Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Musings on CD 10

Has Max Linn’s spot of weirdness permanently removed him from contention? I have questioned the experience of his staff and his press release announcing the suspension of his campaign to focus full time on campaigning for Obama, immediately followed by another press release calling the first press release a mistake… well, let’s just say I’m still not convinced by his organization.

That said, Linn has the ability to invest $500,000 or more of his own money into his campaign. While it may be easy to dismiss him for some, until I see that he definitely will not put in significant personal monies, he has to be considered a factor. Money trumps a lot of other considerations.

Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth held a fundraiser in downtown St. Petersburg that was attended by some relatively big Democratic fish in our admittedly small pond. And before everyone starts griping about how Rouson, Nurse and Justice are just small fry, please go back and read the qualifiers in the previous sentence. No, getting these folks on board is not like having Gov. Mark Warner headline a fundraiser for you, but it shows that Hackworth is maybe starting to get the establishment support that has so far been wary of Linn and Simpson.

I don’t know how much that fundraiser brought in – my ballpark guess would be $15,000-$25,000.

Besides the money, another factor is that he was able to bring prominent south county Dems on board. Dunedin is pretty far north from the heart of the 10th district and he will need to be strong in places like St. Petersburg, which is also where most of the Democrats live, if he wants to win the primary, much less the general.

Samm Simpson is still Samm Simpson. Her staying power is impressive and she may very well trump potentially stronger general election candidates to be the Democratic nominee. Certainly, her organization is better than I have given her credit for in the past.


But she still has no proven ability to raise money or win more votes than the 1/3 of voters who are already “yellow dog Democrats.” My suspicion is that a lot of Democratic primary voters will be looking for someone who can win in November. If Simpson wants to be the nominee, she has to prove more than that she is “right” on the issues. She has to prove that she has the ability to raise six figures in contributions and that he has the organizational muscle to go up against Young.

Jury is still out in my eyes.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Crist Blows his Audition

Gov. Charlie Crist has been aggressively building his national profile (hence the running jokes one hears about him never being in Florida) ever since people started saying his name as a possible VP candidate.

Crist recently made a pilgrimage to Orange County California - the breadbasket of Republican fundraising counties for a Flag Day Dinner, where he was keynote speaker. In a mere nine minutes he managed to get Reagan and Nixon confused (note to Crist: Nixon was the one from Orange County) and generally received very bad reviews from the veritable ATM machine of the Republican Party nationally.

In general, his VP odds do not improve the more he campaigns for it.

On another note, the blogger is about ready to give up air travel. On my trip to and from the West, so-called weather delays (I saw so-called because I could clearly hear the crew talk about a maintennance problem) stranded me for hours in Cinncinnati and later Chicago. Perhaps if Crist went through what I suffered, he might stay in Florida more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Former Clinton Ally Now Obama Surrogate in Florida

The Florida Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson (or "JJ") Dinner will be headlined by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Rendell was a strong supporter of Senator Clinton's presidential campaign and was responsible for keeping Obama's numbers down in Philadelphia, allowing Clinton to win Pennsylvania by nine points.

The e-invite from the FDP says "Barack Obama wants you to know he regrets that his busy schedule prevents him from joining us this weekend, but he is proud to have Gov. Rendell represent him at the biggest Democratic event of the year in Florida."

This is an important move as former Clinton supporters turn into Obama surrogates (one time Clinton supporter, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, has been touted as possible VP for Obama).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What It Takes to Win - Candidate Specific Strategic Advantages

A relatively heated conversation (granted, between what appears to be between myself and two people) regarding money and congressional candidate Samm Simpson taking place on my last posting on the 10th CD inspired me to give my view of some of the key aspects of a winning campaign.

When I first meet with a candidates to discuss their campaign, my first question is "Why can you win?"

Invariably, they misunderstand this question - as I believe the Samm Simpson supporter on the aforementioned post did.

A candidate will usually answer this question by describing why they are right on the issues. But I didn't ask why you are right, I asked why you will win and that is a very different question.

Part of the answer is about being "right" - by which I mean having positions that are in line with those of the district, but mostly it is about the strategic advantages a candidate brings to the campaign.

One of my early mentors, a hard core field organizer, told me that a campaign, ultimately, comes down to this strategy - you find the people who are going to vote for you and you make sure they vote. Everytime I asked a question, he would shake his head and say "you find the people who are going to vote for you and make sure they vote." Ask a third time and he would make a comment to effect that this must be the slow class. By finding the voters who are going to vote for them, he meant identifying universes of registered voter ("universe" in political speak simply means a set of people meeting a certain description - such as "independents" or "women with school age children") who would support your candidate if they were presented with your candidate's message.

My point is that a strategic advantage is one that brings you closer to the basic goal of getting more votes than the person in second place.

As blogging conceit, let's examine each of the three major challengers to Bill Young to see what strategtic advantages they possess.

Samm Simpson's main advantage is that she ran two years ago. She has some name recognition, though less than you might expect, because she lacked the funds to run a competitive campaign, so she didn't have the resources to (repeat after me) find the voters who were going to vote for her and make sure they voted. She won approximately 1/3 of the vote in 2006 and presumably she can count on that same 1/3 in 2006, so only has to find another 15% or so. This could be a decided advantage, but it is likely that the 1/3 were simply folks who inclined to vote for the Democrat under any circumstance that year (and 2006 was a Democratic wave year, so that number might have been higher than usual). However, there is no doubt that having run before is a good way to get into position to win two years later (a number of the winners in 2006 were candidates who had run in 2004).

Max Linn's strategic advantage is money. As an independently wealthy man, he has the ability to self-finance (my own sense is that he can, if he chooses, loan his campaign up t0 $500,000-$750,000, though there is the possibility that he may choose not to, which doesn't leave him with much of an advantage). As noted earlier, finding those voters and getting them his message will take money - a lot of money. Linn does have the potential for having a early leg up to getting his message out. Also, like Simpson, Linn has run before, but because he ran as a Reform Party candidate for governor in 2006 and got almost no earned media, he doesn't bring much of a base with him.

Bob Hackworth has the best profile for the single reason that he is already an elected official. Dunedin is not a particularly large town and much of it lies in the 9th Congressional District, but being an elected official means that, like a former candidate, there is a certain number of voters who had voted for him in the past (human nature being what it is, they are also likely to vote for him in the future). Unlike Simpson, he also has a history of winning, even if only in Dunedin - and voters (and donors!) like a winner. Dunedin is a relatively prosperous town and being an elected official generally provides a good early base for raising money.