And, while we’re at it, Kristin Sinema as well
In the last Around the Block, “Why-for art thou, Joe Manchin?” https://around-the-block.com/2022/07/16/why-for-art-thou-joe-manchin/, I suggested that the only way to deal with Senator Joe Manchin, “Democrat” of West Virginia, is to make him irrelevant. The way to make him irrelevant is to ensure his vote doesn’t count; that he just becomes one of a minority of senators who have seats, but no influence or power.
Now, of course, given the rules of the Senate, the self-proclaimed most deliberative body in the world, eliminating any senator’s influence or power is impossible; we’ve all witnessed how one Republican senator can, standing on the floor of that hallowed place, put the brakes on the democratic process. But, that lunacy will be the subject of another Around the Block.
Manchin irrelevancy depends on ensuring that real Democrats, that is Democrats other than Manchin and his partner in “democratic” crime (or is it “Democratic” crime?) Arizona’s Kirsten Sinema, can be out-voted by 50 other Democratic. In other words, the 2022 mid-term election has to result in the election of at least 50 Democratic senatorial candidates not named Manchin or Sinema.
So, how do we do that?
As is painfully obvious, money is the root of (almost) all evil in politics. (Digressing for a second, did you hear the one the other day about the right-wing Republican billionaire who contributed $10 million to a political committee Florida Governor Ron DeSantis controls. You know the guy, Robert Bigelow, the budget hotel founder often quoted for his eccentric beliefs about the galaxy and afterlife and who once said aliens are already on Earth “right under people’s noses.” Despite the fact that Bigelow is certifiable, his $10mm has been accepted by DeSantis because…wait for it…in Florida, there are no limits on how much a person or business can donate to a political committee. But as I said, I digress).
Back to retaining the Democratic Senate majority despite senators named Manchin and Sinema.
Money is a fact of political life. But money contributed and/or allocated haphazardly is not. Apparently that doesn’t seem to bother the grand Pubahs of the Democratic Party whose fundraising efforts are as coordinated as…I’m looking for a phrase that won’t get me into trouble with my politically correct readers…some kind of “fire drill”…but you get it. If I told you that in one 24-hour period I received over 250 email solicitations for Democratic candidates, some of whom I’ve never heard of, you’d agree that lack of coordination is too simple a characterization.
Remember back to 2020 when candidates like Jamie Harrison in North Carolina (now the DNC chairman) and Amy McGrath in North Carolina, both attractive, appealing Democrats, overwhelmed us with messages saying that “only a few more dollars will but me over the top.” I fell for it. Many of you fell for it. And both were beaten overwhelmingly, most sadly in Kentucky where McGrath’s opponent, Mitch McConnell, won by the biggest margin in his career.
If we are to prevail, if we are to make Manchin, and yes, Sinema, irrelevant, we have to continue to spend money. But that spend needs to coordinated and strategic.
Let’s take a look at the playing field.
Ballotpedia posted this analysis the other day:
I hate to say it, but with the exception of Ohio, which I will explain in a bit, no money should be spent on any of the states in RED. As much as it troubles me in a state like Iowa where a retired Navy three-star admiral, Mike Franken, is running against Chuck Grassley, the oldest and perhaps the second most obnoxious Senate Republican (#1 of course goes to Ted Cruz of Texas), my fear is that Franken, and others like him, will turn out to be another Harrison or McGrath. Why spend there, when there are other states where the return on investment will be greater?
So let’s narrow it down a bit.
Political analysts are suggesting that there are eight “toss-up” states; based on the chart above, five are clear toss-ups while three are “lean-to/likely.”
Democrats are incumbents in three of the toss-ups, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada and one lean/likely Democratic, New Hampshire. Those seats have to be retained. The candidates in these states cannot lose. If even one of these states flips, the road to control of the Senate will be uphill to say the least. Contribution priority #1: Mark Kelley, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez Masto and Maggie Hassan.
The other two toss-ups are both interesting. In Pennsylvania, with the incumbent GOP Senator retiring, there’s a chance to flip the state in a race with current Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, running against (apparent) New Jersey resident and world-class charlatan and TV snake-oil salesman Dr. Oz. Sometimes known as a “celebrity doctor” ( I refrain from using that description since I won’t tarnish the reputation of either celebrities nor doctors), Oz is running about 4-5 points behind Fetterman in the most recent polls. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Fetterman required surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator in May which revealed that he had a serious heart condition. So, Pennsylvania is a case where you might want to divide your contributions…some to the campaign and some to getting the best cardiologist money can be. But seriously, Dr. Oz cannot win; we have enough cranky Republicans in the Senate as it is; we don’t need a quack as well.
Wisconsin is another story. Ron Johnson is one of the worst senators in history and one of the dumbest men in the world. Despite his apparent mid-western good looks, he is an idiot, an idiocy most recently displayed when he avoided reporters’ questions because “he was on his phone” until one reporter told him, “No you’re not. I can see your screen. You’re not on the phone.” Wisconsin is a toss-up; but given the competition, another potential flip. Of course it will help if we know who’ll be running for the Democrats, an issue to be settled after the Democratic primary on August 9. But after that, let the money flow.
