The Fighting 29th - Speculation Wild-ass guesses and other posts based on little or no information. en Pre-Gaming Here's my pre-game guide for tomorrow's election.

Let's begin about the non-issues. Though we'll be hearing a lot about long lines across the country, the 29th, which has lost population over the years, will have plenty of voting machines, and the election will probably run smoothly. The weather will be beautiful, and we'll have a big turnout because of interest in this race as well as the Presidential election.

In 2006, I posted a model that showed what Massa had to do to win. I didn't do that this year, but the basic formula for a Massa victory remains the same:

  • Win Monroe County by at least 18 points. Massa needs to approach 60/40 here to offset the Southern Tier Republican vote.
  • Edge out Kuhl in Ontario County, 51-49 or better.
  • In the Southern Tier, Massa needs to avoid blowouts, perhaps beating Kuhl in a couple of counties like Chemung and Yates.

Monroe usually reports first. If Massa isn't destroying Kuhl in Monroe, he probably won't win. Also, big Monroe turnout numbers are a good sign, though those may be muddied by an increase in inner-city turnout because of Obama excitement.

In 2006 we knew who won a little after 10:30 PM. That's 26 crazy hours from now.

]]> Speculation Tue, 04 Nov 2008 01:39:06 +0000 Rottenchester 5158 at
Followup - The Lack of Stimulation is Palpable
To continue this line of baseless speculation using anecdotal data, I noticed that the mailer posted at Rochesterturning was sent to someone in Victor.  Victor, which is a part of Ontario County, is a good target.  It's more conservative than Monroe, since it contains a mix of suburban and rural voters.  If I were Kuhl, I'd want to firm up my support there.]]> Speculation Sat, 29 Mar 2008 13:10:16 +0000 Rottenchester 4720 at
Another Retirement Rumor reports the rumor that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is urging Randy Kuhl to retire because he can't win.  The NRCC's favored candidate, according to this rumor, is Maggie Brooks, the Monroe County Executive.

This makes no sense for a number of reasons.  First, Maggie represented Monroe County's 17th District in the County Legislature, which includes the town of Irondequoit.  Unless she's moved, she doesn't live in the district, so she's a "carpetbagger".   Second, putting a Monroe County Republican up against a Southern Tier Democrat is a dumb move.   The Southern Tier houses the Republican core of the district, and they're going to want one of their own running.

I have to believe this is a rumor manufactured by someone who doesn't know the area very well, but is able to read campaign finance reports.  Maggie is a good fundraiser, so she'd have some deep pockets.  But money isn't enough to win a Congressional race, especially for someone who's going to have to move to get into the district.

(via Rochesterturning)
]]> Speculation Mon, 25 Feb 2008 19:28:12 +0000 Rottenchester 4673 at
Super Tuesday Notes Noon and close at 9.  I've already talked with someone who went to their polling place, found it empty and wondered what was going on.

All Democratic races are proportional except for West Virginia (18 delegates) and Montana (25 delegates).  If races are tight in all the proportional states (with home-states of New York/New Jersey balanced by Illinois), then these two mountain states might be more important than one would think.  That's about as astute as my analysis gets, unfortunately.

After the break, an overly-cute Obama video, for which I apologize in advance.
]]> Speculation Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:42:02 +0000 Rottenchester 4656 at
S-CHIP News: Compromise Afoot? McClatchy Newspapers and the Hill, there's a compromise brewing on S-CHIP.  Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, who support S-CHIP, met with the staffs of 38 House members to add tweaks to tighten up restrictions on illegal aliens, adults and income levels. 

What's interesting is whether Randy Kuhl is one of the swing voters being courted.  According to a DCCC press release, Kuhl was one of the authors of a letter to the President urging compromise on S-CHIP.  I can't find the letter posted anywhere, so the details of the compromise Kuhl advocated are, for now, a bit of a mystery, and probably less important than the signal sent by the letter.

