for the United States Senate," the Dem says.
The Dem, who says he knows Dick Mahoney well, can't understand why Mahoney would foist Ed Ranger upon the Arizona Democratic party.
He says, "The only thing I can think that Dick Mahoney would be doing in giving Arizona Ed Ranger is to make a mockery of the process that unfortunately didn't allow him to get elected [to the U.S. Senate in 1994]. . . .
"Mahoney is a lot of things, but he isn't stupid. He was a tough campaigner and he had good ideas on significant policies and he wasn't afraid to voice them; he really went around the state and tried to use grassroots, old-fashioned ideas to get those ideas out. And Ed Ranger's exactly the opposite of what Dick Mahoney tried to be.
"And, of course, Dick Mahoney is someone who appreciates irony," says the source. "My only guess could be that he thinks it's kind of funny."
But this Dem doesn't see the humor.
"Barry Goldwater made his reputation by not always being right necessarily, but at least believing in something strongly and being able to explain fairly articulately why he believes what he believes. The thing that strikes me about Ed Ranger is that he doesn't seem to believe anything, and he certainly can't explain anything he might believe in."
Another anonymous Dem--this one has worked in Arizona and Washington Democratic politics since 1984--sums up his thoughts with a question: "Ed who?"
"Who is Ed Ranger? Where did he come from? Is he from Arizona? Has he been involved in party functions before? I mean, I wouldn't know the guy if he came up and punched me in the nose."
Last October, Ed Ranger traveled to Washington, D.C., for a three-day crash course in How to Run for the U.S. Senate. He met some real-live Democratic senators and got some tips about setting up a campaign office. "They were very encouraging," he says.
The most important piece of advice he got from the political hacks who ran the seminars: "To make sure that you're comfortable with your decision. Think it out. And be convinced that you're doing the right thing for the right reasons and then work hard."
To that end, Ranger says, he sat down and studied John McCain's voting record, to be sure he really did disagree with the senator.
"I decided that if I was in basic agreement with his record, there was no point in running," Ranger says. "[But] I found that I have basic philosophical differences with him."
Okay, what philosophical differences?
"On the environment."
"Well, that's what I'm coming up with right now. I think a United States senator should take the lead on our air problems here in Arizona. . . .
"I was down on the border in Douglas and I was told that I can't drink the tap water because of polluted aquifers. And I know that there are a lot of sites along our border that need to be cleaned up. Those are a couple I'm going to start off with next year." (When he's elected.)
So what qualifies Ed Ranger to take John McCain's place?
He cites his experience running a small business. In Mexico. Also, Ranger says, "I'll be the only member of the U.S. Senate with any direct, hands-on direct experience in Mexico."
So what will you do with that?
"I think that's where a border senator can really take the lead to improve the relationship with Mexico on a vast array of issues that face the U.S. and Mexico." And so on.