Saturday, March 24, 2012

STATE OF THE RACE // Anonymous Sources Weigh In On the 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary Battle

UPDATE: View the latest Democratic FEC reports: Rob Garagiola, John Delaney, Milad Pooran and Charles Bailey. Both the Republican and Democratic links are archived here.

Folks, voting has already begun in Maryland's 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary. Today marked the start of early voting (SAT-THU) in the Free State, before the official election day: Tuesday, April 3rd. There are five candidates running (click their names to visit their campaign websites): State Senator Rob Garagiola, businessman John Delaney, Air Force Dr. Milad Pooran, former public defender Charles Bailey and anti-trust attorney Ron Little.


THE IMPACT OF MILAD POORAN - Anything could happen, but I think it is fair to say that John Delaney and Rob Garagiola are the frontrunners for the CD6 Democratic Primary. Meanwhile, Milad Pooran is running a dark horse campaign that gained momentum only in the closing two weeks of the race. Dr. Pooran was deployed for military service in the middle of the heated Democratic Primary and lost precious time to build a political base. To be sure, Dr. Pooran is smartly running to the left of the other candidates, but even after loaning himself $200,000, two weeks may not be enough time to turn late-breaking support into a victory. That's just my two cents.

In the closing days, Milad Pooran will be spending $200,000 advertising endorsements from Howard Dean and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. At this point it seems like there is a % of voters who will have a "damn them all" attitude, and vote for Milad Pooran (or Ron Little and Charles Bailey) in protest or for other reasons. The key question will be which of the two frontrunners disproportionately loses votes to the other candidates? This is important because the % of the vote that Pooran, Little and Bailey (aka "the challengers") receive may well be larger than the margin separating Rob Garagiola and John Delaney.

LOW TURNOUT EXPECTED - The performance of the three challengers in the race is extremely important, because most analysts are projecting very low turnout for the CD6 Democratic Primary. Unlike in the Republican Primary, the top-of-the-ticket Presidential race is uncontested for Democrats. That means that the main race to draw voter interest is the down-ticket Congressional Primary, and among Democrats, this has been a negative race. This can have the effect of depressing the already projected low turnout. Furthermore, Maryland Democrats are not accustomed to voting in April, we have new Congressional Districts, and we haven't seen any major differentiating issues emerge to motivate turnout.

What does low turnout mean? Anything can happen. Unpredictability is scary for those working on campaigns, and the turnout dynamics of this race are almost as bad as in a special election (which I've had to deal with twice). My assumption is that the low turnout in this environment means participation will be higher among older voters (ie: those with a longer history of primary participation), party activists, and anyone with a particular chip on their shoulder. But this also means that the candidates' ground games will be very important. Which campaigns have the resources and troops to convert supporters through their campaign messaging, then identify those supportive voters one-by-one, and then ensure that they actually turnout and vote on election day?

IMPACT OF CASH - Last night, Politico reported on the cash dynamics in the closing days of the CD6 Democratic Primary:
Rob Garagiola's Maryland congressional campaign appears to be running low on cash heading into the final week before his primary with businessman John Delaney.

In their pre-primary filings, Delaney holds a $230,000 cash on hand advantage over the state senator, with Garagiola reporting just $180,000 left to spend.

Delaney, who is worth up to $50 million and put in another $1.25 million of his own money, reported about $450,000 cash on hand, when including 48-hour reports.

Dive into the numbers deeper and Garagiola's financial woes are even larger than they seem on the surface.

An analysis of Garagiola's fundraising report provided to POLITICO found that of the $180,000 he has left in the bank, about 30 percent of it is earmarked for the general election.

Barring a surge of late funding, that means Delaney will have a disproportion advantage in voter contacts -- television, mail and field -- during the final 10 days.

Maryland Juice has heard that John Delaney's campaign has hired a large field staff with his funds -- but I would still caution readers about one thing. Money isn't quite everything, and a candidate only needs to reach a threshold of spending in order to blunt the impact of their opponents' larger war-chest. That being said, its not clear whether Rob Garagiola's remaining $120,000 meets that threshold. I am skeptical.

But again, also remember that in a low turnout election, candidates with vocal bases of supporters can out-perform better-financed candidates. In roughly ten days, we will know whose cuisine reigns supreme. Will State Senator Rob Garagiola be able to muscle together a ground game with volunteers, labor union boots, and the support of dozens of endorsing organizations? Or will John Delaney's momentum, cash advantage and late-breaking endorsements put him over the top?

