Momentum, Again

In this morning's Washington Times, Eric Massa is mentioned as one of the candidates who will benefit from the tidal wave of Spitzermania:

"Democrats will be very motivated to vote this year because of the promise of Eliot Spitzer as governor," said Blake Zeff, spokesman for the New York State Democratic Party. "There is no question we will be able to motivate our voters and turn them out. I don't think the Republicans can say the same."

I'm still skeptical. I don't think marginal Democratic voters go to the polls to vote for sure winners -- they go when they think their vote will count.

But here's how Spitzer's mighty mo' can help Eric Massa. Like Hillary Clinton, he, too, can speak at fundraisers for Massa. He (and Clinton) can also pitch in for turnout efforts in November. In other words, he can provide real money, not some kind of ephemeral (and unmeasurable) "momentum".

New Money Numbers Posted

The FEC pre-primary reports are out, and Randy Kuhl still has a commanding lead over Eric Massa.  Kuhl has so far raised almost $1 million, and has about $600K on hand.  Massa has raised about $660K and has $260K left in the bank. 

Roughly two-thirds of Kuhl's contributions come from PACs or other advocacy groups, the rest from individuals.  The opposite is true for Massa:  65% of his contributors are private citizens.

Both candidates have raised roughly the same amount of money so far this year as Kuhl and Massa's Democratic counterpart did in all of '04.   And both are still at work.  Massa was one of the participants in a fundraiser with Hillary Clinton last night.

The National Money Situation

Aside from MoveOn ads, the 29th hasn't seen a lot of outside involvement in the race. To gauge the future influence of outside organizations and party committees, it's worth knowing how much they have to spend.

A Time article has some good news for Randy Kuhl. Though Republican and Democratic candidates are very close in overall fundraising, the Republican National Committee has outraised the Democrats by $34 million to $11 million. Republican-friendly advocacy groups have also been outspending those friendly to Democrats. For example, the Chamber of Commerce has spent $10 million compared to MoveOn's $2 million.

Massa Makes the Wires

Eric Massa was one of the participants in a Democratic National Committee sponsored conference call this morning.  His comments, which essentially call Rumsfeld a liar, have been picked up by the national AP wire

Kuhl Speaks on MoveOn

In a press conference yesterday, Randy Kuhl came to his own defense against the MoveOn ad campaign.  In addition to repeating that the ads have been pulled (a claim denied by MoveOn and one area station), Kuhl added a new defense.  He said that MoveOn's claim that he voted four times to let defense contractors "off the hook" is "based on procedural issues that had nothing to do with the substance of the legislation."

That quote is a summary of Kuhl's position by the Star-Gazette's reporter at the press conference.  Assuming that's a fair summary, it deserves a closer look, because it will probably be part of Kuhl's defense against similar attacks later in the campaign.

According to MoveOn's backup document [pdf], Kuhl voted four times to spare defense contractors, twice on motions to recommit, and twice on amendments.

A couple of MoveOn's examples support Kuhl's position. HR 1751 is a bill to "protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims and their family members".  It passed on a bipartisan vote.  During the debate over the bill Rep Higgins (D-NY) moved that the bill be sent back to committee (a "motion to recommit") to add an amendment prohibiting profiteering and fraud in military actions and disaster relief. This motion failed on a strict party-line vote. (The Congressional Record pages are here [pdf] and here [pdf].)

Kuhl can reasonably argue that this vote was right.  The amendment proposed wasn't relevant to the bill, and sending the bill back to committee would have slowed down its passage.  Kuhl can make a similar case for another of the votes MoveOn cited.  In this case, Kuhl voted against a similar motion to recommit on HR 1279, a bill "to reduce violent gang crime and protect law-abiding citizens and communities from violent criminals".   Again, this motion had nothing to do with the bill in question.