The Hill also reports that Kuhl is one of the members being targeted for yet another ad campaign by

I should change the title of this blog to "S-CHIP Diaries".  
]]> News Speculation Thu, 25 Oct 2007 12:58:28 +0000 Rottenchester 4522 at
Nachbar Rumors are Flying According to Rochesterturning, rumors are flying that David Nachbar will drop out of the primary race in the 29th. One of the reasons I find this credible is the private equity firm Warburg Pincus announced yesterday that their acquisition of Bausch and Lomb will proceed. Since it's common practice in acquisitions to "lock up" key players, I assume that Nachbar will commit to at least a year of employment at B&L. The Warburg acquisition must still be approved by shareholders, so it's reasonable to assume that Nachbar will be locked up well into Fall, 2008, which gives him little room for primary campaigning.

Update: It's official.

]]> Speculation Fri, 03 Aug 2007 13:20:12 +0000 Rottenchester 4397 at
Pull in the 2008 Election Reader John sent me a painstakingly detailed spreadsheet of data from the 2006 election. In it, John studied registration and turnout in the 29th, town-by-town and county-by-county. One of the factors John studied was "pull", or the ability of a candidate to garner votes beyond their base.

In New York State, voters may leave their voter registration card blank. In the 29th, 20% of the registrants are "blanks", a little over 30% are Democrats, and a smidgen under 50% are Republicans. Since Eric Massa received 49% of the vote in 2006, it stands to reason that a fair number of blanks and/or Republicans pulled the lever for Massa. It's also reasonable to assume that most of the "pulls" for Massa came from blanks or independents..

To better understand the data in John's sheet, I've created a couple of graphs. The first details the turnout by county and party. As you can see, Republican and Democratic turnout is neck-and-neck in the 29th, but blanks tend to turn out in far smaller percentage than those who choose a party registration. (Note that John has combined Working Families, Green and Liberal in to the Democratic numbers, and Independence, Conservative and Right-to-Life into the Republican numbers.)

Pull - Click for a Larger VersionThe second graph shows pulls, by county. Massa generally out-pulled Kuhl by a wide margin. In the big northern counties, Monroe and Ontario, Massa displays huge pull. Kuhl out pulls Massa only in far southern Cattaraugus County.

Since 2008 is a Presidential election year, turnout in the 29th will probably be higher. In 2004, it was approximately 30% higher than 2006. It's probably safe to assume that the 2008 will see a similar increase. Using John's data as a basis for speculation, I can envision a couple of possibilities for the 60,000 additional voters who will come to the polls.

If the additional voters arrive in the same proportion of Democrats, Republicans and blanks as 2006, then Kuhl's probably facing another squeaker. But what if blanks tend to turn out in greater numbers during presidential years? This makes some sense: if you're not committed enough to declare a party, you may only be committed enough to go to the polls to vote for President. If this is true, and blanks turn out in higher proportions in 2008, then Kuhl is in trouble, because a reasonable inference from these numbers is that he has little pull outside his party.

Update 7/26: Reader John contacted me and noted that I had mis-interpreted one of the pages in his spreadsheet. I've removed the graph and stricken the paragraph that was the result of the misunderstanding. Sorry about that.

]]> Analysis Speculation Sun, 22 Jul 2007 15:22:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4389 at
Slaughter and Nachbar Exile of Rochesterturning reports on his conversations with regional Democratic leaders about the Nachbar candidacy. He believes that Louise Slaughter will not officially endorse Nachbar for the 2008 race, and that most of the town and county Democratic committees will publicly support Massa. My sources aren't as numerous as Exile's, but a source that I trust has also reported that Slaughter will not endorse Nachbar this time around.

Exile mentions that he started getting DCCC press releases around the time of Nachbar's announcement, and speculates whether Nachbar is their candidate, since he's using a PR firm with ties to Rahm Emmanuel, the DCCC chair. I don't know about the PR firm, but I've also been receiving those press releases, which are formulaic, low-quality efforts.

]]> Speculation Sat, 19 May 2007 13:29:29 +0000 Rottenchester 4324 at
The Myth of DCCC Neutrality Sources tell Rochesterturning that the DCCC is going to remain neutral in the contest in the 29th. I don't agree. My take is that the DCCC is going to maintain the appearance of neutrality while putting in place measures that support Louise Slaughter's handpicked wealthy candidate, David Nachbar.

