Sunday, September 16, 2012

CD6 ANALYSIS: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett Lacking Appeal in Montgomery County // Will Delaney Capitalize on GOP Gaffes?


BACKGROUND: Maryland's 6th Congressional District race is one the nation's most competitive contests for the November 6 elections. Indeed, Maryland Juice has been tracking this slugfest ever since Maryland Democrats redistricted Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's seat to become a majority Democratic U.S. House district. Note: check out our CD6 article archive. The formerly Western-Maryland anchored district now includes a majority of voters who supported President Barack Obama in 2008 -- including many voters in strongly Democratic Montgomery County and the city of Frederick.

MARYLAND JUICE'S QUICK ANALYSIS OF THE CURRENT CD6 RACE: For Rep. Roscoe Bartlett to hold onto his seat, his campaign would need to make a number of things happen. First, they would have to appeal to some percentage of the new Democratic majority in CD6. Second, they would have to hope that either overall turnout was low in the Democratic areas of the new district or that enthusiasm for John Delaney remained low. Lastly, they would have to hope for high turnout among GOP base voters in CD6. Here's our take on how these factors are currently playing out:

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's Recent Attack Ad Against John Delaney
WILL NEGATIVE ADS REDUCE SUPPORT FOR DELANEY? - Here's the problem for Roscoe Bartlett: This is a presidential election cycle, which means that turnout will be higher than in off-year cycles (like during the Tea Party wave of 2010). Pinning your re-election hopes on low turnout in a presidential year is no way to win an election. Both the GOP and Democratic bases have additional reasons to be active in Maryland this year, but frankly there are more Democratic than Republican voters in CD6. So barring unusually low turnout in Montgomery County, Bartlett will have to count on finding artificial ways to suppress Delaney's share of the Democratic vote.

This is clearly where the Bartlett campaign's recent attacks on Delaney's environmental record come into play. The Maryland GOP has been sending mail pieces to Democratic voters trying to paint Delaney as a callous member of the 1%. Meanwhile, Bartlett is on TV with similar attack ads against Delaney. Clearly, the Bartlett campaign is trying to raise Delaney's negatives and suppress his support among Democrats.

One unusual feature to this strategy, however, is that Roscoe Bartlett himself does not appear to stand by the negative ads or even know what his campaign operatives and allies are saying. The Gazette recently covered this bizarre disconnect (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: At a recent town hall meeting, a man confronted Bartlett with what he perceived to be a negative campaign on the congressman’s part....

When the man handed Bartlett a campaign flier he’d received in the mail that labeled Delaney a “loan shark,” Bartlett shrugged it off. “That wasn’t me; that was the campaign,” he said, handing back the flier and shaking his head.

In a more recent exchange, Bartlett’s opponent called out the congressman for quoting a 2006 opinion piece in Forbes magazine, entitled “Loan Shark,” for Delaney’s business practice of lending money to small businesses....

“Oddly enough, the veteran Republican actually defended Delaney against accusations that he ripped off small businesses in favor of making bigger profits in the financial loaning industry. ‘I have no idea how he could be called a loan shark,’ said Bartlett....”

CAN ROSCOE BARTLETT SELL HIMSELF AS AN INDEPENDENT VOICE? - While trying to reduce support for Delaney, Bartlett is also trying to re-brand himself as an independent voice in Congress. His campaign is now attempting to make Bartlett more palatable to moderate, independent and Democratic voters  in the new CD6. The New York Times recently profiled a number of embattled House Republicans who are now claiming the mantle of bi-partisanship. Maryland's Roscoe Bartlett, of course, is included in the NYT mix (excerpt below):
NEW YORK TIMES:  In campaign advertisements, some lawmakers who once dug in against Democrats now promote the wonders of bipartisanship. And legislatively, Republicans in tough races are seeking to soften their edges by moderating their votes, tossing their teacups and otherwise projecting a conciliatory image to voters.

The Republican quest for bipartisanship — at least nominally — is not hard to explain. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week and released this weekend showed that 44 percent of Americans see Republicans at fault for gridlock in Washington, compared with 29 percent who blame President Obama and the Democrats....

On election night in 2010, as Tea Party conservatives were being swept into office, Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland, a 10-term Republican, declared: “The Tea Party came to where I was. I’ve always been there.”

But then came Maryland’s redistricting and an influx of Democratic voters to Mr. Bartlett’s once-reliable Republican corner of the state. Now much of his advertising emphasizes his support for higher education, including contributions to college funds out of his own pocket.

“Roscoe has never been afraid to buck his own party,” a radio ad intones. “Roscoe Bartlett, an independent voice for Maryland....”

