Comparing F-Buddies

Fundraising season is in high gear, and both candidates are rolling out the big guns to help them raise the bucks they need to saturate the airwaves after Labor Day. Let's check out Randy and Eric's fundraising buddies (f-buddies for short).

I sure hope Randy is practicing safe fundraising with his f-buddy, John Boehner, because, according to this Washington Post article, "Boehner has had his share of taint". Boehner's famous for handing out tobacco lobbying checks on the floor of the House. This time the money changed hands at a fundraiser in Horseheads.

Randy's choice of Boehner as a f-buddy is predictable, and bringing in the majority leader to raise money does nothing to dispel the stench of hack that permeates the Kuhl campaign. But choosing Horseheads as a location for the fundraiser was smart, because it kept Randy out of the more liberal and less sympathetic Rochester media. This one-night stand should be forgotten quickly by everyone except Randy's campaign treasurer.

Eric's choice of f-buddy is his old boss, Wes Clark. Eric and Wes managed to make this a fundraising two-fer, because Clark's visit coincided with Randy's moronic attempt to bolt-on some gravitas by traveling to Iraq. Eric and Wes were able to get some coverage to remind voters that they own this issue. As for the rest of Clark's visit, I won't ask if he won't tell.

Why Another Blog?

I've listed a lot of the blogs in the local area that have written about the 29th race recently on the right.  Seeing that list, and adding big national sites like Kos and myDD to it, you've got to wonder if there's anything left that's worth saying about this race.

Obviously, I think there is (either that, or I've just another kook on the Internet.) I've started this blog because I want to contribute a perspective that's missing from the work of area bloggers.

I'm sure I missed a number of blogs making the list.  If I missed you -- right, left or center --  drop me a note.   With the exception of Michael Caputo's column,  all of those blogs are leftist or progressive.  What's missing is a blog that doesn't have a "netroots" bias.   This bias causes those bloggers to overestimate their impact on the race, to fail to critically examine the candidate's positions, and to be in danger of turning into boring echo chambers.

The Kos and myDD folks, and their progressive acolytes, seem to think that they are part of some kind of people-powered revolution that will change politics as we know it. Well, I guess I'm just anblogasmic.  Blogs are a great communication vehicle, but they represent and influence only a small (yet vocal) segment of voters.  The 29th is older than average, and  older voters are less likely to read blogs.  The district is more conservative than average, so a lot of the netroots rhetoric and positions don't resonate with voters.  I plan to post more on how all media will influence this campaign as this blog goes forward.

Eric Massa is a political junkies' wet dream of a candidate, but the netroots blinders don't allow those bloggers to understand or acknowledge some of the reasons why.  Massa's positions on the issues and campaign approach does not fit into the paradigm that Kos and MoveOn believe it does.  I think his campaign strategy is actually more robust (and more centrist) than the netroots crew might want to acknowledge.  I'll have an in-depth post on  how his campaign resembles other past successful minority challenges in the near future.

Similarly, the netroots perspective misses a lot of what's interesting about John R. "Randy" Kuhl.  Randy's clearly a weak candidate and a party hack.  Nevertheless, Randy is fascinating  because he lacks the imagination to do much but run every play in the Republican playbook.   Some of those plays work.  Why they work is important and little-acknowledged by the blogging left.  More on this, too, anon.

As an ardent political spectator rather than inflamed MoveOn partisan, I don't feel the need to constantly whip up my fervor for one of the candidates.  Obviously, I like Massa and dislike Kuhl, but both are politicans and therefore should be subject to intense skepticism.  Both are likely to ignore or dismiss inconvenient facts, to make tactical alliances with disreputable groups, and to stretch the truth under pressure.  And, man, am I looking forward to watching it happen.

Jonesing for a Poll

One of the frustrations of Congressional races is the lack of good publicly-available polling. Kuhl and Massa probably have great internal polls that tell them how they're doing precinct-by-precinct. The general public has to make do with vague national polls and the crumbs that the campaigns want to throw us.

The last poll that I've seen for this race is a four months old. It showed the race at a statistical dead heat, and Randy's negatives at 50%. It was produced by Massa's campaign, so caveat emptor, but it's the freshest crumb we have.

Why This Race?

Because it's a bellwether.  It's a "safe" Republican district with a undistinguished freshman incumbent, Randy Kuhl.  If Kuhl loses, a whole lot of other party loyalists are going down the tubes.

By the numbers, Randy should have an easy win.  Though he's a freshman, he represents a district with a large Republican plurality. He beat his Democratic opponent in the last election by a 10 points.

But, this year, Randy has a two major problems.

The first is his voting record.  Since his election in 2004, he's voted with the majority in the House on almost every substantive issue. When he's bucked the majority, he's done it to support Bush.  His vote against stem cell research is a good example.

In other words, Kuhl has never voted against the President on a substantial issue. Unlike his predecessor Amo Houghton, who voted against the war in Iraq, Randy is in the President's pocket.

Randy's second problem is his opponent.  In the last election, Randy went up against young, inexperienced Sam Barend.  Sam made a few mistakes in her campaign, most notably when she tried to make Randy's nasty divorce a campaign issue.  She was also a 26-year-old running her first campaign in a district where the median age increased 4 years (to around 38) in the last census.

This year, Randy's opponent is a 24-year Navy veteran and cancer survivor, Eric Massa. Most of the superficial reasons to vote against Barend won't be around this time, and Massa will be able to make hay with his longstanding opposition to the war in Iraq.

If a political analogue of fantasy football existed for political junkies, it would be hard to draft better players than Kuhl and Massa. Kuhl is perfect because he has few qualities other than loyalty to Bush.  He's like the control in a scientific experiment.  Massa is perfect because he's impervious to the mudslinging on the war that might otherwise cloud the election.  I can't wait to watch Kuhl's attack ads, because they're going to have to go beyond the usual "cut and run". 

We've just passed the 90 day mark in this race.  We have three interesting months ahead.  Hold on, because it's going to be a hell of a ride.

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