Kuhl, Massa "Debate" in the New York Times

A New York Times article on the Democrats and the Iraq war quotes Eric Massa and Randy Kuhl extensively. 

I've detailed Massa's position earlier, and the Times article added nothing new.  What's new to me is Kuhl's response:

“That’s the old cut and run,”  Mr. Kuhl said. “I will not send up the white flag as my opponent says he will.”

An Immediate Investigation

Randy Kuhl wants Eliot Spitzer to launch an immediate investigation into gas price gouging in the 29th:

was shocked to drive from New York to Washington and watch the price of
gas drop from a high of over $2.80 in the 29th District down to near
$2.30 in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Kuhl. “If the difference in state
taxes between New York and Pennsylvania is only eleven cents, then
obviously there is something going on in New York if there’s a fifty
cent difference in price for the same product. We have price gouging
statutes on the books in New York and they ought to be used by the
Attorney General to stop this practice from occurring."

I think Elliot Spitzer is a little busy right now.  But I've got some free time.  Here are the results of my immediate investigation.

The Department of Energy tracks the average retail price of gasoline in major US markets, and they have the data formatted for download.  Data for New York is tracked, as is data for regions.  New York is in the central-Atlantic region, which also includes Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania:  in other words, all of Kuhl's drive home is in this region.

I'm no energy expert, but here's what my investigation of the data has found:  Over a five-year period, New York State gas prices have been roughly 9 cents higher than the regional average (see the graph).  In October, 2005, the price difference reached a five-year maximum of 18.2 cents.  The last data point, taken on 9/11, shows that we're at a 13.6 cent difference, which is above the mean but below the historical maximum.

"Gouging" is a political term which generally means that suppliers are taking advantage of a short-term shortage to extract a maximum profit.  It looks like, on average, New York gas prices have been higher than the region for years.

I'll grant Randy that this data is an average across New York, and doesn't single out the 29th.  But we've all had the experience of driving across state lines and seeing lower gas prices.  There's nothing shockingly new here, and Randy's call for an investigation is a classic red herring.  High gas prices are a nationwide, market-based phenomenon.  There's no cabal of greedy gas station owners ripping off voters in the 29th, and Kuhl knows it.

Evidence of Democratic GOTV

The state Democratic party has opened a temporary office in Penn Yan.  Normally, offices in little burgs like Penn Yan are only opened during presidential election years.   According to the story,

organizers felt it was important this year, particularly with high-profile Democratic candidates, such as Massa, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's re-election bid and Eliot Spitzer's run for governor.

This is concrete evidence that the Democrats are serious about GOTV in the 29th this Fall.

Two Votes on Half-Measures

Randy Kuhl's latest major votes have been, predictably, with the Republican majority. They both reflect that majority's failure to come to terms with two big issues:

  • The Secure Fence Act of 2006 is just one component -- and probably the least effective one -- of a new immigration policy that's stalled in Congress.
  • The Earmarking "reform" bill is the result of gutting lobbying reform.  It establishes a public database of earmarks while avoiding the larger issues raised by the Abramoff scandal.

Both of these bills were passed strictly to give legislators something to take back to their campaigns this Fall.  Calling them "half-measures" is generous -- "band-aid" or "g-string" would probably be more accurate.   Voters in the 29th should still feel free to wonder why Congress can't police itself or deal with immigration.

Yard Signs

On my daily commute in the far North of the 29th, I've noticed a new Massa lawn sign every day for the past 3 days.  These signs are placed in front lawns, not at exit ramps or busy corners.  That's a small but interesting indication of voter interest and campaign organization.  I've yet to see a Kuhl sign.

Massa's New Ad

The Massa campaign has produced their first campaign commercial.  It's a positive ad focused on introducing Massa to the 29th.  There's no word on when (or even if) the ad will show on television, but you can watch it after the break.

Update:  According to the Massa campaign, the ad began running last night.

Massa Does Kuhl's Press

The Cheney fundraiser story just keeps getting stranger.  Both the AP and Gannett are running stories based on a Massa campaign press release, as are the Rochester D&C and local TV and radio outlets.

Both Kuhl and the Vice-President's office were caught off guard.  The Kuhl campaign made no comment and referred questions to Cheney's office, which initially denied but later confirmed the visit.

Massa's pre-emptive strike has Kuhl looking like he wanted to keep Cheney's $1000 photo-op and $250-plate fundraiser on the DL.  You know you've invited the wrong person to town when your opponent is more excited about the visit than you are.

Massa and Cleland on WXXI

Eric Massa and Max Cleland appeared on WXXI's 1370 Connection this afternoon.  A couple of minutes of Eric on Osama Bin Laden after the break:

Download obl.mp3 (369K)

No National Money for Massa

Today's New York Times has a story about the Democratic strategy in New York State.  Only NY-24, which is an open seat, will be getting funding from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That's bad news for Eric Massa, who really needs to be on the airwaves now raising his name recognition.   I'll bet that Massa's name recognition in the 29th is in the teens.  If the DCCC wants to win, it should send a few bucks his way.

This story is one of a few post-Labor Day articles (here's another) where political writers come to their senses and realize that it takes more than favorable nationwide polls to produce wins in Congress. But that's no surprise.   Gerrymandered, Republican upstate districts like the 29th are always an uphill climb -- the national dissatisfaction with Republicans only puts them within reach.

Cheney to Fundraise for Kuhl

Vice-President Dick Cheney will appear at a $1000-plate fundraiser for Randy Kuhl on September 29 in Rochester, according to Eric Massa's campaign diary

Cheney appeared on Meet the Press this morning and commented that he's been campaigning heavily and expects to win:

I’ve done 91 campaigns myself this cycle, since last fall. I’m on the road a lot. I’ve seen our candidates, I’ve seen how they’re handling the issues. We’ve generated the resources we need to be able to have a good, hard-fought competition. I—if I had to bet today, I’d bet that—well, I can bet you a dinner that we hold both Houses.

Cheney's appearance, like Bush's trip earlier this year, is a double-edged sword for Kuhl.  Cheney's approval ratings are in the low 20's, and he's a polarizing and divisive figure.  As his Meet the Press appearance demonstrated this morning,  he's also an articulate spokesman for the Bush administration's positions on the War on Terror.   Apparently Kuhl will risk another "rubber stamp" branding moment to energize his base and fatten his warchest.

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