Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Direct Mail War, Part I: Indiana's US Senate Race

For the first time in a while, one of Indiana's US Senate races is drawing national attention. With the defeat of Senator Richard Lugar by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary, the general election race between Mourdock and Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly is drawing attention from both sides. A year ago, it was almost a forgone conclusion that Republicans would gain a slim majority in the Senate. But now, with some primary shenanigans and a few gaffes here and there, Democrats think they might be able to hold onto a slim majority.

What gets a lot of attention in political races is the television ad wars, and to a lesser extent, Internet based ads. These types of ads are easy to access for the Gang of 500, the media people and the pundits that push the national media's narrative. Sure, they live in the Washington D.C. or New York City area, and don't see the ads on TV themselves. But they have access to media libraries and the Internet and can see them that way.

What often gets lost in that coverage is the much more effective, and often more expensive, direct mail war. There's a variety of reasons why it isn't covered, and to local media's credit they sometimes do cover them in their online content. But it is still something not talked much about.

Since I have a...shall we say, diverse primary voting history, I tend to get stuff from both political sides. And this weekend, I was bombarded with stuff from FreedomWorks. The candidate they're backing, Mourdock, had a bit of a gaffe last week and they're trying to remind people what this election is really about: How buddy-buddy Joe Donnelly is with Barack Obama, and how politically, they're basically identical.

This 39 page book is incredibly well written and produced. It includes footnotes for sources as well as a 16 page appendix if you REALLY wanted to dig into the original sources.

Having thumbed through it, I started to notice something. There is a lot about Joe Donnelly in here. There is a lot about President Obama as well, pointing out what they see as similarities. But this mailer is not about Richard Mourdock. In fact, among the 39 pages, Mourdock is only mentioned between pages 7-10 for a total of five times. Senator Lugar also gets the same amount of mentions as well, in about the same page spread.

I also received two more, more traditional mailers. Again, they focus on Donnelly, Obama, and specifically hone in on the deficit and debt. My favorite part of SuperPAC mailers is the imagery. The United States as a dollar bill, burning. The ATM just spewing money. It is great! Coke should hire these people to really lay the smack down on Pepsi.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mike Pence: I'm Running for POTU..er..Governor, for Pete's sake!

Congressman Mike Pence has been running a very disciplined campaign in his quest to become Indiana's next Governor. He has generally stayed away from  so-called social issues, from which he has practically built a brand on, and focused on how much he loves America and, more specifically, how much he loves Indiana. He's also kind of, sort of said he'd like to do more of what Governor Mitch Daniels has done, but if you're wanting any specifics, you're going to have to wait until after the election.

Well, with the recent flub on abortion during a debate for one of Indiana's US Senate seat, Pence actually spoke out about abortion.

While condemning Republican candidate Richard Mourdock's remarks on abortion and rape, Pence's campaign said Pence has consistently supported the three common exceptions for abortion opponents: Rape, incest, and life of the mother.

According to findings from Niki Kelly of Fort Wayne's The Journal Gazette, Pence's campaign's statement is in contradiction with surveys Pence has filled out from Indiana Right to Life. In the most recent survey from IRTL, Pence only indicated he supported one exception for abortion: the life of the mother. In 2010, he supported no exceptions.

Pence trying to hide how conservative he is might initially be confusing to some. After all, he's running for Governor of Indiana, not Michigan. While we Hoosiers do vote for Democrats every now and then, our Democrats (regardless of if my Republican friends want to admit it or not) that have occupied state-wide office, would generally be Republicans in more purple states. We're a red state, so why is Pence trying to re-make his image?

Could it have to do with having Presidential ambitions? I joked with a local politico that "he's running for President, er, Governor, for Pete's sake!" and the politico pointed out that while he doesn't agree with Mourdock, at least Mourdock has the integrity to hold his ground while Pence throws him under the bus.

Earlier in the year, I pointed out that Congressman Pence has been very vague on his immigration stance. After all, he's running to be Governor of one of the few states who have passed a strict law, similar to Arizona's illegal immigration law. Pence's views on illegal immigration should be known to Hoosiers, who certainly have a wide variety of beliefs on the issue.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Election Day Predictions

We've got a lot of elections going on this November 7th. I'll be appearing on Civil Discourse Now the weekend before the election, and my predictions might've changed. But these are how I see the various races now.

I'm going to include both a National section and Indiana section, when applicable.

National: Barack Obama (D)
State: Mitt Romney (R)

Last week's horrible debate performance by President Obama gave Romney's campaign a new life, and more importantly, new focus. He's started closing the margin, and in some cases even leading, in swing states and national polling. Romney's poll numbers seem to be particularly improved in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio.

The problem for the Romney camp is that the path to 270 requires him to sweep all four of those states and even then, he'll be two electoral votes short. I think the more southern swing states will ultimately swing Romney's way due to Republican enthusiasm, but I have my doubts about Ohio. I also don't see a clear small swing-state that Romney will be able to pick up. They've tried New Hampshire, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, all without much success.

And if they lose any of the big four swing-states, they'll pretty much need to sweep among the smaller ones. And even with a game changing campaign move, that isn't likely to happen. A lot of these swing states are reliable Democratic votes when it comes to the Presidential race.

