Sunday, March 11, 2007

Money, Money, Money

In today's Ann Arbor News, Democratic candidate David Nacht is profiled under the headline "Race shaping up in 7th District". I wouldn't say it's a fluff piece, but it doesn't have much substance not already covered on this blog. If anything, it's a good way for Nacht to introduce himself to the voters of western Washtenaw County.

What caught my eye, though, was this paragraph at the end:
Unseating Walberg won't be easy, though. The anti-tax conservative raised and spent more than $1.2 million in the last cycle, and dedicated his first few months on Capitol Hill to constituent outreach and legislation on tax reform, worker's [sic] rights and Great Lakes preservation.
For starters, I wouldn't characterize his term thus far quite like that. He apparently dedicated himself to workers' rights by voting against pro-labor legislation, and Great Lakes preservation has only been a leading issue for the last two weeks or so, at most. (Even if Walberg has always been an advocate for the Great Lakes, most of January and February were spent on other issues.)

I attribute this to the slightly conservative bias of the Ann Arbor News-- after all, they endorsed George W. Bush in a county that voted 63-35 for John Kerry. Either way, it's a minor quibble. Far more important was this:
The anti-tax conservative raised and spent more than $1.2 million in the last cycle
I know we all remember the money spent by Walberg, versus the money not spent by Sharon Renier, and Renier's stellar performance as the underfunded underdog. But this is something that's worth talking about constantly.

According to the FEC, Tim Walberg spent $1,225,137 on the 2006 campaign, and has another $38,000 or so left over-- plus independent expenditures by folks like the Club for Growth, Right to Life, and the Minuteman PAC. Sharon Renier spent $55,794 but still managed to make the race the closest in the state of Michigan, out-performing every Democrat in the district since 1992. (By the way, it's also worth remembering that most of Walberg's money came from outside the state of Michigan.)

But be careful, because you might draw the wrong conclusion. Renier proved that it's possible to run a competitive campaign on less than $60,000, but that doesn't mean anyone should. Imagine if Renier had spent, say, $500,000-- still less than half of what Walberg spent. I can't know this for sure, but I've got to think that money like that could easily have closed the gap and defeated Walberg by an impressive margin.

Next time around, Walberg's going to have the full support of the Club for Growth and co., plus all the advantages of incumbency (which inevitably leads to money connections, it seems). And if Joe Schwarz or some other credible Republican doesn't challenge him in the primary, he'll be able to focus all his attention on the Democratic candidates and eventual nominee. I think it's certainly possible that we could see him spending $2 million or more. That's what we're up against.

But, the DCCC is interested, right? So they'll help out! Well, maybe. Like anyone else, they don't like being associated with losing candidates, and they won't want to spend everything they have on increasing the majority by just one seat. If Walberg raises a lot of money and the best the Democratic candidates can do is 2006-level fundraising (or worse, 2004-level), then they might choose to pass on the race yet again. In other words, the DCCC won't make a candidate viable, it'll only help those that are already viable-- and viability often means money.

I wish I could offer some sort of three-step strategy to raising large amounts of cash, but I can't, and I'm just a lowly blogger. The candidates will have to figure that out. Instead, I'm just reminding the candidates that they'll need the money if they want this to become a first-tier race. Don't take any candidate seriously if they aren't already implementing a fundraising strategy by the filing deadline, May 19th, 2008.

And if you're not a candidate, you aren't ready to commit to anyone, and you have the money available, consider donating to ActBlue's fund for MI-07's Democratic Nominee.


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My gut feeling is that CFG will not play as big a role in '08 for Walberg. '06 was more about defeating Schwarz for them then about electing Walberg. The gravy train will go to someone else in a more contensious fight.

It's too bad that Walberg has never met 85 percent of this contributors, it's unlikely they will support him again because CFG will tell the plutocrats to direct it toward another race. Walberg raised very, very little money IN the district. Doubt '08 will be much different. Walberg sold his soul to CFG, it will be interesting to see if they will still support him in '08.
I keep reading about the spending difference, however, the vast majority of the $1.2 mil was spent in the primary against Schwarz. Schwarz outspent Walberg nearly 2-1, even when you consider both sides independent expenditures. We all need to remember that the spending disparity was probably more like $300k to $60k in the general during an extremely Democratic year. The fall election in MI CD-7 was not suppose to be competitive, but as we saw nationally, it was a Democratic tsunami. Renier's name ID was probably lower then what her vote total was, people just pulling the D lever. This is not going to be a cake walk at all.
The race won't be as easy this time around, and that makes fundraising even more important. If Nacht already has support from some in the DCCC as the article suggests, then he seems like he would definitely be a viable candidate, one with the fundraising ability necessary to win.

I definitely think that the DCCC are hoping someone besides Renier runs as the dem if for no other reason than to throw its name behind someone who hasn't lost. The money will then come when that candidate proves to be viable as the post stated. I think Nacht has shown he is serious about this race and he might
be able to establish the viability necessary fo the DCCC to back him.
Thanks for linking to the ActBlue nominee fund! It's a great way to fundraise for future candidates especially in a seat where we know there will be some action. All of the funds get transferred to the nominee upon selection in the primary or when we know there is no other way for someone else to be the nominee.

I agree completely - very pragmatic post.
I doubt that Nacht has any support from the DCCC. He has been very free and easy with the truth about who is supporting him. Just like when he said that he had the support of Schauer, Simpson, etc. Mr. Nacht has not made any friends in Lansing with our elected officials with some of his exaggerations of their support.
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