You’ve heard the numbers before…the percentage numbers that appear to cede virtually every congressional race to the incumbent. The Center for Responsive Politics calculated that in all of the House races from 1976 – 2010, incumbents won over 90% of them. In 5 of the cycles the number was 98%. Only twice did the margin drop under 90%. In one recent election, 395 out of 401 House incumbents were reelected.
There are any number of obvious reason why being the incumbent is such a great advantage. You’ve got franking privileges to mail thinly veiled campaign pieces under the guise of the latest legislative ‘information’. The house member’s home offices can serve as feel-good help centers for constituent requests and concerns. Everybody knows the name of the district representative and the most important advantage of all – $$$$$$$.
My South Carolina 4th Congressional District is a wonderful example of the latter. Darrell Issa’s protégé, Trey Gowdy, slaughtered both his primary opponent and the mid-term Democratic challenger in the last election.
Now Gowdy is the incumbent. His 2012 Democratic opponent is a nice enough, committed, grandmotherly activist with a penchant for women’s issues. She has pledged to run a ‘shoestring’ campaign and not take a dime from PACs. She promises that hers will be a civil campaign with no negative attacks on a guy who wholly and totally publicly disrespects Attorney General, Eric Holder, calls Nancy Pelosi ‘stupid’ and implies that she’s mentally ill and whose thoughtless anti-poor and middle-class votes are almost weekly negative attacks on his constituents. So the opposition is going to play nice with someone I’ve described in previous observations as verbose, arrogant and a really rotten representative for the vast majority of 4th District residents?
I salute the Democratic candidate for her honorable lesson in the civics of political decency. Unfortunately she lacks the wherewithal to spread the word about such a principled stand. She simply can’t afford the campaign commercials to allow constituents to hear the political poetry of her enlightened approaches. It’s called getting the message out and it takes money to do so. For the House, the tab can be upwards of a million dollars or more. Triple that amount for a Congressional Senate seat.
Here are Gowdy’s money numbers. As of the latest Federal Election Commission reporting period through 6/30/2012, he had raised $611,717, 5% from small ($200 and under) donors. He’ll go over a million before November 6. By contrast, the Democrat has zeros across the FEC board. No money raised or in the pot as reported to the Commission thus far. The only contribution numbers I could find for the lady are on her website – $1,805. The date of the last donation was listed as July 5th.
Wow – $611,717 v. $1,805. Pundits call SC-4 a safe district for Republicans but that doesn’t mean as a candidate, you don’t fight. The Democratic campaign seems content to ‘civilly’ lose, just as innumerable campaigns before it. They’ll throw some stuff up on freebie social media and go to a few meetings and make some speeches before friendly audiences. I’m not even sure there’s going to be a door-to-door effort or any debate attempts. The knowledge and issues are there to make a radical like Gowdy damn uncomfortable and, frankly, beatable. But there’s no money. So you have to get creative and pound on doors and if you have to mimeograph your handouts on an antique A.B. Dick machine, do it and if you have to walk on your hands up the steps of city hall, do it. Holler for the political coward to debate you. Call a Press Conference in front of his district office. Anything less is giving up and allowing the Gowdy money to help other right-wingers desecrate America.
The Democratic National Committee and assorted Democratic State Parties share equal blame. While Gowdy drops over $13,000 on his state’s Republican party, the Democrats pick certain races for all their sugar while telling others, “you’re on your own.”
We’re all aware of the ripple effect of tossing a pebble into a stream. That’s what happens when you don’t do shit to a powerful opponent. Only this pebble is a boulder and the ripple is a tsunami of money washing across the U.S. Of the Gowdy 600 thousand or so, he’s already spent $263,764. Spent over a quarter of a mil that he doesn’t need in his own race. Here’s something Democratic underdogs on all elective office levels should know. When you represent no threat, the bloated coffers of your Republican opponent are wonderful sources for other Republican candidates around the country who have some actual competition.
Gowdy money, which includes $21,000 for the National Republican Congressional Committee, includes a thousand here, 500 there, a couple of grand somewhere else and it’s flooding the country. Recipients include districts (sometimes multiple districts) in 15 states. Districts in all these destinations are getting healthy chunks of that $263,000 or so with more undoubtedly to come. Money that goes mostly to that putrid 2010 freshman class of incoming tea party House members who have killed every Obama initiative designed to help the poor and middle-class. They’re seeking reelection and lacking any reason to spend much on his own race, Gowdy is spreading the fiscal cheer to his House colleagues, while at the same time building up the good will and support he’ll need to be elevated to more influential legislative roles when the time comes.
Among the beneficiaries; New Jersey’s, Jon Runyan, an ex-NFL lineman who wants to defund NPR. The occasional classical music must interfere with the ringing in his ears. Then there’s a guy named Griffith from Virginia, a major homophobe who thinks the idea of getting shit-faced in a local bar while packing a .357 is a wonderful idea. Nevada’s Joe Heck is on the list. He’s determined that all meaningful environmental regulations go to heck. Frank Guinta from New Hampshire holds to the Neanderthal notion that the U.S. should pull out of the UN. Jeff Denham, C-19 is a “Read my lips, no new taxes” kind of guy.” Only he means it, no matter how many services he has to cut to the bone. Sean Duffy from Wisconsin is a General in the war on women and Bobby Schilling from Illinois admits to being influenced by Glenn Beck.
Gowdy even slid a few bucks Joe (“You lie”) Wilson’s way.
That’s where Republican money goes when Democratic opponents don’t do everything in their power to make right-wing candidates spend most of it at home.
Image: Left In Alabama