Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CD6: Air Force Dr. Milad Pooran Donates $200K to Himself // ANALYSIS: Progressives Will Swing Democratic Primary

U.S. HOUSE CAUCUS POLITICS - Maryland Juice yesterday noted that two Maryland political pundits recently wrote articles scorching the two frontrunners in the 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary. Both columnists also drew attention to the contrast provided by the campaign of Air Force physician Milad Pooran. Dr. Pooran is running in the CD6 Primary and has received the backing of Howard Dean and the co-chairs of the U.S. House Progressive Caucus - Congressmen Keith Ellison and Raúl Grijalva. Rep. Ellison, for what it's worth, is also hosting a fundraiser for Milad Pooran. We received the announcement for the following event via email:

Please Join Congressman Keith Ellison in support of Dr. Milad Pooran
Candidate for the 6th Congressional Seat of Maryland

Hosted by: Congressman Keith Ellison
Thursday, March 29th, 9:00AM
Thornton Lounge, Hyatt Regency, 400 New Jersey Ave NW
Minimum contribution $250

STRANGE DYNAMICS: Interestingly, State Senator Rob Garagiola has the support of centrist House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and I think I recall reading that he had the support of the more progressive centrists in the New Democrat Coalition (aka the NDN caucus). But Garagiola also has the backing of the liberal activist group and many of the progressive interest groups that make endorsements (ie: Progressive Maryland, Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign, etc). This is creating interesting dynamics in the race. Either way, Mr. Pooran must feel some encouraging signs, because The Baltimore Sun reports that he has decided to inject more than $200,000 of his own money into the race. See an excerpt below:
BALTIMORE SUN: If Maryland's 6th District election was a poker match, Democrat Milad Pooran would be all in.

The Jefferson physician, whose campaign for the Democratic nomination has largely operated in the shadow of two better-known opponents, announced today he will put $200,000 of his own money into his campaign -- a significant investment of his personal savings, aides said.
The unusual decision comes after a poll the campaign conducted showed nearly 40 percent of voters were still undecided in a race that has so far been dominated by state Sen. Rob Garagiola and businessman John Delaney. Pooran, 35, has cast himself as a progressive alternative to Garagiola and Delaney.

"It's clear from our polling that the race is wide open," said Pooran, whose family emigrated from Iran when he was 6 years old. "Yes, this is a risk, and it is a lot of money for me, but as my mother said, 'We came here with nothing but six suitcases. That was a risk, too.'"

The potential impact of such as last-minute investment is not clear.

PROGRESSIVES ARE THE SWING VOTERS IN THE CD6 DEM PRIMARY - While The Sun thinks the impact of Mr. Pooran's expenditures will be unclear -- one thing is coming into clear focus for Maryland Juice. I believe that the progressive/liberal voting bloc will be the decisive swing voting population in the April 3rd Primary. No, I haven't seen any polls -- but my gut (aided by a few anecdotes) tells me that the liberal "party base" may represent a large chunk of "movable" voters who have not settled on a candidate in the CD6 race. The way to engage these voters is also more predictable than other demographic groups. But one way or another, I think we will later be able to look at the primary results and discern that the party base had either coalesced or splintered in response to the behavior of the candidates.

NOVEMBER IS A LONG WAY AWAY - Most of the candidates in the race appear to be insuring themselves against a November General Election, and so the candidates are mostly silent on controversial issues. At the same time, they are quick to erase any possibility for differentiation, so they are nearly unanimous in their support on less controversial issues (ie: education, jobs, health care, seniors, environment). That has forced voters to focus on matters of "character" instead of issues for differentiation.

Unfortunately, the November General Election is a long way away, and the April 3rd Primary is not. In fact, early voting begins this Saturday. Meanwhile, it should be noted that Democratic Primary voters are generally more liberal than the population at-large, and that rule is no different in Montgomery and Frederick. To be sure, many voters will be influenced by liberal interest-group recommendations -- but I would theorize that enough earth-scorching has occurred in CD6 to plant seeds of doubts in the heads of many Democratic "values voters" (yes they do exist -- except their values are for social justice).

THE SUM OF THE PARTS - At this point in the campaign, a candidate with the funds to get their message out must hope that the "sum of the parts" of their Democratic Primary campaign effort has conveyed a sense that they are indeed "A Good Democrat" (ie: do they speak to the reasons why voters self-identify as Democrats?). This is what I think of as "tonal" campaigning -- and in that mysterious sweet spot lies the portion of the Democratic Primary electorate known as the progressive/liberal/activist base of the Party. I think this particular voting population is wobbling in CD6, and where they land will determine the outcome of this race. The candidates have two weeks left to make their final case to the voters. I for one am VERY curious to see how this story unfolds....

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