Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The DSCC's Big Gamble

The decision by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to stop buying TV ad time in Kentucky with three weeks to go before the election on the surface seems wise. Despite one outlier poll, Mitch McConnell has held a consistent lead over Alison Lundergan Grimes for the last two months. Some polls in fact show him up by as many as 6 points. Indeed, the last time Grimes led in this race was May. With incumbent Democrats struggling to survive and the Senate majority hanging in the balance, logic dictated that the money would be far better spent on races that are winnable, such as Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina.

But the decision is also a huge risk for the DSCC. Whether or not you think Kentucky is within reach - and it's not, folks, trust me - pulling out of the state allows the GOP to divert some of its funds to other races, like, for instance, the same races that Democrats are trying to win. In short, the DSCC is kind of caught in a catch 22 scenario. Had it kept its money in Kentucky, it would've by default been unable to fully fund other state races; but it also would've forced Republicans to tie up their money as well. With a ton of soft money at its disposal in states like Kentucky, the GOP already had a built-in advantage over Democrats going into these midterms. Now that advantage just got bigger.

In the elections of 2006 and '08, Democrats employed the now famous 50-state strategy. They aggressively campaigned and spent money in every state, which forced a badly out-funded GOP to do likewise. The result was that Democrats cleaned up at the ballot box both years.

But that was back in the days before Citizens United, before soft money took over the whole election process. While the Democratic Party continues to enjoy an edge in fundraising over Republicans, that edge is canceled out when it goes up against the likes of the Koch brothers.

And that has forced Democrats to do a better job choosing which fights are worth waging and which ones aren't. Instead of a 50-state strategy, they are employing a firewall approach. That tactic worked brilliantly for Barack Obama in 2012. Democrats basically drew a line around several key swing states like Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin and Colorado. Obama ended up sweeping all of them, as well as Florida, which even as late as the last week of October the DNC thought might go for Romney.

If the DSCC's gamble pays off then the Democrats will likely hold their majority; if it doesn't then this decision will end up being one of the costliest mistakes the party ever made. For all her shortcomings and missteps - the non-answer to the vote question was a beaut - Grimes was only trailing the current Senate Minority Leader by 5 points in a state Obama lost by 23. Anyway you slice it, that's pretty damn significant. It seems to me that staying put would've put even more heat on old Turtle face and given more than a just a few Republican strategists agida.

They say hindsight is 20 / 20. But it can't make up for short sightedness.


Tv Ar┼čivi said...
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Prof. Walter Jameson said...


Microanalyzing this stuff gets us nowhere. Besides, it's tedious, dull and downright soporific. Let's employ some common sense. Any student of politics knows that there is such a thing called a "six-year itch" in national elections. This is nothing more than people just wanting a change from the status quo. Now, if you couple that with the fact that we have a sitting president who is experiencing very low approval ratings, you can clearly see that Nov. 4th is going to be a very good day for Republicans. No big analysis or 1,000-word essays needed to explain a damn thing here.

Here's what is going to happen in the Senate race: Republicans will pick up anywhere from 5 to 8 seats. It's pretty much agreed that there are about four toss-up states. Let's say that Republicans hit the minimum of their projected pick-ups, i.e.: five states. That would mean that they have 50. Okay, now let's be stingy and give them one of the toss-ups. There's your 51.

It's not difficult to see, and it's probably likely. A good day for Republicans, indeed.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

steve said...

Gotta say, having to vote for the Dems just to keep the GOP at bay is like saying that our best line of defense against Ebola is SARS. But push come to shove, yeah, I guess I'd rather have SARS.