Posts containing my opinion of the race.

Six Days and a Wakeup

Eric Massa is attending a rally with Hillary Clinton today. Tomorrow, he'll be at a press conference with Chuck Schumer and Brighton Town Supervisor Sandy Frankel, at 3:00 at the St. John's Meadows nursing home. Today's Hillary rally has already received free media attention. Tomorrow's press conference will likely get some, too.

The Kuhl campaign, by contrast, hasn't had a public event in a while. The campaign is still issuing press releases, but the campaign web site says "9 Days to Victory" today, and the events page is empty. If someone sees Randy, please let me know where he is and what he's doing.

The Air War Intensifies

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just dropped another $350K on a media buy in the 29th. That brings DCCC spending in the 29th to almost $900K.

The DCCC has not posted a new anti-Kuhl or pro-Massa ad, so it's not clear what ad that money is paying for.

With this buy, the DCCC spending has far outstripped their Republican counterpart. The NRCC has spent less that $400K in the race, and their last expenditure was on some direct mail last Friday. $9K of direct mail on Monday.

I'm no expert in media buys, but I assume the window for booking TV time before the election is almost closed.

Seven More Days

With a week left, the two candidates in the race are all over the district. Both are trying to energize their base and drive their message home to the last few undecided voters.

As was the case in 2006, Massa is touring the district in a motor home as well as attending events with major Democratic personalities. Today, I received a robo-call from Hillary Clinton, paid for by the Massa campaign, inviting me to a rally tomorrow afternoon at 3 PM at Monroe Community College. Clinton will head a joint appearance with Massa, Alice Kryzan (NY-26) and Dan Maffei (NY-25).

Randy Kuhl's campaign isn't posting events on its website, but Kuhl was at an event in Victor this afternoon. In 2006, Kuhl had a few last-minute grant announcements that he saved for right before the election. My guess is something similar will happen this year.

Since Friday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent about $40K on direct mail in the district. Their Republican counterpart hasn't filed any additional spending disclosures.


Get out the vote (GOTV) efforts often talk about how many times the campaign "touches" a voter. Here's how I've been "touched" in the last week:

  • I've received three anti-Kuhl mailers from the DCCC. They are all essentially the same as this one, concentrating on jobs lost because of trade agreements.
  • I've gotten two robo-calls from "Accountable America". The first one pointed out that Kuhl received $300K from investment bankers and CEOs that caused the financial meltdown. The second concentrated on money Kuhl has taken from lobbyists. Both ended by urging me to call Congressman Kuhl and ask him what he would do to save Social Security.

Neither of these touches is very high-quality. In 2006, I wrote about a study that showed that the most effective GOTV efforts relied on human contact. There's been none of that so far in the 29th.

Perhaps the least effective "touch" I saw this week was targeted at Republicans on my street. On Saturday, a windy and rainy day, someone hung literature packets from mailbox flags. The wind soon blew them away and the street was littered with plastic bags containing sodden campaign fliers. Unfortunately, a lot of money spent in campaigns goes to wasted efforts like that one.

Other Kinds of Pork

Yesterday's Star-Gazette's endorsement mentions Randy Kuhl's track record bringing home "pork":

Critics call it pork but, in fact, much of the funding that comes to the 29th are dollars that House members help facilitate but don't necessarily get through legislation.

That's just not true. According to the Census Bureau, New York State received $157 billion from the Federal Government last year. That's over $5 billion per congressional district. Randy Kuhl's $20 million worth of earmarks is not even a drop in that bucket.

In addition, Kuhl's votes on individual federal programs are far more important than his few earmarks. For example, if Kuhl and a few others had voted for S-CHIP last year, that one program alone would have brought $80 million to the district over 5 years.

Members of Congress make a lot of noise about earmarks, but by no means does "much" of the money in the district come from them. That's why earmarks should be abolished. They don't do a lot for a district, but they open the door to corruption and influence peddling.

Thoughts on the Goner List

Randy Kuhl's presence on what's supposedly the GOP death list has WHAM, TAP and Rochesterturning talking.

The Daily Kos got a copy of the memo. While I believe that some Republican consultant somewhere probably put together that memo, I wouldn't put Kuhl in the same category as Don Young [R-AK-AL], who's been in trouble for a long time in a well-polled race.

Compared to 2006, the NRCC has already spent heavily on this race, with a little over $300K spent as of last night. So they've probably made an impact even if they pull out. The DCCC has outspent them, dropping almost $500K on the race so far. Because independent expenditures require a 24-hour notice, the place to watch is this list, which tracks all independent expenditures and is updated regularly. We'll know soon enough if the NRCC is practicing Catholic birth control in the 29th.

