ON MESSAGE: Not Just Yet

“This week we are confronting health care (reform).”

 -Representative Carolyn Maloney

 The thing is, this week was also supposed to be the week that Carolyn Maloney announced her candidacy for U.S Senate. We know this because her spokesman, Paul Blank, had previously identified this “Monday or Tuesday” as the time frame in which the Upper East Side congresswoman would officially make her move. But when the time came, Ms. Maloney wasn’t interested in addressing the subject at all.

Ms. Maloney, who was passed over by David Paterson for the Senate appointment that instead went to Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this year, has been sending mixed signals like this for months. Clearly, she’s conflicted, and why wouldn’t she be? She years to move up to the Senate, and 2010 is probably her best chance to do it, but a primary against Ms. Gillibrand would be a long shot–and a loss would end her career.

But maybe she could have done a little better than this latest excuse for pulling back from the brink. Deflecting unwanting questions with some variation of the statement “I’m only focused on X right now” is a tired and cliched device that politicians (and athletes and coaches, for that matter) have been falling back on for years. 

Members of the Congress multitask their way through each day, juggling the local demands of myriad constituent groups, meeting with assorted lobbyists and trade groups, tending to committee business and grappling with other major legislation–and then, when it’s all over, heading off to raise money in the evening hours.

But when they want to avoid a question (usually one about their political futures), they act like it’s unheard of for a politician to walk and chew gum at the same time. When it comes to the Senate race, Ms. Maloney has her reasons for stalling. Being too focused on health care is probably not one of them. 

ON MESSAGE: Not Just Yet