Monday, August 07, 2006

State of the campaign - Democratic Primary

So, I have wanted to post something on the Democratic Primary race and have held back because I do not have as many contacts or sources among the candidates. I have spent the last several weeks, however, conducting some informal research on where things are going. I did my best to target solid Democrats and Non-Republicans to get their feelings on the race and step outside of the local blogging crowd.

What I found was pretty eye-opening.

Here's the deal. Patty Weiss is ahead, and if the primary were held tomorrow, she would be the winner.

The results among the people I spoke with were not as close as what I believe the race to actually be, but it certainly provided a counter-balance to what I had come to believe by reading the latest blog comments. Of the people I spoke with, almost every one of them knew Patty, and most intended to vote for her. Not in a "she's the only person I know so I will vote for her" way, but with a "I really like Patty Weiss." Of the people who were aware of Gabby, I got more negative reactions than positive. And of course there were a few Latas supporters.

Now I realize that my results were in no way scientific, but like I said, I was certainly surprised at what I found, and the reasoning behind people's thinking was the most enlightening.

It appears that many of the negatives towards Gabby were not anything that was immediately apparent like "she voted for Walmart!" It was more of a "meh" type reaction in that Gabby didn't really do anything for them. They have seen her commercials and there is nothing that really grabbed them. Her story really isn't that appealing to them, and they really haven't followed her career in the legislature. Again, this was contrasted by Patty's story where many feel like she has overcome oppression and is now is going to "stick it to the man." Gabby came across like a DNC insider, while Patty was more of an outsider to them. And we all know how Arizonans like their Mavericks.

So once I had heard all this, I tried to reconcile this with the facts I knew on the ground. Here is what I came up with:

1. Gabby scorched everyone with her signature gathering. Indeed this feat was impressive. It goes to show that Gabby had a tremendously effective gameplan and staff. This was to be expected as she has run for office before. Indeed, had Patty not run, she probably would have been coronated for the slot quite quickly. Patty entered a little later and made some rookie mistakes. She seems to have evened that out now.

2. Gabby has a lot of endorsements and money. This is indeed the case. However, the whole endorsement thing is kind of a sham anyway. In the case of the Democratic candidates, their stand on most issues is so similar that no one candidate is a flat out better choice than another. In these case an organization will do their best to prognosticate the winner, as you wouldn't want to back a loser, especially in the primary. Donations are the much the same way. Who wants to spend $1000 on a person that won't last past September. I actually think that Gabby had a lot of her donations lined up before she decided to run. This was probably a precondition on her decision to run.

3. Gabby has a lot of boots on the ground. This one may be a bit deceptive. She certainly has a large contingent on the blogs and did a good job with her signatures, but I haven't seen a lot of Gabby bumper stickers or signs. Also, in the silly poll that was done in the Citizen, she didn't get a lot of support in that popularity contest. It is perhaps of no consequence, but I highly doubt that Gabby and all her supporters thought that this was beneath notice or they "didn't wish to cheat." They simply didn't get enough support soon enough to register. This would probably speak of a highly centralized campaign that doesn't have a lot of "freelance" leaders that could gather supporters quickly. Winning campaigns need those type of people.

Now I certainly do not believe that this is all sewn up. Patty certainly has a lot of work to do, and she cannot take even a moment off. She certainly has more previous television time than she will ever need. What she needs to do is get out to see people personally with every chance she gets and take nothing for granted. The fact that she is showing for all the forums is great for her and is definitely in contrast to Gabby's absences. Taking on the Republicans on their own turf is certainly what Democrats wish to see in their candidate and will only add to her maverick credentials.

Gabby needs to pick up her game. She needs to not skip events and she needs to stand out on issues. Her current "play it safe" stance could and will cost her in the primary. She needs the Democratic base, as I would assume that her advantage with independents isn't incredibly large if a lead at all against Patty.

Also in Gabby's favor is the fact that her negatives aren't really all that material, it's just that she doesn't stand out as much as she otherwise could. She needs to find an issue important to voters in the district and own it. So far, this just hasn't happened. A message and $800,000 would be tough to beat. If her strategy is to out-television Patty, she may have more time to ride those horses I keep seeing in her commercials.

Then again, I'm not a pollster, I just play one on this blog.

7 comments:

Kralmajales said...

Ouch...I know you folks over on this side of the fence would rather see Weiss than Giffords in the fall, but...well...I don't agree with your non-scientific analysis.

Truth is Giffords has missed very few events at all, has been campaigning her tail off, and has one of the most impressive organizations that I have seen operate. Not just in endorsements and fundraising either, but if you could see what I have seen with regards to volunteers and contacting voters....well...I would just say be ready on your side of the fence.

I am surprised at your analysis and would love to know who you talked to. Patty indeed has a lot of name recognition, but I have seen the amount of potential voters contacted and where people are lining up in the calls. It is looking pretty good.

Last, on signs and such, they are coming and frankly were not ordered by the campaign. Some analysts believe strongly that signs do not correlate with attracting voters. What signs do is satisfy supporters who are already with you. The reason some break down and order them is that supporters start to worry when they see other peoples signs and not their own. It also sometimes make them come start working a little harder.

I can say this, when the signs do go up, you will be seeing a LOT of them.

AZYouLikeIt said...

"When the signs do go up"??

