Michael Baumgartner Takes on Maria Cantwell With a Bring-the-Troops-Home Message Not Often Heard From Republicans

Michael Baumgartner in Iraq.jpg
A couple weeks ago, The Olympian's Brad Shannon quipped that "Republicans still don't have a recognizable human to take on" Maria Cantwell. Well, they do now--and he's an unusual Republican that just might give Cantwell, already low in the polls, some real competition.

Michael Baumgartner, a junior state senator from Spokane, is announcing his candidacy today.

The 35-year-old Baumgartner is telegenic and Harvard educated, undoubtedly helpful qualities in going up against a woman not only known for her wonky intelligence but her good looks. (See HuffPo's affirmation of her as Capitol Hill's "sexiest senator.")

But what's really interesting about Baumgartner is that he's running, in part, on a bring-the-troops home platform. In an interview with King-5's Robert Mak on Friday, he spoke of our "seemingly endless wars" and the need to "bring these wars to a close responsibly."

That's a message more often heard from Democrats then Republicans, so conceivably it could play well in a blue state like ours.

His take on Iraq and Afghanistan is somewhat different than that of your typical Democrat, however. Whereas many liberals bemoan the ruin they believe our intervention has caused, Baumgartner cites the work Americans have done to rebuild those countries' infrastructure . A few years ago, he spoke with a Boston Globe columnist about his own experiences in Iraq, where was then serving as an economic officer for the U.S. embassy. (See picture of him in Iraq above.)

When my convoy took an IED last week in Sadr City, we were on our way to help the Iraqi government get clean drinking water and food aid to its citizens. Evidence about WMDs and Dick Cheney once being the CEO of Halliburton had nothing to do with it.

He was arguing that "the political battles" and "issues" that were taking place when the wars started are no longer in evidence. And although we're doing good, we can only do so for so long. This may be an end-the-war argument Republicans can stomach, especially with Tea Partiers calling for cuts in defense spending.

Michael Baumgartner in Afghanistan2.jpg
One might note, though, that the wars seemed to have launched Baumgartner's career. After returning from Iraq, Baumgartner went to Afghanistan to work for a federally-funded contractor fighting the drug trade. Whether the nifty pictures he took back from there, like the one at left of him surrounded mostly by men in turbans and robes, will help him or hurt him is anybody's guess, but they do spice up his campaign site.

Back in the States, he's now "frequently asked to lecture and advise senior officers of the U.S. military on issues related to the economics of counterinsurgency," according to his website.

Apparently, it's a part-time gig, though, hence his state Senate job and his new campaign. Other Republicans rumored to be considering a run against Cantwell include U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.

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