Time for a quick trip in the wayback machine. Only this time, we’re using the really close machine, since we’re only going back two years. Because it was only slightly more than two years ago when I wrote, in fairly short order, two articles that caused quite the scene. In fact, they got me called pretty much every variation of moron that appears in the English language, although all in good fun. But I’d like to look at those again, and see how they fit into todays climate and environment.
In the first one, I took a close in, deep look at the state of the upcoming 2018 election. I looked and provided polling numbers, voter sentiment, voter enthusiasm, and voting comparisons between 2016 and 2018. And came to the unavoidable conclusion that the Democrats were in a realistic position to pick up anywhere from 35-45 House seats, flipping the chamber with comfort room to spare.
And caught an earful. I was warned to look at 2016, and never take anything for granted, even though I posited in the article that we needed to go through the tape at 150 mph. It was perfectly understandable, 2016 had scared people shitless, and they no longer believed anything. I had simply written off 2016 for what it was, a one time freak of nature, and trusted the numbers.
And the second article caused an even greater stir. In that article I proposed that the era of big dark money politics was over. This wasn’t speculation, I looked around the landscape, and saw various doctors, nurses, teachers, housewives, and accountants running for congress, and out fund raising their entrenched GOP incumbent opponents by anywhere from 3-5 to one. Democratic candidates had chosen to run only on grassroots, small money donations, and voters decided that they liked the idea of owning their own representatives, rather than having them controlled by big money interests. I was assured that this was a flash in the pan.
Now, let’s fast forward to today, and see how things are holding up. On the first one, I came out weeks ago and said that there was at least a 90% chance that
Biden would win the presidency, and a decent chance that the blowout would be so large that we might well know the outcome on election night. And was again presented with the rotting corpse of Jacob Marley, with his clattering chains and cash boxes, and the dire warning to never forget 2016. Thanks, but again, I prefer to trust the numbers.
I have been at this a long time, and I had to stretch my mind all the way back to 1984. with Reagan v McGovern to find a race in which the leading candidate’s margin was so large, and so stable over a large number of months as Biden has enjoyed this time around. Biden conclusively led Trump nationally even before he officially announced. And once he did, he has only expanded, and then consolidated his national lead. Not only that, but in every one of the three critical swing states, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, Biden has not only led wire to wire, but has expanded his lead.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, 2016. But guess what? This isn’t 2016. In 2016 Trump was a novelty candidate, and had no record to speak of. He cobbled together a razor thin coalition of independents, disgruntled Democrats, and soft Republicans to squeeze out the 77,000 votes needed to win the electoral college. He took that coalition and had already pissed it away by the 2018 midterms. His record is a horror show, and even softer Trump supporters who might want to give him a second chance are exhausted by the shit show. And Trump doesn’t care, he caters only to his most loyal, racist base. For the last few days, I have been counting down the days to election day, with the admonition to get out the vote, but it’s time to realize that the race is Biden’s to lose. Just look at the record early voting numbers in every state in the country.
And now, on to the death of the effectiveness of uncontrolled, big money in politics. You can say what you want about Tom Perez’s steerage of the Democratic party, but from where I’m sitting, Perez’ best move as the chair of the DNC was to require presidential candidates to earn a certain amount of money in grassroots donations in order to qualify for the debates. Perez looked at the aftermath of the 2018 midterms, and saw what a powerful weapon grassroots, small donation organizing could be used writ large on the national stage.
And look what has happened. Biden is clobbering Trump in fund raising, which should be inconceivable. Trump has been reduced largely to radio silence in advertising, even in critical states where he is behind, while Biden is blanketing the airwaves with his messages. Lindsey Graham has been reduced to sniveling around on FOX News to beg for donations, and trying to slide a thinly veiled plea for cash in the middle of a Senate confirmation hearing. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been publicly complaining to friends and associates that the grassroots website Act Blue is absolutely murdering his incumbents in fund raising.
It’s important to remember, when it comes to fund raising, actual campaign cash raised by the campaigns have two built in advantages over dark money Super PAC’s. First of all, when a campaign puts an ad up on the air, they get a discounted rate on the advertising rate that the station charges. When a Super PAC posts an ad, they have to pay the regular freight for that time slot, which adds up quick. Especially in high dollar advertising locations such as California, Florida, Texas, and New York. Super PAC’s have to raise major bucks simply because they are going to burn through it more quickly in paying for the advertising slots.
And here is the second, and even more important flaw in big dark money advertising. When a campaign puts an ad up, they control the content of the advertisement. They can choose either to attack their opponent, or put up a laudatory ad, highlighting their candidates positive features. But the same isn’t true for any other form of outside advertising.
FEC law prohibits any Super PAC from coordinating in any way with the campaign for which it is advocating. And worse yet, FEC law prohibits Super PAC’s from posting positive advertising in favor of any candidate. Instead, the PAC must post what is called contrast advertising, better known as attack ads. And history is replete with examples of Super PAC’s funding and putting up insulting attack ads that ended up blowing up in the face of the candidate they were trying to help in the first place.
So here we are. We have come full circle. You know my mantra by now. Once is an accident, twice is a habit, and three times is a fetish. You can call 2018 an accident, but here we are again in 2020, with the leading indicators even more strongly pointing in one direction. And you can call the grassroots fundraising of 2018 an accident, but here we are in 2020, with the Democratic Presidential candidate murdering the incumbent in fund raising, and Senate candidates using the notoriety of their opponents to put them in the hurt locker. And one more thing to note about grassroots fundraising. Have you noticed that the more that Biden has clobbered Trump in fund raising, the more the big dark money going into Super PAC’s has dried up? These guys don’t waste money. And they can see which way the wind is blowing. 20 days. GOTV!
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