Sunday, May 4, 2008

Great Candidates, Great Investments

Question: Is it possible that, as 54% of the American people believe, that Barack Obama shared a least some views with Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

Answer: My greatest fear is that he shares many such views. Michelle Obama has said, "In 2008 America is a mean place" and that she has only become "proud of [her] country" as her husband has become successful in the primaries. Frankly, does Obama agree with his wife? Who knows? Right now, Obama looks dispirited and unelectable.

Since this is a national blog -- one that talks a lot about the presidential race -- why have I been discussing congressional races in Pennsylvania? I'm doing so because it's essential that McCain, if he wins on Nov. 4, have enough Republicans in Congress to keep him from having a failed presidency. If he has to depend on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, then God save the republic.

As you've been hearing for some time, Pennsylvania, where I live, will be a crucial battleground in this year's election. If John McCain wins the Keystone State, it's probable he will be the next President. For McCain to win, the Republican Party must get out the vote. That will require a lot of organization at the district (congressional), county, and local levels. Right now, the organizational capacity is questionable.

The GOP in Pennsylvania -- and other states -- is still reeling from the heavy losses in 2006. The stench from the Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham, and Bob Ney scandals has not yet fully abated.

I've been supporting several Republican candidates between I believe they and John McCain can build upon one another's strength. If those candidates flounder, it will hurt the Republican cause in general and our presidential hopes in particular.

The candidates I've endorsed include Melissa Hart (in the 4th district -- where I reside -- opposing Democrat incumbent Jason Altmire); Marina Kats (in the 13th district, opposing Democrat incumbent Allyson Schwartz); Toni Gilhooley (in the 17th district, opposing Democrat incumbent Tim Holden); and Michael Livingston (in the 2d district, opposing Democrat incumbent Chaka Fattah).

If I can read the national Republican Party's mind -- and, in this single case, I believe I can -- they believe Melissa Hart almost certainly will win. Frankly, Melissa's loss in 2006 was a fluke, a result of a temporary anti-Republican tidal wave.

What does the national GOP think about the prospects for the other candidates, Kats, Gilhooley, and Livingston? They probably believe all three will lose. They might be right in all three instances, but -- at the beginning of May -- there's no certainly about next November's results.

The only thing worse than losing a congressional race -- and it's much worse -- is to leave the race uncontested. Frankly, we Republicans have to stop conceding 100-plus seats to the Democrats. That's an obvious point we all need to get across to the national Party.

Yes, Kats and Gilhooley are currently big underdogs in their races. But I've told them both that I believe, if they do just about everything right, they can win. I'm not stupid, and I know the odds, but Gilhooley and Kats are going build great support in their districts. Both of them, especially Gilhooley, are going to benefit from McCain's strong showing in the state. As for Kats, her youth intelligence, and patriotism are going to contrast sharply with Schwartz, who has none of those qualities.

As for Michael Livingston, he will gains tens of thousands of votes more than any Republican has in his district. He's not waging what is known as a "starter campaign," but he is establishing a foundation that the GOP has never had in the the 2d district. Livingston, a tax attorney and law professor, is a great candidate -- while his opponent, Fattah, is an awful one.

Right now (and again, this is my belief), the national Republican Party, which has millions on hand, is preparing to give Livingston, Kats, and Gilhooley a grand total of zero dollars and zero cents. Why? Because they don't believe they can win.

It's something like the old line about getting a loan from the bank. If you really need the money, the bank won't give it to you. If you don't need it, they'll give you all you ask for.

In 2006, my friend and political ally Diana Lynn Irey ran against John Murtha. In the election, Diana got nearly 80,000 votes in a district where Republicans were lucky to get 40,000. She raised $856,000. She had more individual contributors (7,000) than Murtha. She brought many people -- a lot of them young -- into Republican politics.

What did Diana get from the national Republicans -- and for that matter, from the state Republicans? Basically, she got their best wishes. But as for the check, well, it was never in the mail.

Contrast Diana's situation with that of Rep. Tom Reynolds, a member of the Republican leadership and congressman from a "safe" Republican district in upstate New York (Buffalo suburbs to Rochester suburbs). Historically, it's a district where it's nearly impossible for a Republican to lose. Reynolds, unfortunately, almost accomplished the impossible.

He won 52% to 48% in 2006 in a district where a Republican should win by at least 60% to 40%. How much did it cost him to win? Almost $5.3 million dollars, an almost unimaginable sum. A good chunk of his campaign war chest came from the national Republican Party.

Look at it this way: Reynold got 30,000 more votes in his district than Irey got in hers. He spent nearly $50 per vote. In contrast, Irey spent about $11 per vote. (Just FYI, Murtha spent roughly $28 per vote.) If Diana had been able to spend, say, $22 a vote guess who might just have won the election against Murtha?

As for the Tom Reynolds of the world, they have access to huge amounts of campaign cash. If they need lots of cash from the national Party, then they're bad investments. Money sent to them is a form of political CPR.

I'm recommending that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) give Gilhooley and Kats at least $10,000 up front. I'm also recommending that they give Livingston, more of a longshot, $5,000. When the three candidates use the money to build strong organizations -- and thus go up in the polls -- the NRCC should give them more money. In politics as in life, money begets money.

In its support of candidates, the NRCC doesn't seem to favor organizational development. Instead, it seems to favor having candidates in trouble spend hundreds of thousands on TV ads. Generally, at least in recent months, those candidates seem to lose.In politics, that's not a great way to run -- or to build -- a Party.

Here's a bulletin to national Republicans: TV ads, while helpful with name recognition, don't work nearly as well as they once did. In support of that position, I point to one Barack Obama. In the Pennsylvania primary, Obama broke all records for television commercials. He spent $10 million, and had a total of nearly 7,000 ads in the state. For all that, he lost to Mrs. Clinton by 9.2%.

There are reasons TV ads don't work as well now as they did a decade ago, but I'll save that subject for another day.Frankly, the next election does not, if we lose, signify the end of the world as we know it. When we have great candidates -- as we do with Gilhooley, Kats, and Livingston, we need to support them.

Consider this: In 1974 and 1976, novice candidate Newt Gingrich lost his first two races for Congress. In 1978, he finally won. Sixteen years later he was Speaker of the House.

The future of the Republican Party rests with great candidates like Irey, Hart, Kats, Gilhooley, and Livingston. I fully expect more than one of them to win on November 4. And remember, I'm the one who called Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania win -- almost down to the precise decimal point.

Note: If you want to contribute to or otherwise support the Republican candidates I've noted, click on the links above. The exception is Marina Kats, whom you can support by clicking on her link, but whose contributions should go via snail mail to:
Kats For Congress
PO Box 91
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006

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