Friday, July 16, 2010

Rubio's Burn Rate
Marco Rubio's fundraising numbers got everyone's attention. And they were remarkable - I haven't looked down the list at everyone, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he was the leading fundraiser of any Senate candidate in the country during the last quarter.

It's probably a good thing, because it distracted attention away from his burn rate - spending more than 90% of what he raised.

His campaign was ready for the questions - explaining to Politico that they had to spend $1.3 million on television to defend themselves in April, near the beginning of the cycle, and that they had invested heavily and prudently in staff and infrastructure.

All of which is perfectly valid, but still... $4 million in just three months? Is this Rubio's idea of being "fiscally conservative?"

Ok. That was a low blow. But the fact remains that there is just no excuse for this kind of burn rate. This was the quarter where, if you don't face a contested primary, you stockpile as much cash as you can for fall television. And Rubio did not have a contested primary for most of the quarter. What would he have done if Crist has stayed in the primary? The logic behind the campaign's explanation leads to the conclusion that they would have spend $2.5 million more than they raised, under those circumstances. And when you put it that way, the explanation looks clearly ridiculous.

No. The only conclusion one can reach is that Rubio has got too many consultants and too much staff.

Crist is wisely keeping his dollars and maintaining a tight rein on expenses. Granted, he has the advantage of the governor's bully pulpit to get free media, but he has done exactly what all the smartest campaigns do - saved his cash.

Raising money gets the headlines in summer - but it's cash on hand that actually buys your media for the fall.

More locally, I looked up the numbers for my home district - the tenth congressional.

I saw that Charlie Justice had raised $289,779 and thought to myself, "That's no good - he needs to be raising more like $350,000 - $500,000 this quarter!" Of course, I was misreading the report - he had raised $289,779 for the cycle. He only raised $34,216.99 for the quarter and has $38,447 cash on hand.

Bill Young stepped it up this cycle and raised $222358 for the quarter - stockpiling 3/4 of that for a total of $629,609 cash on hand, giving him a cash on hand advantage of better than 16 to 1.

Defeating Young will, quite simply, take both a well funded field operation and a well funded television advertising campaign. At present, it looks like Justice will have the money to run a bit of cable, but not much more.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Palin Question

Before getting around to my next big, blog-related writing project (which may not be for a little while if my paying writing projects keep getting in the way), I wanted to point something out that seems to be overlooked by some folks when talking about Palin.

If you follow the "literature" on Palin, you know that biggest question consuming folks out there today is "will she run for president?"

The folks who say no argue that she has no desire to leave the bubble of adulation and financial renumeration that surrounds her today - and she would certainly have to leave that bubble if she wanted to run for president.

The argument goes on to say that she is primarily a celebrity/reality star, not a politician these days.

While I don't disagree, I think there is another factor being overlooked - and that is whether he adoring fans, who see her as a potential savior of American values, will accept it if Palin does not run for president in 2012?

Would they see a failure to take up the torch and save America from Obama (and also from GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney) as sufficient reason to abandon her?

While perhaps she can't win, can she also not not run?

I'm not trying to provide a definitive answer here, just raising the question of whether the Palin fans will still follow her so rabidly if she doesn't step up to the plate?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Rubio's Plan

Marco Rubio’s record haul of $4.5 million (narrowly eclipsing the single quarter record of $4.3 million set by Charlie Crist in his first quarter of fundraising) clearly expands his options.

It also helps Rubio shift the narrative slightly. After dominating the media spotlight earlier this year, Rubio has lately been haunted by a media meme that asks, essentially, “where’s the excitement gone?” The appearance of a hotly contested Democratic primary between Meek and Greene and Crist’s move to run as an NPA put Rubio into a strange new position – an establishment candidate struggling to with a lack of oxygen in the media environment.

But there are some advantages to being an establishment candidate. Rubio is benefitting from his status as a tea party favorite – and also from hard-liners furious with Crist’s refusal to commit political suicide – but let’s not forget that Rubio is also a deeply embedded figure in the Tallahassee and South Florida political establishment. A former Speaker of the Florida House, a former lobbyist based in South Florida… Rubio has the credentials and “chits” to raise big bucks and he is cashing in his chips right now.

In a three way race, he can, conceivably, win with 38-40% of the vote. His campaign staff is almost certainly betting on Meek winning the Democratic primary and consolidating some of the Democratic support that is right now splitting between Crist and Meek – just enough to prevent Crist from becoming the de facto choice of Dems.

That scenario would suggest that he could simply continue to appeal to the tea party crowd on the ground and use his financial resources to make judicious attacks on Crist and Meek. I suspect that his negative ads will have a secret agenda – for example, an ad attacking Crist on flip-flopping on abortion would actually be intended not to drive pro-lifers away from Crist (Rubio will probably already have a firm lock on those who primarily vote on that issue), but to sow doubt among pro-choice moderates that Crist is really on their side.

The classic example of this is when Gray Davis in California attacked Bill Riordan for flip flopping on abortion. The ad was not intended, as it overtly suggested, to criticize Riordan for being pro-life, but actually to sow doubt among a pro-life GOP primary electorate that he was pro-choice. It worked – Riordan lost his primary and Davis won easily against in the general (though he was removed in a special election the next year).