But Kuhl can't make this same claim for two other votes MoveOn cited.  The first was an amendment to HR 4939, an emergency supplemental appropriation bill. It sought to prohibit appropriations to contractors that have had audit exceptions totaling more than $100 million.  The second sought to amend another emergency supplemental to establish a committee to investigate the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Both amendments were germane, and both votes were on the amendments, not on procedure.

Some would argue that the use of these latter votes to attack Kuhl is also unfair.  After all, they're merely part of the partisan Kabuki of the 109th Congress.  The Democrats want to make oversight of the spending in Iraq a major campaign issue.  To show that Republicans have resisted adding additional oversight, they've used these amendments and motions, which have no hope of passage, solely to get votes on the record.

But if you accept that argument, it's hard to see how he Kuhl has any responsibility for any of his votes.  Moreover, there's the broader issue of accountability for his party's positions, regardless of the specifics of individual votes.  Kuhl has voted with his party on almost every issue, including continued (and sometimes wasteful) funding of the war in Iraq.  He sits on no committees relevant to the war.  Other than his public pronoucements on the war, these votes are all his constituents have to judge him by.   And, in real votes on germane amendments, he's voted against increased oversight of defense contractors twice.

Polling News

What does "lean Republican" really mean?

Today's Rothenberg Report rates both the 29th and near-neighbor NY-20 in this category. And a new Siena poll in the 20th shows Republican John Sweeney leading his opponent by 19 points.

That's a pretty big lean.

Massa's Stump Sayings

Every politician has them: stock phrases and anecdotes they weave into their answers at every appearance.  They're interesting because they reflect the points that the candidate hopes will stick in voters' minds.  Here are a few of Eric Massa's.

Congress isn't simply "Congress", it's the "rubber-stamp Congress".

Randy Kuhl is "super-glued to George Bush".

Kuhl's trip to Iraq and the "not so bad" comment that came from that trip are frequently mentioned.

Massa also seemed pleased to report that Kuhl was named "most improved golfer" by Golf Digest Magazine

Though I couldn't confim this last claim, Randy's observation that "Republicans hit it farther and straighter" was quoted in a recent article. He's also listed in that magazine's Washington Top 100.  He's tied for 66th with Tom Delay and Rick Santorum.

If that's not ominous enough, consider the top-ranked Republican, Rep Chris Chocola.  Though he's out front on the golf course, political analyst Charlie Cook says "Chocola looks more like an underdog than the frontrunner" in his latest report on Chocola's toss-up race.

Massa in His Own Words

Eric Massa had an hour-long appearance on today's WXXI's 1370 Connection, a call-in show on Rochester's largest public radio station.

Here are some clips of him speaking on three major issues:  Iraq, the economy and health care.  They're each from 2-3 minutes long and give a pretty good impression of his "standard stump speech" on each issue. 

Randy Kuhl will appear on the same program sometime next month, and I hope to be able to post some clips of his responses on the same issues after his appearance.


Download mp3 (645K)


Download mp3 (608K)

Health Care:

Download mp3 (525K)

Roll Out the Barrel

Randy Kuhl's office has announced millions of dollars of grants in the last month (here, here, here and here).  These are routine grants, which probably would have happened no matter who was serving in the 29th.

The big splash or "October surprise" in this district would be an announcement concerning the fate of the Canandaigua VA Hospital.  This facility has been recommended for downsizing [pdf], and has been the subject of much media attention in the past couple of years.

When President Bush visited the 29th this Spring, he spent most of his time in Canandaigua, though he didn't tour the hospital.  A Kuhl announcement that the hospital would be spared would be a political trifecta:  It would show that Randy's got some mojo in DC, that there's some upside to his closeness with Bush, and that Eric Massa isn't the only candidate deeply concerned about veterans.

Update:  A full list of the recent grants is now available on Kuhl's official page.

Kuhl's Hip Replacment

Randy Kuhl had a hip replaced last Tuesday. According to WebMD, he'll probably be on crutches for several weeks, and he'll have to exercise special care in joint movement for a few more weeks. A complete recovery from this operation takes approximately 6 months, and Kuhl can expect that the replacement will last the rest of his life.

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