Monthly Archives: June 2011

Campaign Staff Deserts Gingrich En Masse

The wheels appear to be coming off of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. After a series of post-announcement gaffes, the most serious of which appears to be attacking House Budget chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI-1) federal fiscal plan, more than 10 campaign consultants and staff members yesterday resigned from the Gingrich effort. The spokesman for the group indicated they were leaving because the departing staff members all saw a different strategic path to achieve victory than does the candidate.

The key factor influencing the mass exit appears to be a lack of fundraising progress. Reports say that after Gingrich’s attack on the Ryan budget, fundraising became exceeding difficult for the presidential effort because the candidate cut the heart out of his political base. Additionally, Mr. Gingrich himself was apparently unwilling to participate in donor recruitment efforts to the degree that the staff wanted, hence the failure to meet campaign budgetary goals.

There were further rumors alluding to Gingrich not working particularly hard on this campaign. The departing staffers’ spokesman, news secretary Rick Tyler, said such conjecture was untrue but did confirm the former Speaker and his wife are embarking on a two-week Mediterranean cruise, the timing of which was criticized internally.

Two of those resigning, consultant David Carney and campaign manager Rob Johnson, came from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s organization. With rumors and speculation mounting that Perry may soon enter the race, it is an obvious conclusion that at least these two will go back to anchor their former boss’ presidential effort. Some have further speculated that Perry’s budding effort precipitated the Gingrich staff departure, but this does not appear to be the case. Since the departing group is so large it is unreasonable to believe that all are bolting Gingrich to join Perry. Dissatisfaction with the progression of the campaign can be the only reason for such a mass exodus.

So what does this development mean for the ex-Speaker’s presidential bid? According to Mr. Gingrich, the campaign begins anew next week and he will continue to fight for the Republican nomination.

In many ways, Newt Gingrich is an unconventional candidate. Therefore, the things that would derail most political efforts will not necessarily extinguish the Gingrich campaign. Though money is necessary to run any political operation, and presidential campaigns both attract and spend the greatest amount of cash resources, a national candidate can often times go relatively far without huge financial assets. Gingrich, with his almost universal name ID, may be in that category. Attracting as much news coverage as he does, the former Speaker has the ability to communicate his message even if he doesn’t spend heavily on paid advertisements or direct mail programs.

A presidential campaign that puts little emphasis on resources can do reasonably well in small primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina, but caucus states are in a different category, as are big primary states like California, Florida and Texas. Organizational efforts in caucus states like Iowa do require heavy staff coordination and expenditures to identify, convince, and turnout supporters who must attend actual meetings to cast their votes instead of simply marking a ballot. Though well-known candidates who de-emphasize fundraising and campaign mechanics attract a fair amount of attention, such a person rarely, if ever, wins the nomination or election.

In early polling, Mr. Gingrich has consistently polled at the bottom of the first tier of candidates. Without a professional campaign structure committed to campaign mechanics, however, it is likely he will drop into the second tier and out of serious contention for the nomination. The new Gingrich operation will certainly be a campaign of ideas, but not of implementation. The collapse of his organization means the overall race becomes an even more wide open contest.
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Weiner’s Real Political Problem

The sexting controversy surrounding Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) rages on in the media, but his ultimate political problem may not be whether to resign. Rather, with New York losing two seats in reapportionment, the scandal could give the legislature all the reason it needs to collapse his 9th district. The other lost seat will certainly come from upstate, probably near the Buffalo area. In terms of redistricting, NY-9 would be relatively easy to cut into pieces. First, it needs an additional 57,401 people just to reach its population quota. Second, because it already contains parts of two boroughs (Kings and Queens) and cuts across New York’s Lower Bay to enjoin other precincts in order to comply with the contiguous requirements, it would be a simple task for map drawers to parcel its distinct parts to other seats.

Two polls of New York City residents were made public yesterday, and it appears that Rep. Weiner has a split constituency regarding his future. According to Survey USA (June 6; 500 New York City residents), 46 percent favor his resignation versus 41 percent who believe he should remain in office. The Marist College poll, conducted on the same day (June 6; 379 NYC registered voters) produces better numbers for the congressman. Fifty-one percent say he should remain in office, while 30 percent believe resignation is his proper course of action.

But when it comes to Weiner’s future mayoral plans — the congressman was a virtual certainty to enter the 2013 city-wide campaign — his numbers dive bomb. Asked if they would vote for Weiner should he run for mayor, just 11 percent of S-USA respondents said they would, versus 43 percent who said, “NO.” An additional 46 percent say it is too early to decide. Marist asked the question a different way, querying the respondents as to whether or not they think he should run for mayor. According to these results, 56 percent say he should not run for Mayor while 25 percent believe he should.
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In Oklahoma’s 2nd D, Boren to Retire; ex-Rep. Carson to Run Again

Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK-2), 37, announced that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in Congress next year. Mr. Boren, arguably one of the most conservative House Democrats, clearly is part of a minority within a minority, being a right-of-center congressman in an increasingly liberal party conference. Boren says being in Washington and away from his young family, coupled with the time demands of campaigning, are the reasons for his retirement.

Rep. Boren becomes the 14th non-redistricting-related House member to either resign or say they won’t run again, but is the first to do so without seeking higher office or escaping scandal. He will serve the balance of the term and did not say what he plans to do when he leaves the House.

The 2nd district of Oklahoma is one of the most conservative seats held by a Democrat in the United States. Once a “yellow dog” Democrat region, OK-2 trended much more Republican as the previous decade progressed. President Obama could only manage 34 percent of the vote here in 2008, compared to John McCain’s 66 percent. Former President George W. Bush notched 59 percent in 2004, seven points better than the 52 percent he recorded four years earlier.