Of the states leaning one way or the other, the first priority has to be Democratic-leaning New Hampshire, where incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, if as expected, wins her primary, will be running for reelection against the Republican winner of their primary on September 13. As with Arizona, Georgia and Nevada this seat cannot flip Republican so make sure Maggie Hassan is high up on your donation list.
Republican-leaning North Carolina and Florida are flippable. When it comes to statewide offices, North Carolina has been getting bluer, with Democrats holding the statewide offices of governor, attorney general and secretary of state. With the retirement of Republican senator Richard Burr, Democrats have an opportunity to take another statewide office and flip North Carolina. But financial support to the Democratic candidate, Cheri Beasley, will be critical.
Florida, of course, is near to my heart (I’m working on making it “dear.”) Incumbent Republican senator Marco Rubio has been a flip-flopping, blowing-in-the wind, mostly absent, failure as a senator. But, with his Cuban roots and the importance of the Hispanic vote in the state, a formidable candidate. But not an unbeatable one, particularly given that his opponent is Representative Val Demings of the Orlando area. Demings made a name for herself as one of the Congressional impeachment managers at Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. Before entering politics, Demings was in law enforcement rising through the ranks to become chief of the Orlando Police Department, its first female chief, capping a 27-year career with the department. Demings is running 8 points behind Rubio in a poll of likely voters but only five points behind among all voters. That says two things: money needs to be spent to not only support Demings, but also to get out the vote and overcome all voter suppression schemes Florida Republicans have instituted.
Before I sum all this up, let me get back to Ohio, a former “swing” state that has become more deeply red. That’s why on the Ballotpedia chart Ohio is red and is not included as a “toss-up” state. But, I don’t think those classifications take into account one key factor: the candidates. The Democratic candidate is Representative Tim Ryan of Youngstown. Ryan is a smart, personable and photogenic candidate who ran for president in 2020 and has represented his district since 2013. He is, at 49, something of a firebrand who actually initiated a bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader in 2016. Perhaps misguided, given what Pelosi has accomplished, his actions pushed Pelosi into giving more leadership opportunities to junior members. Not a bad accomplishment for a 40-something looking at the Democrat’s gerontological Congressional leadership.
And his opponent? Political novice and Trump favorite, JD Vance, who Democratic consultant James Carville says is an “anti-choice, anti-democracy billionaire who doesn’t give a hoot about the challenges working families are facing and built his Silicon Valley fortune on the backs of hardworking Americans.” In fact, Carville believes “Ohio needs JD Vance like I need a hairbrush.“ In the event you don’t get Carville’s humor, perhaps this will help.
So, let’s sum up.
If the Democrats are able to take all eight battleground states plus Ohio, here’s what the Senate will look like:
Winning all nine would be a dream come true, although more likely a pipe dream. But what the above chart demonstrates, even accounting for the Manchin/Sinema obstinance, there’s still a three-seat margin of error (since Vice-President Harris can break a 50-50 tie).
So put your money where your mouth, where your heart, where your patriotism and where your love of democracy is. Be strategic. Don’t fall for the pleas for candidates who have no chance of winning. Support Kelley/Warnock/Cortez Masto/Fetterman/Demings/Hassan/Beasley/Ryan! Make Manchin (and Sinema) irrelevant!
As ABBA says, “Money, money, money, always sunny” And won’t it be “sunny” if Democrats control the Senate.
One last thing. After spending all this time talking about money, I need to tell you a little story about when it comes to paid communication, it’s not always about just money.
As many of you know, I was responsible, to a great degree, for the famous California Dancing Raisins advertising campaign. There are two lessons I learned from the development and the astonishing success of that campaign. The first is that to mount a successful communication campaign, you need an insightful, convincing strategy. The second is that a great piece of communication that reflects the essence of that strategy…an ad…can multiply the money spent behind that ad immeasurably.
How do I know?
Once a month in the years that the Dancing Raisins campaign ran on TV, Advertising Age, the industry bible at the time, ran a column highlighting the “most remembered advertising during the past month.” The top five ad campaigns at the time were from the usual subjects: Coke, Pepsi, McDonalds, Burger King…and one not so usual subject…the California Raisins. The usual subjects back then spent hundreds of millions of dollars each promoting their products. California Raisins? About $6-8 million. This means a campaign supported by less than $10 million had the same impact as campaigns spending $200 million and more. Talk about the power of a great idea, innovatively executed!
Are you listening, political consultants and ad gurus developing campaigns for your candidates? Are you spending the contributions from your supporters with the best messages you can? Are you willing to learn about the power of great advertising from those shriveled grapes from California? Are you willing to understand that it’s not just about money, it’s also about great ideas? And that the future of our democracy depends on those great ideas?
For the sake of this country, I hope so!