Posted on | August 20, 2010 | 40 Comments
Instapundit links Fisherville Mike’s caution against over-optimism turning into apathy for Republicans. Meanwhile, Karl Rove is trying to forecast the relationship between “generic ballot” polls and the likely GOP gains in November.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
If all you’re doing is following the national polls — Obama’s numbers down, Republican numbers up — you are seriously underestimating the challenges facing the GOP in House races this fall. Some people are giving outlandish estimates of Republicans gaining of 60 or 70 seats, I’ve been talking to individual campaigns and operatives and, as one operative told me this morning, “I’m just not seeing 40 seats out there.”
Yesterday I talked to a California Republican official who referred to the authoritative California Target Book and said he sees the GOP flipping maybe one — or at most three — of the 34 Democrat-held seats in that state. Considering that California has more than 12% of the seats in Congress, if Republicans can flip that official’s high-end estimate of three seats there, they’d then have to flip 37 districts in the other 88% of the country to take control.
Do the math. It ain’t easy. And given the omens in California — where one Republican says gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman “is looking out for herself and herself only” — it’s discouraging to any prospect that the GOP can flip even one House seat there.
When you start taking the House races district-by-district, looking at individual candidates, historic voting trends in their districts, their campaign funding, their current level of organization, etc. . . . Honestly, it’s scary out there.
All of these Democratic incumbents are sitting on huge reserves of campaign cash, and I don’t know of a single district in the country where the Republican challenger has more money than the incumbent Democrat. (If you know of such a situation, please tell me.)
Worse than the money situation, perhaps, is the lack of precinct-level organization by Republicans. This was a basic problem in the PA-12 special election. With the help of the NRCC, the Tim Burns campaign was able to roughly match the Democrats in terms of money, but the local GOP didn’t have the kind of organizational infrastructure in terms of county and ward committees necessary to mobilize volunteers for door-to-door canvassing operations.
Phone-banking is important, but even the best phone bank is no substitute for a genuine door-to-door campaign, especially when such canvassing is done by local volunteers contacting their friends and neighbors in their own communities. And, as in PA-12, a basic reason Democrats control these districts is because the local GOP is controlled by weak-minded time-servers who have failed to organize effectively.
All this talk about polls and Republican enthusiasm isn’t translating into anything that operatives can see on the ground. “Meet-and-greets are still five or 10 people,” as someone in a key swing district told me.
Think about that: Here is a Republican candidate who stands a reasonable chance of being elected to Congress. The candidate schedules a lunch or cocktail reception in a town — not a fundraiser, mind you, just a “meet-and-greet.” The campaign invites all the local Republicans, and fewer than 10 people show up.
And we’re barely 10 weeks from Election Day!
Politics is about elections, and the evident unwillingness of conservatives to focus on the basic work of winning elections is starting to worry me. There was a big uproar in the blogosphere this week about Rep. Melissa Bean shutting down questions at a town-hall meeting.
OK, what district does Bean represent? Who is her Republican challenger? What do you know about the district and the campaign? If you read my report at the American Spectator, you know a little:
Illinois’ 8th District, running from the northern suburbs of Chicago up to the Wisconsin border, was held by Republican Phil Crane until 2004, and Bush carried the district with 55% of the vote in 2004. Like many other vulnerable Democrats in this mid-term campaign, Bean has refused to debate her Republican challenger, Joe Walsh.
Reporting that kind of basic research isn’t exciting — it’s not a “scoop” that’s going to get a Drudge link — but it’s necessary, and not enough blogs are doing it. A bit more research reveals that Melissa Bean’s got $1.2 million in campaign cash-on-hand, while her Republican opponent’s got just $30,000. Have you contributed to the Joe Walsh campaign?
While we’re at it, here are campaign finance reports on some House races I’ve been watching:
- D – Rep. John Barrow – $665,000
- R – Ray McKinney – $77,000
- D – Rep. Jane Harman – $202,000
- R – Mattie Fein – $2,000
- D – Rep. Ron Klein – $2.8 million
- R – Allen West – $2.2 million
OK, the good news is that Allen West has closed the gap. The bad news is that there’s still a gap.
If even a genuine GOP rock star like West can’t out-raise his Democrat opponent, we should not be surprised that Ray McKinney and Mattie Fein are facing such tremendous disadvantages in funding. Ray just finished a hard-fought primary runoff campaign and Mattie’s report is from June 30, after she’d spent more than $100,000 to win her primary. And neither of their Democrat opponents is showing a multimillion cash-on-hand balance that would put them out of reach if hundreds of conservatives were to start making $10 and $20 online contributions to the Republican challengers.
My point is that winning a House majority doesn’t “just happen” because polls show the incumbent party is unpopular. Victory requires actual candidates running actual campaigns with actual money and actual volunteers in actual districts.
Unless conservatives start paying attention soon, they’re apt to be sadly disappointed on Nov. 2.
UPDATE: The Ace-o-Lanche! Thanks, man.