The 2nd district encompasses the entire eastern quadrant of Oklahoma, beginning at the Kansas border and traveling south all the way to Texas. On the northeast, the seat borders Missouri; Arkansas lies to the southeast. The largest city is Muskogee.

Because Oklahoma had little in the way of population change, their new congressional redistricting plan looks very much like the current map. The new legislation has already been enacted into law. While the 2nd district traditionally elects a Democrat to Congress, in an open seat with an unpopular Barack Obama leading the 2012 Democratic Party ticket, a different result could be realized.

While two early GOP names pop up on the potential candidate list — Josh Brecheen, a state Senator from Coalgate, and state Rep. George Faught — the Democrats already have a likely successor waiting in the wings, and he will run. Former 2nd District Rep. Brad Carson (D), who vacated the seat to run unsuccessfully for Senate in 2004, announced his congressional comeback attempt next year on the heels of Boren’s retirement announcement. Kenneth Corn, a former state senator and the 2010 Democratic lieutenant governor nominee is also reportedly considering the race, but Carson appears to be the strongest possible Democrat to run in this seat, outside of Boren.

If the president cannot perform better than the 34 percent he scored in his last election, what effect will this have upon Carson’s race? Obviously, there will be a Democratic drag, hence the Republican nominee will have a legitimate chance to win even against the former congressman and Senatorial nominee.
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South Carolina’s DeMint Considers Presidential Run

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R)

South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint confirms reports that he is now considering entering the GOP presidential contest. Previously, he said he would not become a candidate. Like former VP nominee Sarah Palin who is sending outward signs that she might jump into the fray and Texas Gov. Rick Perry also confirming new interest in a presidential campaign, DeMint sees opportunity for a newcomer who could carry the Southern states. The south is the heart of the Republican voter base. Since former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels have all said they won’t run for President, the south is left without an obvious candidate to support.

Sen. DeMint actually has two bases of support, both of which are formidable. As a Tea Party spokesman within the halls of Congress, the Palmetto State solon would command sizable backing from the grassroots within the Republican Party base, which is significant in primary elections. Secondly, his own state of South Carolina is one of the key early nomination battlegrounds, following the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. Since no non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate has ever carried both Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina plays a major role in defining the pre-Super Tuesday momentum. Though DeMint is likely to be a second-tier candidate if he enters the race, his inherent bases of support could generate more for him than originally meets the eye.
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Liberal Groups Test Bass Attack in New Hampshire

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America teamed up to produce a negative issue ad against Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), ostensibly because he voted in favor of the Ryan Budget. Since the groups are only spending $25,000 on the television buy, the effort is being done to test messages and theme. This particular ad says Bass “voted to end Medicare”, which presumably refers to the Ryan plan but such is not identified in the script’s text.

Expect the Medicare issue to be a focal point of the 2012 campaign. Democrats and left-wing groups are clearly stepping up this line of attack in light of Rep. Kathy Hochul’s victory in the NY-26 special election. Debate continues about whether Hochul’s offensive play on Medicare was the defining point of her campaign – the fact that Republican turnout was low suggests that candidate Jane Corwin’s many mistakes and the presence of Independent Jack Davis masquerading as a Tea Party candidate might have been the bigger factors – but the Democrats won with this strategy, so they feel the approach warrants further usage.

Why, then, the test on Bass since these groups aren’t yet dishing out attacks against any other member? Of all the 2010 Republican victories, Rep. Bass regaining the seat he lost after six terms in 2006 was one of the most tenuous. Winning by just one point (48-47 percent), a margin of 3,550 votes over lobbyist Ann McLane Kuster (D), Mr. Bass could be the top 2012 Democratic conversion target. His inclusion on the National Republican Congressional Committee Patriot Program list, announced last week, is a further indication that both parties see him as a highly vulnerable incumbent.

The 2nd district covers New Hampshire’s western region and encompasses the state’s second largest city of Nashua along with Concord, the state capital. The district voted Democratic during the last decade. President Obama scored 56 percent here in 2008. Former President George W. Bush lost the seat in both of his elections. He trailed 47-52 percent in 2004 and 47-48 percent in 2000. In contrast, the state’s other CD, NH-1, gave Obama only a 53-47% win in 2008 while Bush carried the district both times.

As mentioned above, Bass first won his seat in 1994, but was defeated by ex-Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in 2006. Hodes won an easy 56-41 percent re-election in 2008. He then left the House for an unsuccessful 2010 Senate run, losing to freshman Kelly Ayotte (R) by a substantial 37-60 percent count.

As one can see, the district voting patterns became more Democratic as the decade progressed with the exception of 2010 when the whole state decidedly snapped back to the GOP. Will NH-2 continue to cast future votes more like liberal Vermont, which it borders, than generally conservative New Hampshire? The next election will provide the answer.

Rep. Bass, never known as a strong campaigner, has his work cut out for him. What might have been a major factor in his favor, redistricting, did not materialize. The state’s two congressional districts are only 254 people out of balance, so the 2011 New Hampshire map will be virtually identical to the present boundaries. An influx of new Republicans are likely needed for Bass and the GOP to hold this seat, but it’s clear such won’t happen.

For her part, 2010 nominee Kuster, who raised $2.5 million to Bass’ $1.2 million, is already running again. She should be a stronger candidate in 2012 because the Granite State presidential turnout model will likely be more Democratic than it was during the last election and she won’t have to fend off a tough September intra-party opponent as was the case in 2010.

Totaling all of the relevant factors suggest that Charlie Bass’ 2nd district may be the Democrats’ best national opportunity to defeat a House Republican incumbent. Though there is undeniably a long way to go before Election Day 2012, expect this race never to leave the toss-up category.
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