What's Gabby waiting for? Mail-in ballots are going out right now. I'd love to hear the strategy behind this one.

As for the Republican base wanting to see Patty win, that's just laughable. There's a reason Republican brass in the county have been talking about Gabby as the anointed candidate -- they're seeing the same internal polls as everyone else. They show Patty running away with it in November, and Gabby losing to Randy Graf.

Roger, you say you don't buy this "non-scientific" analysis, but for months you've been going off on how polls don't mean anything. So which is it? Either you like the quantitative analyses or you don't. Or maybe you just don't like any analysis that doesn't support your candidate.

I appreciate a well-reasoned qualitative analysis from someone on the other side of the fence. Arizona 8th is turning into a top-tier blog as far as this race goes.

phx kid said...

azyoulikeit

Have you seen these internal polls showing Patty running away with it?

Please, tell us more about them, let's have the details.

"Republican brass in the county" and who would that be exactly? There are more separate factions of the party now than even before.

Kralmajales said...

Not having it both ways at all. I will explain it to you AZYOULIKEIT...but doubt you will buy it.

The poll you all trumpet for Patty was indeed scientific, but it only measured name rec. at a time in the campaign when that simply didn't matter (June). It certainly did not matter in her fundraising. The hope was that the poll would boost her funds...but it didn't.

Nothing wrong with the poll at all in how it was conducted...it showed Patty winning at a time when virtually no one was paying attention. In other words, it was an accurate yardstick that didn't measure what it was supposed to measure. Most every local analyst agreed.

To be fair, you can feel a little more comfortable with any that are done between now and the election...now that there are ads, candidates are jousting for early ballots, and that the volunteers are working like crazy.

As to Framer's analysis, I think it fell quite quite short of measuring what it was supposed to measure. He admitted it at least.

As to volunteers and endorsements, Framer. Giffords has over 1000 volunteers signed up to work and over 200 precinct captains ready to mobilize voters around the district. The endorsements do indeed bring volunteers with it too. I just saw a pack of teachers the other day come out to walk neighborhoods and canvass for Giffords. Finally, the office is filled with people calling, mobilizing voters, and organizing. I am biased "yes", but I can tell you that I have not seen a campaign of this magnitude in quite awhile.

Framer said...

Roger and Co.

The people I spoke with were almost all pretty strong self identified liberals, the kind of people who give me grief for being a Republican.

Again, the result for Patty wasn't what I found suprising, Gabby has just started her media push, Patty should be ahead still based on name recognition. Again, what is interesting is that there was a unified reasoning behind backing Patty and dismissing Gabby that I hadn't considered. I was frankly highly suprised.

I don't have a dog in the fight, or an axe to grind. But Gabby's timidity on separating herself from Patty on the issues (or perhaps it is Patty who is being clever in mirroring Gabby) makes this race a lot more dangerous for Gabby than it could be.

Personally, if I have a candidate that has votes on record as opposed to rhetoric, I will go with the votes if they agree with my positions, all things being equal.

However, it appears that their are others, especially in the Democratic party that are not feeling a lot of trust in politicians of any stripe right now. They want to feel that they know their candidate, and a great portion of Distict 8 feels they know Patty. There are also many that feel that they know Latas. You yourself know Gabby and it is a big reason why you are supporting her. Would you be as strong a supporter if all you had seen was her TY commercials?

I guess my main argument is that this cycle is shaping up more as a "trust" election rather than "qualifications" mandate. Should the campaigning continue on its current trajectory this favors Patty, especially if Gabby does not adjust.

Again, because I feel that the anti-Gabby sentiment is made of intangibles, it is certainly something that can be fixed. People are looking to quantify this feeling by nit-picking (see Walmart vote threads). However, should Gabby show leadership either by creating unique policy positions, or by leading the charge by personally confronting Republicans in venues like the forums the trust issue can be mitigated, and quickly.

Will Gabby do this, or depend upon her money to get her name recognition up? Defining her positions better carries some risk, but it could lead to a comfortable victory in the primary. But, as I mentioned before, if her plan is to out-television Patty, she could very well be going home early.

AZYouLikeIt said...

Gabby's negatives may be largely based on "nit picks," but there's a growing number of them.

First Wal-Mart, now the false claims about the "quorum queen" incident... I hear the Weekly will have some not-so-nice things to say tomorrow as well.

Any one of those is a nit pick -- but combine them with the anti-politician sentiment we saw in Connecticut, Georgia, and Michigan last night, and Framer's analysis of the race makes a great deal of sense.

Kralmajales said...

It appears that those not so nice things were a full, front page endorsement of Giffords...complete with a list of her accomplishments and her record. I have continually posted the same things on these blogs and the nitpicks continue AZYOULIKEIT.

What you say above is essentially what the Weiss strategy is. Combine all the itty bitty nitpicks and use it to capitalize on the anti-politician mentality. It is a strategy of misconception and it might work as Framer and AZYOULIKEIT suggests.

I agree that she should keep hammering away on her experience and her issues. She is not a Lieberman and does not have a glaring glaring issue problem...like a wholehearted support for something Democrats don't believe in...she also hasn't attacked her own party.

I think you are right Framer...they just need to rise far above the nitpicky committee vote stuff and just plain out experience them. I have only met her about 5 times and she has it in her.