What's Really Important About Kuhl's Remarks

Yesterday's press outing of Randy Kuhl's overheated remarks is an interesting comment on the current political climate. That interview happened in August, and nobody made note of it then, mainly because it was pretty standard-issue rhetoric at that time.

Remember August? That's when gas prices were up and the entire fate of America rested on our desire to "Drill Here, Drill Now". Kuhl spoke of a "three-legged stool" of conservation, exploration and new technology, but he hammered away at only one of those legs.

Only Massa mentioned the other factor: the weak dollar. Now that the worldwide financial crisis has caused a flight to T-Bills (and dollars), oil prices have fallen sharply. Check out this graph of the price of oil vs. the dollar, which would be even more striking if it went into October:

We can argue about the other reasons for the lower price of oil, including weakening demand and a calmer market. What isn't up for argument is one fact: drilling had absolutely nothing to do with it.

With the current climate of overheated charges mainly coming from Republicans, Kuhl's rhetoric sounds like another example of the divisive distraction that is so damaging to our politics. Because we're in the midst of a serious financial crisis, media is finally looking hard at politicians who spout haterade instead of solutions, and Kuhl deserves his share of scrutiny.

But let's not forget the reason Kuhl deployed his overheated rhetoric, which was his eager desire to push his leadership's drilling agenda. That agenda was an example of what really hurts our politics: the search for simple-minded, slogan-ready solutions to complex problems. That search is aided and abetted by the stupidity of media types who imply that being "encyclopedic on the issues" is a strike against a candidate.

Lack of Coattails

I'm on the Obama mailing list, and last night they sent me an email (embedded below) urging me to vote for Eric Massa.

That's about all the help Massa can expect from the Obama campaign, which isn't spending much in sure-win New York. That's unfortunate for Massa, because Obama is deploying the most sophisticated get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operation in recent Democratic history.

Similarly, Randy Kuhl can expect little help from the cash-strapped McCain campaign, which conceded New York before the election started.

According to independent polls, Obama and McCain are running neck-and-neck in the 29th, which is a switch from 2004, when Bush took the district by 14 points. But without a GOTV effort from either campaign, neither Congressional candidate will be riding coattails.

D&C Endorsement Goes to Kuhl

The Democrat and Chronicle's endorsement of Randy Kuhl is the usual low-quality product of their opinion page. It condescends, ignores facts, and demonstrates the writer's ignorance of the most basic political truths.

Their first argument, such as it is, is that the little people of the 29th don't need a Congressman who is "encyclopedic on the issues", like Massa. We are too simple for that. We "can't afford politicians who fight the big battles". Massa is a "big-picture guy in a district with small-picture needs". The D&C apparently feels that Kuhl is the better man to keep the hicks in the 29th down on the farm.

The D&C also says that Kuhl has become "more confident" and "less defensive". No evidence is provided for these claims because the facts are in complete opposition to them. If anything, Kuhl has become more defensive since 2006. A few minor protests caused him to make his town hall meetings appointment-only events. He refused to participate in any public debates. Those aren't the actions of a confident politician.

The D&C believes that Kuhl, who has a long record of voting with his party, has "moved away from Bush". Their evidence is his words, not Kuhl's voting record. Kuhl voted against any effort to limit funding to the war in Iraq, thus handing the Bush administration a blank check, yet the D&C believes that "[h]e's challenged the administration on war issues." Kuhl switched positions and voted for the second, pork-packed bailout, but the D&C is satisfied that he "questioned the lack of accountability in the Bush-proposed legislation."

The underlying problem with the D&C is that they cling to a fool's notion of politics. They say that Kuhl "must put aside partisanship to work with Democrats." This is wishful thinking based on complete ignorance of Kuhl's leadership status and voting record. When it comes to important votes, Deputy Whip Kuhl has voted with his party 90% of the time.

The D&C has been cutting reporting staff to invest in their social networking website. When reporters don't report, the end result is fact-free editorials like this one.


When I heard that Randy Kuhl was going to be interviewed on 20/20, I wrote this:

Anyone familiar with Stossel's interviews might not be so quick to brag. Stossel usually a takes a skeptical, somewhat libertarian view of politics. He's death on pork-barrel spending, and he's already turned in a negative piece on the Ethanol boondoggle.

Today, Kuhl's office posted a press release with the title NY Farming Community Responds To Inaccurate Portrayal of Farm Bill by ABC’s 20/20.

Res ipsa loquitur.

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