Earlier this year, Eric Massa began raising money with the claim that the DCCC will consider his race a "top tier" race if he raises $300,000 by the end of June. At the time, I thought that his claim was just part of the usual fundraising rhetoric and didn't give it much thought. In the light of Nachbar's candidacy, however, this claim appears more interesting, since Nachbar can become a "top tier" candidate by simply writing a check. Once Nachbar is "top tier", it will become easier for him to raise money, and harder for Massa.

Obviously, this is pure opinion and speculation, but it can easily be verified by anyone who keeps tabs on DCCC press releases and FEC quarterly reports.

]]> Money Speculation Thu, 03 May 2007 13:14:14 +0000 Rottenchester 4312 at
Massa's Future Eric Massa has been dropping hints about his future. Nothing definite has been said, but here are two recent indicators from secondhand sources:

  • In the preface to his Daily Kos diary yesterday, Mike Pridmore, who sometimes posts Massa's stories for him, mentioned that Massa had a conversation with Howard Dean this week where Dean encouraged him to run in 2008. Massa expects to make his decision in the first months of 2007.
  • A reader reports that he heard Massa speak publicly and mention that he's thinking about some kind of radio presence in the 29th, perhaps with a weekly commentary on one of the larger Rochester stations.

Both of these non-announcements are vague and inconclusive, but it's clear that, as promised, Massa is thinking seriously about a future political role in the 29th.

]]> Speculation Mon, 18 Dec 2006 13:08:03 +0000 Rottenchester 4226 at
My (Sort-Of) Predictions One of the great things about this election is that nobody knows how it's going to turn out.  I wouldn't be surprised by a Massa blowout, a Massa win, or a Kuhl squeaker.  A Kuhl blowout would be a surprise, but even Bob Van Wicklin isn't predicting that.

I stick by the prediction that I made when I started this blog:  this race is a bellwether.  If it's a Massa blowout, or even a Massa win, I expect Democratic gains in both houses on the high end of analysts' predictions.  If Kuhl wins, Democrats will control the House by a razor-thin margin at best, and probably won't control the Senate.

There are no national exit polls in House races, so we'll have to wait until the polls close to determine the winner.  With New York's venerable yet reliable voting machines, returns come in quickly.  The suspense will be over shortly after voting ends at 9 p.m. 

]]> Speculation Mon, 06 Nov 2006 12:26:31 +0000 Rottenchester 4184 at
One-Month Outlook With the election one month away, I want to step back and try to figure out where this race stands and make some predictions.

Polls and Pundits:  The 29th race remains on the fringe of "hot races" tracked by major political writers.  Charlie Cook and the National Journal both re-classified a long list of races last week.  The 29th didn't budge, partly because there hasn't been any independent polling of the race.   The 29th may see one or two independent polls before the election, but the accuracy of those polls will be in doubt.

Professional pollsters' ability to predict congressional races isn't great, especially in midterms where identifying likely voters is crucial. One recent example next door to the 29th is Tom Reynolds' race in the 26th. Zogby called it 48/33 for Davis three days after SurveyUSA said 50/45 Davis.  Reynolds probably didn't lose 12 points of support in three days - it's a "house effect" of the polling company's sampling method.

Sites like have taken to tracking the trend in races using a number of polls to judge momentum.  Without polling history, we won't be able to do this in the 29th, and we won't know if the poll we see is an outlier or a fair judge of the race.

Nevertheless, the national and state press are looking for blood. If an independent third party releases a poll with Kuhl under 50% (the traditional "safe spot" for an incumbent), expect pundits to notice and rankings to move, no matter how big the Massa-Kuhl spread.

Ads and Money:  Randy Kuhl went negative without provocation this week.  Since his campaign has taken two polls that haven't been released, I can only assume that they made Kuhl want to drive up Massa's negatives.  Incumbents in safe seats run the sunny kinds of ads that we've seen from Hillary Clinton and Eliot Spitzer.  Worried incumbents run ads like Kuhl's that portray their opponents in grainy black-and-white.

Kuhl has enough money to continue running negative ads, and he will.  Kuhl faces a challenge because a political newcomer like Massa provides sparse raw material for issue-based attacks.  Massa's clean Navy background is another hurdle, since there probably aren't any skeletons in his closet.  However, I'm sure the Kuhl campaign is up to the task ("Liberal Eric Massa says he supports the troops, but...").

