Merrick Alpert, the Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, is running a campaign with a striking resemblance to that of President Barack Obama having just published his memoirs, Morning Sun.
However, Alpert says that he had no intention of emulating Obama’s successful campaign because he originally started writing the memoir about six and a half years ago, long before he decided to run for office. His campaign for senate and his book promotion just happened to coincide.
Though his book was not meant as a campaign tool, it may be helpful in letting voters know more about him, a Fairfield University professor says.
Morning Sun, is the story of Alpert’s life growing up in Colchester after his father abandoned his family at a young age. His memoirs take the reader through the events of his life that lead him through college, to law school, to Bosnia, into politics, and ultimately to meeting his father in Iowa.
Alpert says his campaign is based on character and that’s how he will differentiate himself from the incumbent Dodd.
“Character counts. Character matters. You don’t lie. You don’t cheat. You don’t steal. You work hard. You do the right thing…Those are the themes. So whether it applies in a political setting or it applies in a book,” it doesn’t matter, Alpert said in an interview last week.
Another theme that Alpert stresses about his senate campaign is that he is not a career politician. He is a man who comes from the private sector and who can relate to the working class.
“The take away is this guy is not a politician. He’s exactly the opposite. He’s an ordinary person. He’s had some extraordinary experiences and who eventually, there comes a day in his life where he says, ‘Enough!”
Alpert finally said, “Enough!”
It was the day he came home to see Dodd on television denying involvement in the bonuses for AIG executives that were included in the stimulus bill.
But for Alpert the television appearance coupled with learning about the financial troubles of his life-long barber and mother was just the icing on the cake.
“Enough is enough. I can’t watch this nonsense anymore,” he recalled saying at the end of the day.
It was that moment that he decided to step up and challenge Dodd.
James Simon, a Fairfield University professor and political campaign expert thinks there’s a reason no other Democrat has tried to challenge Dodd.
“Dodd does seem vulnerable to a serious challenger,” said Simon. However, due to his name recognition Simon does not think it’s likely that he will be replaced.
Even though he has been hurt by the claims of favorable treatment, nobody thinks he can be knocked off, Simon said. Dodd has the advantage of incumbency. He can call a news conference and he’d get lots of reporters where Alpert would be lucky if he got one, said Simon.
In Simon’s opinion, Alpert has a better chance at a career as an author.
“He’s going to have more success selling his book” than winning votes, said Simon.
Simon does side with Alpert however, regarding the fact that releasing a book while campaigning is not an emerging campaign strategy. When comparing Obama’s book release and campaign to that of Alpert, Simon says it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
On one hand you have someone who had released several books in the past which increased his visibility and on the other hand you have someone who has only just come out with one book and is campaigning and going on book tours simultaneously. Though ultimately in both situations the book may have help a candidate’s credibility and notoriety, one case was an unintentional coincidence and the other a piggyback scenario where a candidate is taking advantage of promoting two things at once, said Simon.
Regardless of campaign strategy, Alpert is very clear on where he stands on today’s politics. For Alpert, the disconnect between politicians, such as Dodd, and the people of Connecticut is that they have no experience in the private sector. How can someone create private sector jobs if they’ve never held one themselves? Alpert argues.
“The notion that somebody who’s never created a private sector job or run a business or had a private sector job, the notion that that person is going to be able to figure out how to do it at a state and national level is an absurdity,” Alpert said.
Alpert takes his argument one step further by challenging those who disagree with him on his assertion.
“Anybody who thinks that’s not true, I dare you to send your kid to a beach where the lifeguard doesn’t know how to swim and tell me what happens. We all know what’s going to happen, which is why nobody sends their kid to a beach where the lifeguard doesn’t know how to swim,” Alpert said.
Recently, Alpert has been receiving criticism for being a Democrat turncoat and using Republican talking points against a member of his own party. Aware of the bad press, Alpert is still unfazed.
“I always say to people, ‘What are they going to take my dog?”
For Alpert the most important elements of his life are his wife, family, friends, “his service to this nation in uniform, [and his] ability to go out and start the next company.” These are not parts of his life that any political critic has the power to take away, he says.
Besides that, he is confident in his abilities.
“I’ll let the chattering class talk about me, blog about me, write about me, comment about me on TV, I’ll let them narrate. I’ll get in the ring and I’ll act. They can all write about it after the fact,” he said.
As his book tells, Alpert has come from a past where he often felt inadequate because of his low economic status. While attending Kingswood Oxford, he always felt judged for not having the Lacoste polos that everyone else wore daily. It appears that this past has helped him grow a tough outer skin that is keeping him unfazed by the critics and convinced that he will win.
Alpert believes the best thing he can do is step in and return government to the people “because right now it’s clearly not owned by the people. It’s owned by corporate special interests and the puppet senators that they have in power. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t know I could win,” Alpert said.
Alpert is also marching across Connecticut this week in opposition to the war in Afghanistan. His 117-mile trek began on Tuesday at the Rhode Island border and will end Saturday in Greenwich.