Romney has consistently led in Indiana and there is no doubt that he'll win this state's popular and electoral votes.

During the summer doldrums, there was some speculation on how third party candidates could swing the election. Specifically, Virgil Goode in Virginia and Gary Johnson in New Mexico. And while Goode's name recognition in parts of Virginia is high, he isn't even being polled nowadays and the one poll that included him put him at the standard third party percentage of 2. Johnson, similarly, has had declining numbers in his home state of New Mexico and New Mexico isn't seen as a swing state anyway. For better or for worse, the third party candidates aren't likely to act as "spoilers" this time around, as some have alleged they have in 1992 and in 2000.

National: Democratic Majority 50-49-1*
Indiana: Richard Mourdock (R)

The national pollsters tend to shy away from polling Indiana because so-called "robo polling" is illegal. So even though Indiana's US Senate contest between State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) and Congressman Joe Donnelly (D) is seen as a toss-up, it isn't getting polled as much as other contested Senate races due to that law.

Mourdock is running a close race, and his campaign ads are mostly about Donnelly nowadays, but I ultimately believe Republican enthusiasm will overcome and he'll pull off a thin victory.

And a word about the Libertarian Party's Andrew Horning. Horning is well known among the Libertarian circles, having previously run for Mayor of Indianapolis and Governor of Indiana. But while he is very bright, he is not politically skilled. Statements like "I hate politics" can be a turnoff to potential voters, and I don't think he really enjoys campaigning.

Besides that, this race is polling close. And in close races, third party candidates generally lose a lot of support from disaffected Democrats and Republicans who go home to vote their team jersey. Horning is likely to be well behind the vote totals for Rupert Boneham and Gary Johnson. I don't think the much worried about "spoiler" will happen here.

Nationally, the US Senate and the pundit class have had an odd discussion. A year ago, it was almost all-but-certain that the Democrats would lose control. There were just so many more Democrat seats, won in the Democratic wave of 2006, up for re-election that it'd be hard to hold onto a majority. But with a handful of GOP primary challengers and some GOP nominees stepping in it, the US Senate may well stay in control of Democratic hands.

*Oh, and that 1 I predicted is Maine's former Governor Angus King. King was an Independent while Governor and still is. Maine doesn't quite fall into the liberal leanings of most of New England, having had a pair of moderate US Senators for several years, as well as going for Ron Paul in this year's Presidential caucuses. He's previously said that he might caucus with no party. But I think King fits nicely in the more conservative parts of a Democratic caucus.

This is likely to be revised as I look into the competitive races.

 Mike Pence (R)

There really is no need to go much further than this. Pence has run an extremely disciplined campaign, and Gregg is struggling to get his voice heard in a Democratic party struggling to find a state wide leader. That leader won't be Gregg, but it might be Donnelly if he can pull off a victory in the US Senate race.

I think Libertartian nominee and Survivor superstar Rupert Boneham has a chance to finish well ahead of the Libertarian baseline of 2-3%. Libertarians have been quite successful in convincing people to vote for their candidates when the race is largely seen as already decided. The 2010 Libertarian candidates for US Senate and Secretary of State finished with 5.4% and 5.8% respectively. Both of those races were largely seen as decided. With a more high profile race, the Libertarians could be looking at similar or even higher numbers unless the Gregg campaign closes the gap in the coming days.

US Congress
Nationally: Thin majority retained by Republicans
Indiana: 7R-2 D delegation

The Republican Party not only swept US House and US Senate races in 2010, but they also picked up hundreds of seats in state legislatures. This put them in control when re-districting is drawn, allowing them to draw districts that would, in theory, make it easier for Republicans to get elected to the US House of Representatives and the various state legislative bodies.

But when you have such a sweeping majority and a lot of Republicans to protect, a few are inevitably going to be left out. And on top of that, a lot of these Republicans are young guys who are still very new to politics. This might be their first re-election campaign, they don't know the media "back home" all that well, and some of them sit in purple or slightly blue districts, even after re-districting. We're already seeing the affects, with Republican Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Michigan) failing to gather enough eligible signatures to even get on the primary ballot and thus couldn't be nominated. Another Michigan representative, Justin Amash, had his district become a bit more blue with re-districting.

So while the Republicans are likely to hang onto a majority, they'll lose a few rising starts in the process.

On a state level, District 8 is where the Democrats are hoping to pick up a seat and District 2 is where they hope to retain a seat. I think District 8 will become more competitive in the next 1-2 election cycles, but I think Larry Buschon is a fairly disciplined candidate and will ultimately prevail. District 2 might go blue in a high enthusiasm election for Democrats, but I don't think 2012 is going to be that election.

Indiana Legislature
Indiana House: Republican majority
Indiana Senate: Republican majority

The Indiana Senate is likely to get a bit more blue due to re-districting, but I don't see the House closing the gap between the two parties all that much.

Some might draw parallels between the Congressional Republicans and Indiana Republicans. The difference is that the Indiana Republican Party is extremely disciplined in campaign season. It is a well oiled machine that other state Republican parties should be taking lessons from. Any gap that is narrowed will likely be due to demographic changes in some of the districts rather than a "throw the bums out" feel.

Your thoughts?