The mid-month FEC filings will probably show that Massa has out-raised Kuhl, but the kind of scratch Massa needs to mount an effective ad campaign in the 29th's fragmented media market will no doubt still be out of reach.  I'll bet that Massa stays positive unless a direct personal attack is launched by the Kuhl campaign, because he doesn't have the resources to do quick-response TV work.  Also, with voters becoming more receptive to his positions, he doesn't need to make his points with a sledgehammer.

Local Issues:  Short answer:  there aren't any.  Long answer:  if there were any, they've been lost in the noise of Iraq and the Foley scandal.  A recent example is the announcement that the VA hospital in Canandaigua has been "saved" -- it didn't even make the Rochester paper.

National and International Issues:  There will be fresh revelations in the Foley matter, most likely from ex-House Clerk Jeff Trandal as reported by Newsweek.  And new messages will continue to dribble out.  These new facts will give the press and the Massa campaign opportunities to ask Randy Kuhl to re-evaluate his support of Hastert.  The honest answer is that Hastert won't be Speaker next year even if the Republicans win, but someone has to be the first to say it.  Kuhl might want to be first in the chow line at the House dining room, but he'll won't want to be first to dump Hastert.  He will end up supporting the leadership, and it will hurt him. 

Massa will continue the subtle critique he voiced at Thursday's debate, one that wraps the Foley matter into general lack of responsibility in DC.  If he drills into Foley too deeply (no pun intended), he'll risk a backlash.  This is one scandal where there's no need to educate the voters on the details - they've all heard them and made up their minds.

Sadly, no good news will come from Iraq.  Kuhl's "I went to Iraq" position will be challenged hard by Massa in a debate.  He'll also have a tough time with "stay the course", since even party stalwarts like John Warner are saying that a change is necessary in Iraq.  Rather than changing his position, Kuhl will probably continue to attack Massa's partition strategy, perhaps by using James Baker's critique, which raises a number of good questions.

Massa will struggle defending his plan, because there's no good plan for fixing the mess in Iraq.   Nevertheless, voters want a positive strategy for change.  Massa will be successful if he can keep focusing on a future where we leave Iraq reasonably stable in a couple of years.  He'll be less successful if he over-emphasizes how wrong we are to be there in the first place.  That's a common failing of Democrats who, unlike Massa, don't have a plan.

Bottom Line: The fallout from the Foley scandal looks bad for Kuhl, but he has a month to recover and a big bank account to spend.  The Massa campaign still faces an uphill battle, but the situation looks as good as it can be for a Democratic challenger in the 29th.

]]> Speculation Mon, 09 Oct 2006 13:07:16 +0000 Rottenchester 4109 at
Volvo-Donut Strategy Part 2: By the Numbers If you buy the notion that the 29th's suburbs might hold the key to this election, what are the numbers needed to drive change?

My model says 5,5,2 and 1.

If 5% of those who voted for Kuhl stay home in 2006, and 5% of those folks vote for Massa instead of Kuhl, and if those trends are magnified by 2 additional percent in Monroe, and 1 percent in Ontario, then Massa squeaks through.  Without the input of the 'burbs, it's 51/49 Kuhl, all other things equal.

Let's look at those numbers and the assumptions underlying this model.

The first assumption is that Republicans are dissatisfied, and that they'll express their dissatisfaction in two ways:  by voting for Kuhl's opponent, and by staying home.   Is 10% Republican dissatisfaction a reasonable number?  I dunno, but remember that it's 10% of Kuhl's vote in 2004, not 10% of Republicans - some of those '04 Kuhl voters might be Independents or Democrats.

The second assumption is that suburbs are more likely to change, and that change will be 4% more in Monroe, and 2% in Ontario.  Overall, the model assumes that 14% of voters in Monroe, and 12% in Ontario, will either stay home or switch alliance.  Fourteen percent is pretty fickle.  The Ontario number is smaller than Monroe because Ontario includes suburbs (e.g., Victor) and rural communities -- it isn't a "pure" suburban community.