BARTLETT'S GAFFES ARE DISTRACTING VOTERS FROM HIS MESSAGE: The reality, in Maryland Juice's honest opinion, is that it is hard to implement campaign messaging strategy when your candidate veers off course. In Maryland's CD6, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett has been veering wildly off course. Much media attention has been drawn to his recent comments comparing student loans to the Holocaust. The Frederick News-Post, for example, today published an editorial blasting Bartlett's Holocaust comments. But they also took the opportunity to dredge out past examples of Bartlett's gaffes (excerpt below):
FREDERICK NEWS-POST: U.S. Roscoe Bartlett faced a firestorm of attention in the past couple of weeks for his unfortunate invocation of the Holocaust to illustrate how ignoring the Constitution could result in serious ramifications.... Cue the sharp intake of breath, then the apology, then a call to resign....
As longtime 6th District constituents already know, the congressman has flubbed publicly before. Bartlett had been in office for only three months in 1993 when he referred to Asian-American names on a list of scholarship recipients, saying they didn't "represent the normal American." Naturally, a firestorm ensued after the story was first published in The Washington Post.

Then, during a 2002 announcement of expansion plans for Fort Detrick's PX and commissary, Bartlett questioned continued funding for cleaning up a polluted site on post.

IF A TREE FALLS IN THE WOODS // WILL THE DELANEY CAMPAIGN CAPITALIZE? - One great unknown in the CD6 race, is whether John Delaney will start airing advertisements highlighting Bartlett's record and gaffes. After all, it is currently unclear what percentage of CD6 voters have even heard about Bartlett's holocaust comments. My suspicion would be that a relatively small percentage of CD6 voters happened to be reading The Baltimore Sun, Frederick News-Post, Washington Post or Huffington Post at the time that Bartlett made the Holocaust comments. That means that unforced errors from the Bartlett campaign ought to present John Delaney with a "use it or lose it" choice to make about his advertising buys. After all, how many Montgomery Democrats will believe any attempts by the Bartlett campaign to moderate his image after hearing his comments about students loans and the Holocaust?

Yesterday, for example, a CD6 economic development blogger wrote a post titled "Why I Oppose Re-Election of Roscoe Bartlett," and they highlighted his long history of rightwing positions on issues. The blogger, at a site called "Thoughts about K4D" showed a scatterplot comparing Roscoe Bartlett to other members of Congress, and how based on his bill sponsorships, he is among the most rightwing Republicans in the U.S. House (see the graph below, noting that I've circled Bartlett's position):

The CD6 blogger also highlighted Bartlett's votes on a range of issues:
  • Voted YES on banning federal health coverage that includes abortion. (May 2011)
  • Voted NO on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Jan 2007)
  • Voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)
  • Voted YES on terminating the Home Affordable mortgage Program. (Mar 2011)
  • Voted NO on $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending. (Jul 2009)
  • Voted NO on modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures. (Mar 2009)
  • Voted NO on additional $825 billion for economic recovery package. (Jan 2009)
  • Voted NO on monitoring TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief. (Jan 2009)
  • Voted NO on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. (Dec 2008)
  • Voted NO on $60B stimulus package for jobs, infrastructure, & energy. (Sep 2008)
  • Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Nov 2007)
  • Rated 7% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
  • Rated 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance. (Dec 2006)
  • Rated 25% by the NAACP, indicating an anti-affirmative-action stance. (Dec 2006)
  • Voted NO on letting shareholders vote on executive compensation. (Jul 2009)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting needle exchange & medical marijuana in DC. (Oct 1999)
  • Voted YES on subjecting federal employees to random drug tests. (Sep 1998)
  • Voted YES on barring EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. (Apr 2011)
  • Voted NO on $2 billion more for Cash for Clunkers program. (Jul 2009)
  • Voted YES on deauthorizing "critical habitat" for endangered species. (Sep 2005)
  • Voted YES on speeding up approval of forest thinning projects. (Nov 2003)
  • Rated 30% by the LCV, indicating anti-environment votes. (Dec 2003)
  • Voted NO on supporting democratic institutions in Pakistan. (Jun 2009)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers. (Oct 2005)
  • Voted YES on prohibiting suing gunmakers & sellers for gun misuse. (Apr 2003)
  • Voted YES on decreasing gun waiting period from 3 days to 1. (Jun 1999)
  • Voted YES on the Ryan Budget: Medicare choice, tax & spending cuts. (Apr 2011)
  • Abolish federal Medicare entitlement; leave it to states. (Dec 2000)
  • Limit anti-trust lawsuits on health plans and insurers. (Mar 2002)
  • Rated 22% by APHA, indicating a anti-public health voting record. (Dec 2003)
  • Redefine "birthright citizenship" to exclude illegal aliens. (Jan 2011)
  • Declare English as the official language of the US. (Feb 2007)
  • Declared English the official language of the US. (Jan 1999)
  • Rated 0% by the AU, indicating opposition to church-state separation. (Dec 2006)

FINAL THOUGHT: Many of the aforementioned details would surely alarm the numerous Democratic voters in the new CD6. But the question remains, will Democrat John Delaney go on the offensive or will he try to quietly ride into the sunset?

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