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.

1 comment:

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.