Thursday, May 3, 2012
Do Candidates Matter Or Just Money?
Last Friday's post generated some interesting discussion.
The premise was this. If NC-9 Republicans pick the wrong candidate, they could set this race up to be closer than it needs to be in November. That was readily dismissed by many in favor of the establishment candidates in the race. On Twitter it was suggested I must be a wild-eyed Libertarian for thinking this race could be close in November. (No offense intended to actual Libertarians.)
Since this is a Federal election, "establishment" candidates here simply means those candidates on the RNC's Young Guns list - Pittenger, Pendergraph, and Barry. In my opinion these "establishment" candidates could just as easily cause this situation to occur. However, since they bring the most money to the table, this possibility is being overlooked.
Certainly, it is a strong Republican district and any Republican will have an advantage, but depending on the candidates and how they campaign, history has shown it could be a lot closer than expected. I'll point to the Hagan-Dole race in 2008. After Dole's now infamous "There Is No God" commercial against Kay Hagan, Dole won the current 9th District seat with just 50.38% of the vote according to data on NCLEG.net. That's significantly closer than other races in the same district.
Other factors this year will be similar to that race. There will be a Presidential race on the ticket bringing higher Democratic Party voter turnout. The Obama campaign will be campaigning hard all over the Charlotte area to ensure that happens. This will enhance any potential bump occurring because of the Democratic Party Convention. Also, Jennifer Roberts, the 9th District candidate for the Democrats, is a well know politican and a woman which will leverage the gender gap between the parties.
For Republicans, the risk of a Robert Pittenger campaign under these circumstances should be obvious. Are you willing to take the risk that Robert Pittenger will not run an equally toxic campaign in the general election as he has during the primary? It is a huge risk to chance a negative Pittenger campaign in these conditions. What is not risky is the assumption that he's willing to spend his wealth doing it - thus, his Young Guns designation. Money talks.
Ironically, the other two establishment candidates do in fact have the party history issues pointed out by Mr Pittenger. Just because Mr Pittenger points them out with vitriol, does not make them untrue. What is interesting is how they've gone about re-branding themselves to overcome that history. What better way to do that than pursue Young Guns status?
Mr Pendergraph has won only a single election as a Republican and four for sheriff as a Democrat. Now we should just accept that he's one of the best choices to be the standard bearer for local Republicans in Congress? Is he better than Jennifer Roberts? Yes. Is he the best we can do? Certainly not.
To overcome this, he has enjoyed Sue Myrick's endorsement and access to her fund raising machine since the beginning of this campaign. Rep. Myrick endorsed Jim Pendergraph within days of the close of candidate filing on February 29th - accompanied by a fundraising email blast the same day. Ten days later, Mr Pendergraph landed on the Young Guns list after "meeting rigorous benchmarks in the ‘Young Guns’ program that will position his campaign for victory". As a new Republican with little history, what else could those benchmarks be other than money? Money talks.
Finally, Mr Barry has been accused of supporting Democrats through his business affiliations. More importantly in my opinion, Mr Barry donated specifically to NC Democrat Erskine Bowles in his 2004 race against Republican Richard Burr. Interestingly, he donated to Burr during his reelection campaign. I guess you could say Barry was against the highest elected Republican in the State before he was for him. Mr Barry also donated to SC Democrat John Spratt in 2008 before Mr Spratt was ousted by Mick Mulvaney the following cycle. Will these things hurt him in a general election? Maybe not. But they do point to a consistency problem that is difficult to tolerate as a Republican. (See Picking a Candidate in a Primary.)
By 2010 Mr Barry's campaign contributions took a decidedly more Republican turn. In 2010 and 2011 he made donations to Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy - three very solid Republican names. They also happen to be the three founders of the Young Guns program. What better way to rehabilitate one's history and get on this cycle's Young Guns list before filing to run in NC-08? Mr Barry actually achieved his "On the Radar" status for the Young Guns while running for the 8th District - before he switched to the 9th. Money talks.
Will the wrong Republican candidate make this election closer? Yes. If it is Robert Pittenger, then much closer. The other two establishment candidates have issues that dampen enthusiasm - Young Guns status not withstanding.
So, do candidates matter, or just money?
Another example of how the "establishment" candidates are not the best. Pendergraph missteps seriously damages long-term electability. Loses Observer endorsement.
2 better choices in the 9th Congrssional District -CharlotteObserver.com