ANONYMOUS SOURCES WEIGH IN: Maryland Juice consulted with several political insiders to tap their opinions on the state of the 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary. To ensure candid commentary, we are printing their thoughts completely anonymously. Our sources range from elected officials, lobbyists, political aides, pundits, and party activists. Truthfully, the sample is not tilted toward any one campaign, but you'll just have to take my word on that:

Anonymous Politicos Weigh In:

SOURCE 1: It is amazing how unprepared both Delaney (giving to Republicans?) and Rob (financial forms and other mini-scandals) were for a campaign they have both known was coming.

SOURCE 2: Several things have surprised me:  (1) How little has been made of the fact that Delaney does not live in CD6; (2) The animosity the Post seems to have towards Annapolis and Senate President Miller which it is taking out on Garagiola; (3) how little credit Garagiola has been given for his body of work in the state legislature relative to a candidate who has never held office; and (4) how negative and nasty the campaign has been.

In the end, I anticipate that no more than 50-60,000 of the 180,000 Dems in CD6 will vote.  Its very difficult to predict who the likely voters in this low turnout race will be and/or which candidate looks best able to persuade them to come out.  Nobody I know has a good, confident read on the outcome despite all the noise.

SOURCE 3: Still a close race but Delaney has all the mo. Relentless negative campaign from Garagiola is backfiring. People here can't remember who he is after 3 weeks of 'shark' mailings. If they do remember, it's that he's the guy who tried to pretend he wasn't a DC lobbyist. Attacks on Delaney from Moveon and liberal calvalcade don't seem to be helping.

Delaney and Pooran get credit from forum-watchers for being thoughtful. Garagiola's stuff sounds like it's coming out of a can. Clinton/Edwards/Duncan/Washington Post/Gazette beat the blur of endorsements from Garagiola. Sen. Ron Young and wife Karen went all in for Mike Miller and are suffering for their association with such a scorched earth effort.

SOURCE 4: I think Delaney will remind Annapolis pols they aren't so important and Miller is really no king maker outside of this town. Money matters and experience outside of elected office is valuable to voters.

The old boys network that propelled Rob Garagiola upward fast is not in touch with the Democratic primary voters. They need a reality check about what brings electoral power in a competitive race.

Delaney, also a white man, but not quite so representative of the old boys political establishment has a lot of appeal to some politicos because he represents a giant middle finger to the old guard establishment. As for the voters, they don't really care what the politicos think.

SOURCE 5: For all of the talk that the electorate is rejecting Garagiola because he is an "Annapolis insider", I believe any loss in support he has suffered was primarily from his failure to articulate a vision and a platform for his candidacy. Democratic candidates need to stop fooling themselves that they can ignore the party base. No matter who ends up winning the Primary, they should keep this in mind for their first term and the next primary in CD-6 which will be taking place in a newly blue district.

SOURCE 6: Do you recall the parable of the faithful servant? If not, you may be familiar with its moral: To whom much is given, much shall be expected. Rob Garagiola was given the political opportunity of a lifetime, and he failed to meet anyone’s expectations. He spent a decade building political capital, and he squandered it in a matter of weeks by making a series of egregious and unforced errors. He has no one to blame for his situation but himself. If he loses the primary, which he very well may, his political career is effectively over.

John Delaney, on the other hand, appears to be running a nearly pitch-perfect campaign. That’s an easier thing to do when you have deep pockets, but it’s no small feat for a political novice. If he prevails in April, it’s bad news for the Democratic establishment. If he prevails in November, it’s bad news for anyone eyeing statewide office, because he is going to get bored in the House of Representatives. He has demonstrated that he can marshal the resources to be a statewide candidate, and he clearly doesn’t mind taking on party favorites who paid their dues and waited their turn.

Want to find out more about the CD6 race? Check out:

1 comment:

  1. Going along with source 5, I think the biggest reason I've been leaning towards Delaney is because I don't feel like Garagiola has any vision for the congressional seat. Every time I hear him speak, he says "I did x in the Senate and I'll do x at the Federal level." I want to hear about how things will change. If he is just going to recycle his old bills, he just isn't that compelling a candidate.