Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Cry-wolf" fundraising versus "Pummel them" fundraising

CQ Politics has an article up this morning on the importance of tonight's 2Q fundraising deadline and with it, the inevitable ratcheting-up of the apocalyptic tone of political fundraising letters:

Without fail, these solicitations note the importance that the press and political analysts ascribe to the second-quarter campaign finance reports, which candidates have to file by July 15. The fundraising implorations often are couched in apocalyptic and urgent tones, warning of the political consequences of the opposition winning the upcoming election.

The article listed several examples of candidates around the country, all specifically stressing the importance of appearances in second-quarter fundraising:

"[My campaign needs] the strongest showing possible to show President Obama and Washington's liberal politicians that our conservative voices will not be silenced." (LA)


Tomorrow, June 30th concludes our 2nd financial filing period with the Federal Elections Committee. This report is extremely important, as my possible opponents will look at this report to find any potential weakness in our re-election efforts. (VA)

And another ask from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (over John Kerry's signature) makes this last-minute plea on behalf of House Dems:

"We need your help to raise $1 million before June 30th to show the world how committed we are to standing with President Obama and against those who are rooting for him - and America - to fail."

As the end of June rolls around, the optics are everything, baby. Nothing too surprising there.

What's irritating--and, unfortunately, it's becoming less surprising with repetition--is the Dems' continued reliance on "cry-wolf" fundraising. It's one thing to acknowledge the importance of the inevitable tea-leaf reading that will follow the July 15th reports, and to dip into your thesaurus under "dire" and "apocalyptic" in the process; it's another, as I noted earlier this month. to stampede donors with alarums about a wolf that just isn't there.

Case in point: Another "cry-wolf" ask yesterday, this one Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, doesn't thump on the importance of the July 15th reports, instead recycling this story:

Dear ________,

We underestimate them at our peril.

Forget what you've heard about a Republican Party in disarray.

It's raising money at an astonishing rate - $14.5 million in a single night. It has history on its side - the president's party nearly always loses congressional seats in off-year elections.

(Emphasis in the original.)

First, raise your hand if you don't believe the Republicans are in disarray right now.

I thought so. Yes, things can turn around in only a cycle or two, but they ain't there yet.

Second, about that $14.5 million--here the story, from three weeks ago:

Standing in as the party's de facto leader, Gingrich was filling a speaking role that Bush held in recent years and that was initially offered to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president, this year. He headlined a series of speakers who gave the crowd a blistering review of President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

Despite the rallying cry, the GOP faithful still weren't opening their wallets as they have in recent past. The event took in a relatively small fundraising haul of $14.5 million, the lowest total in at least five years. Last year, it raised $21.5 million, compared with $15.4 million in 2007 and $27 million in 2006.

(Emphasis mine.)

I suppose you could call a drop-off like that "astonishing," although it wouldn't be in the sense that the DSCC wants you to have in mind.

And the Gingrich fundraising event wasn't quite the example of party discipline it's being offered up as. Perhaps you remember the story-behind-the-story from that same evening:

The dinner for weeks was clouded by a will-she-or-won't-she mystery about whether Palin would make an appearance.

The party's 2008 vice presidential nominee left frustrated organizers hanging as late as Monday afternoon after she was told she would not have a speaking role at the event.

It was the latest twist in an unusual public flap between the potential 2012 presidential candidate and the Republican congressional leaders who run the fundraising committees.

In March, organizers replaced Palin as the keynote speaker with Gingrich after she wavered over accepting the invitation. Although the committees issued a press release announcing her as the headliner, Palin said she never confirmed that she would speak and wanted to make sure the event did not interfere with state business.

She hadn't been expected to attend until last week, when her advisers approached organizers saying she would be near Washington and would like to come.

Palin, who attended with her husband, Todd, was introduced to the crowd but did not speak.

This is not the leadership of a party with flint-jawed determination and steely-eyed discipline. This is a party that is in trouble, and knows it.

My point is not that the Democratic leadership needs to let up or become complacent. Just the opposite. My point is that the correct rallying cry for Democrats right now is not "They're more dangerous than ever!"

The correct Democratic rallying cry is "They're down, but they're still not out. As long as they're still moving, we need to keep pummeling them."

Another thing: "Cry-wolf" fundraising fits much too comfortably with the sap-headed urge to accommodate Republican intransigence in the name of "bipartisanship" that has some top Democrats (and the purveyors of Beltway Conventional Wisdom) still claiming this morning that the "public option" is not necessarily a deal-killer on health care reform.

By comparison, "Pummel them" fundraising fits nicely with the strategy of strong-arming health care reform through--"public option" and all--using the reconciliation process in the Senate, removing even the threat of an obstructionist Republican filibuster.

If it was a different Republican Party, it would be a different story. But it isn't, and it isn't. "Pummel them" is the way to go, not because the Democrats are looking at a Rove-style permanent majority for decades--but precisely because they aren't.

(Tip of the hat to Doctor Beyond for sharing his mail.)

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