Finally, we need to deal with the '04 third-party candidates.  The model  assumes that the Conservative vote will break 2/3 Kuhl and 1/3 Massa.  This might be a bit controversial, but I think some hard-core conservatives who aren't satisfied with the Bush administration might want to cast a protest vote.   The model also assumes that the Independence party votes will split 50/50:  they're independent, after all.

Now this isn't a "real" model -- it's more like "fun with numbers".  A real model would, at a minimum, drill deeper than the county level, address differential turnout by party registration, and have a lot more knobs to adjust the underlying assumptions.  But I hope this at least captures the basics of one of the more interesting dynamics of this race.


Data:  Feel free to download a hardcopy [pdf] of the model, or the model itself in xls (Excel) or ods (Open Document) format.

]]> Speculation Thu, 28 Sep 2006 16:13:18 +0000 Rottenchester 4083 at
The Volvo-Donut Strategy Part 1: Demographics The 29th is an interesting district because almost half of its population is concentrated in parts of two counties: suburban Monroe and Ontario.  These counties have 44% of the population over 16, yet 65% of the households with income over $75,000 are situated here.  Only 20% of the families below the poverty level in the 29th live in these counties.

In other words, the northern suburbs are big and relatively wealthy.  They're also new to the 29th, since they were part of the 28th (Monroe) and 30th (Ontario) until the 2002 redistricting.   Pollsters sometimes call 'burbs like these "Volvo-donut" areas.  The "donut" refers to the ring of population around an urban area.  The "Volvo" refers to the affluent liberals who populate these areas.

Conventional wisdom on the 29th's donut is that it is more of a SUV-donut than a Volvo-donut.  Nevertheless, 54% of Sam Barend's votes in the 2004 race came from these two counties, and  Monroe was the only county that she carried in 2004.

So, the challenge of the donut for both candidates is clear.  Massa must turn out the 'burbs like it's a presidential election year if he's to win, and he needs to change a few hearts and minds.  Kuhl needs to keep his base intact, including the conservatives who voted for Assini in '04 (8.8% in Monroe and Ontario).

If you're a Kuhl supporter, you can simply point out that Kuhl would have carried even "liberal" Monroe if he had all of Assini's votes and half of the votes of the Independence party candidate.  There's no real race here, because the Conservative vote will make up for any weakness in the Republican votes.

Massa supporters have to look a little deeper to see the basis for a win.  Massa needs to pick up something like 10-20% of the voters in this area to win (I'll post the numbers on this later -- they're interesting).  To do this, he needs to change minds.  The 29th's suburbs are where the changeable minds live:

  • Residents of Monroe and Ontario counties are more likely to come from another state, and more likely to have moved in the last 5 years, than the average resident of the 29th. In other words, they're comfortable making choices that are based on what's best for them, rather than loyalty or habit, and they've shown an ability to make changes in their lives. 
    (Note, too, that Kuhl's pride at being a life-long resident of the 29th is of little interest to constituents who aren't life-long residents themselves.)
  • The suburban voters are better-educated than the average in the 29th.  Better-educated often means better-informed.  Since the last two years haven't gone well for Republicans, the better-informed suburbanite is more likely to vote for change.

A final factor in the Massa supporter's case is Kuhl's difficulty in localizing the race in the 'burbs. Kuhl's latest ad points to all of the money he's "brought home" to the district, which is part of an overall effort to make the race about local, not national, issues.  The money Kuhl's counting was spent in the Southern part of the 29th.  If you grant the (questionable) notion that Members of Congress "bring home" money, the dollars "brought home" to Monroe County suburbs are from Louise Slaughter, not Randy Kuhl.

In my next post on the Volvo-Donut, I'll look at the numbers, and show how a little change in the suburbs can mean a big change in the election.

Note:  You can download [pdf] all of the detailed demographic data used for this post.

]]> Speculation Wed, 27 Sep 2006 22:06:43 +0000 Rottenchester 4081 at
The 29th: A Little Red State To understand how Eric Massa can win in the 29th, we need to treat it like a mini red state.  Though the 29th is situated in one of the bluest states in the nation, it is rural and mainly Republican. 

The good news is that quite a few Democrats who have been re-elected in rural red states with demographics similar to the 29th.  Most of them got elected by using a political strategy pioneered half a century ago by a politician who's now the butt of everyone's jokes.

George McGovern -- yes, that McGovern -- is remembered for so many bad things that we tend to forget that he was a superb practical politician.  McGovern is dishwater dull on the stump and liberal as they come, yet he was regularly elected and re-elected in one of the reddest and most rural states in the union.

McGovern's experience is relevant to the Massa/Kuhl campaign because, in many practical and historical aspects, Massa's candidacy closely resembles McGovern's in South Dakota. McGovern's first race, for Congress in 1956, was in a state that had no real Democratic party and no statewide Democratic office holders. Massa is in much better shape, since he actually has a party that supports him.  But the rest of the parallels are striking:

Both candidates have compelling personal stories during a time of national insecurity.

It's easy to forget in the aftermath of Vietnam that McGovern was a highly decorated war hero.  McGovern's personal story gave him credibility on issues of "loyalty", which was critically important during the height of the cold war in a state where one of the senators was a big player in the McCarthy committee.

Unfortunately, the current political climate has a number of parallels to 1956.  Dissent or even discussion of the war in Iraq is branded as borderline-traitorous.  Like McGovern, Massa's history as a Navy vet make it hard to attack his loyalty or concern for the military. 

Both races feature undistinguished Republican incumbents, lawyer-turned-legislators who have done nothing remarkable (good or bad) during their terms.

John R "Randy" Kuhl Jr is as undistinguished in person and in legislative record as McGovern's opponent, Harold Lovre , a small-town lawyer turned legislator and congressman who sank without a trace after losing in '56.

Each of them started their races early and began by crossing their districts building up a base of personal support.

McGovern spent his time before the '56 election criss-crossing the state, sometimes sleeping in his car.  During his travels, he collected small donations and wrote up index cards about anyone he met who seemed at all sympathetic to his candidacy.  Those cards formed the basis of a database that he used for the rest of his political career.  His goal was to collect a set of McGovern supporters. This group, many of whom were registered Republicans, continued to split their tickets to vote for him as he was re-elected to the House and later elected and re-elected to the Senate.

Similarly, Massa prides himself on being the first candidate of either party to announce for the '06 race.  He's spent two years visiting the residents of the 29th.   The bulk of his financial backing comes from individual contributors.  Instead of index cards, he's using new technology like blogs and his website to communicate with and help build a cadre of Massa contributors and volunteers.

Both men ran as centrists on touchy issues, and experts on district issues.

Though McGovern is the most "notorious" living liberal, he carefully tailored his positions to avoid hot buttons. Like Massa, he opposed gun control because guns meant hunting, not urban assault, for his rural constituents.

He was also intimately acquainted with agricultural issues and championed the cause of beleaguered family farmers. Likewise, Massa hits hard on issues of free trade and its effects on manufacturing in his district. 

Unfortunately for Massa, there's one distinct difference between this year's race and the '56 McGovern victory: the role of the TeeVee.  It was nil 50 years ago.   Today, 30-second ads lower the quality of discussion and raises the price of admission for congressional campaigns.   In the last few weeks of the race, Massa will be hard-pressed to compete with a better-funded opponent.   

Other than this important difference, Massa's grassroots campaign has run every play from a venerable and effective 50 year-old playbook.   The results might be just as surprising in NY-29 as they were in SD-1 long ago.

]]> Speculation Fri, 08 Sep 2006 12:01:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4054 at
Bush Hands Kuhl a Golden Opportunity President Bush's proposal for Gitmo tribunals brings back the memory of one of Randy Kuhl's most interesting votes.  Last year, Kuhl  sided with Sen. John McCain in a vote for a torture ban.  Though Bush eventually endorsed this bill, he initially opposed it, and only relented after McCain put together a veto-proof majority in the House.  121 Republicans still voted against the bill.

Today, we have a politically similar situation.  Bush's proposal is probably unconstitutional.  Republican Senators McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Warner have already expressed skepticism.  Whatever bill comes out of Bush's speech may well be opposed by the same bi-partisan coalition that supported McCain last year.

If Kuhl joins that group, he has an opportunity to show he's not "Rubber-Stamp Randy", while still allying himself with respected members of his party. After all, it's only disloyalty if nobody else is doing it.

]]> News Speculation Thu, 07 Sep 2006 16:36:19 +0000 Rottenchester 4053 at
Looking for a Place to Happen In the next couple of days, I'm going to write about how each candidate can win this election.  The title of today's post, taken from a Tragically Hip song, describes the incumbent, "lying in wait" strategy that Kuhl should follow to increase his chances of re-election.

There's relatively little action in the 29th right now, and that's the way Randy Kuhl wants to keep it. Kuhl seems to be waiting for events to drive his candidacy.   Since his Iraq adventure, he's been out of the limelight.  The last press release on his campaign website is a month old.   Other than a response to, which he was almost compelled to offer, Kuhl has not yet engaged in this election.

Randy's made a couple of blunders -- inviting Bush this Spring and going to Iraq this Summer are two -- but overall he's played a smart incumbent game.  Kuhl realizes that the local and national facts are against him this year.  As a freshman, he doesn't have a long record of service to the district, so he can't launch a set of positive service-oriented ads like his colleague Tom Reynolds.  As a Bush loyalist, there aren't many positions that he's taken that are broadly popular, so running ads touting his relationship with the President, or his position on national issues, would be a waste of money.

Though it runs against a politician's natural grain, keeping one's mouth shut is often a good strategy.  Kuhl should stick to it.   Unless he's far behind in the polls, he should continue to duck debates.   He should be present for every last vote in Congress, make no speeches whatsoever, and avoid comment on any topic. 

His $500K warchest should stand ready for the next misstep of Massa or Massa's allies.  Any attack should be treated as lies about Randy.  He wants to appear as a hard-working victim of outside, radical forces.  He wants the conversation to be about the picky details of the charges against him, not the broad outlines of his responsiblity for agreeing with Bush administration positions. 

Kuhl's strongest advantages are the voter registration split in his district, the inertia of voters in an off-year election, the relative obscurity of his opponent, and the lack of competitive statewide races.  None of these can be made stronger by positive action on his part.   That's why his silence is golden, at least until he finds a place where his candidacy has to happen.

]]> Speculation Wed, 06 Sep 2006 11:59:51 +0000 Rottenchester 4051 at
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.

]]> Polls Speculation Tue, 29 Aug 2006 23:19:58 +0000 Rottenchester 4041 at
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.

]]> News Speculation Mon, 28 Aug 2006 13:42:00 +0000 Rottenchester 4038 at
Looking for an Eye-Opener The weak primary performance of Barbara Cubin, a Republican incumbent in the very red state of Wyoming, has big-time political analysts like Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato standing up to take notice.  Cubin's district is redder than the 29th -- Cook rates it at R+19 (a 19 point Republican bias) versus the 29th's R+5 -- and Cubin has more seniority than Kuhl.  If the race for Dick Cheney's old seat in Congress is competitive, then what about the 29th?

Though the 29th garners some mention when weak incumbents are discussed, it is still generally ranked in the second tier of competitive races.  Sabato's just-released ferocious forty most competitive Congressional races doesn't include it.  The Congressional Quarterly ranks it "Republican Favored", and Cook calls it [pdf] "Lean Republican".

Kuhl's recent activity reflects this conventional wisdom.  Kuhl attacks his opponent exclusively through his spokesman.  He hasn't agreed to substantial debates, nor has he changed his campaigning schedule.  Unlike his colleague Rep John Sweeney (NY-20), he didn't lawyer up to fight the airing of the MoveOn ads.  Overall, Kuhl is behaving like an incumbent with a solid lead.

I think this race is closer than the pundits realize, but that's just a hunch.  Unlike Senate races, which are polled into the ground, House races like the 29th aren't frequently measured.  Kuhl doesn't have a primary challenger this year.  So, barring some poll that I don't know about, the next possibility for an eye-opener is the new money numbers, due out at the end of the month.

]]> Speculation Sat, 26 Aug 2006 15:06:32 +0000 Rottenchester 4034 at