Something that still annoys me—
Marcus Flowers (D) was a no-hope candidate who raised $16,000,000 to lose by 32 points
Adam Gray (D) only raised $2M and lost by 500 votes.
Be smart about where you put your money, Dems pic.twitter.com/oOfb8waS7K
— Brent Peabody 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@brent_peabody) April 28, 2023
Fund Democrats who are running plausibly winnable races far more than funding candidates who are running emotionally satisfying f-u races that are unwinnable
Good luck with that.
This! Or to put it another way, rather than acting entirely out of spite as Republicans do, use yer brain.
I raised less than $12,000 in my unwinnable congressional race, and had little old ladies yelling at me because I wasn’t sending out fundraising emails every week. The answer was I knew what the odds were and would rather put their money into closer races.
That said, because I didn’t raise a ton of money, no media or statewide / national progressive organizations would return my phone calls or answer emails, and no political figures would offer endorsements. Because fundraising is literally the only thing they care about.
We’ve seen this on the Senate side as well, with no-hope (but good people/candidates) against Mitch McConnell etc. It’s always very frustrating and in many ways Democratic consultant grifting, because the media consultants sweep up huge fees in producing ad after ad after ad…that doesn’t generate a win. But the fundraising and the ads and the messaging make people feel good on a national level without actually winning races.
The flip side is, of course…if you don’t run everywhere you can’t get the big upset. And they do happen, especially when a long-serving member gets fat and lazy and spends all their time on Joe Manchin’s yacht instead of in their district.
Wait, people were asking for more fundraising emails?
You can’t stop donors from throwing their money away, but it seems to me that the Dems should provide a minimum amount of seed money to every congressional nominee running in a district or state held by a Republican. More if the seat looks winnable.
@fancycwabs: definitely a self-fulfilling prophecy with many of these races. Challengers struggle with fundraising until people see them as viable. the way they’re seen as viable? Raise enough money. So unless you have a self-funder or someone with access to other funding sources (say, a doctor who can raise from others docs, who are notoriously tough as a group for political fundraising otherwise) you can really be stuck on the outside looking in.
I’ve fundraised for multiple of these kinds of congressional challenger races and while the PVI said the race was viable…the lack of early funding made it impossible.
New Deal democrat
This is as good a place as any to drop this comment: Democrats should get serious about party-building a putting together a bench in Kansas.
25th out of 50 in rural vs. urban split, ahead of North Carolina, just behind Michigan, ahead of Minnesota.
Has a history over the past 50 years of electing Democratic governors.
Perhaps most importantly, have you heard? It has *2* US Senate seats!
And media buying for those statewide elections, with just 1 medium sized metro area (Kansas City) and 2 smaller ones (Topeka and Wichita), can be purchased *much* more cheaply than in places like Florida and North Carolina.
Short of yelling at individual donors to be strategic, what’s a guy to do? I didn’t throw any pennies Flowers’s way, but saved my precious coin for closer races closer to home. But man, when MTG drives someone up the jucking wall, the national party needs a unifying message that says “hate MTG? then give to Gray to keep MTG off a committee” It’s not quite a rousing rallying cry, but I think it would work for some individuals. But when your whole national apparatus is “throw money at people who can raise money, no I won’t be taking any questions” is it any wonder that Flowers scratched an itch while Gray did not?
@Baud: Definitely more than I was sending, which was zero. Because I hate them and I hate the disingenuous tone they all strike–“Here’s the NYT headline today, here’s the spin, will you pledge $25 to help protect the thing?”
My fundraising pitch (such as it was, and pretty much always in person) was basically “y’all, these yard signs and radio spots cost money–if you wonder why you don’t see a lot of yard signs and radio spots, maybe think about contributing to the cause.”
It should be noted that with my measly $12k I outperformed 538’s prediction for my race by 6%. If I’d raised $2M I probably could have outperformed their prediction by 15% but that still would have lost.
@Baud: Ha. That would require national Dems to have an actual strategy that isn’t “feed the consulting wurlitzer”.
Anonymous At Work
It’s hard to determine ex-ante where the close races will be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “Adversity doesn’t build character but reveals it” but less funding/long odds is more likely to reveal a strong candidate with engagement skills, like John Fetterman. Finally, question: did Flowers spend all 16 million in his district on his race? Alternatively, I’d throw money at Flowers if he spent less on his race and more on infrastructure creation in his district.
Things to consider. Now, yes, ignoring these, Democrats have a whack-a-mole problem in this regard.
What’s Charlie Christ’s next election?
This! And this is why I was so, SO happy that WaterGirl went for exactly this strategy in 2022: carefully examining and selecting local elections so that BJ’s targeted funding and activism could make a difference.
I think local news coverage, and a medium-deep dive into the Democratic candidate’s background/experience, along with a similar dive into the area’s electoral history, might be some ways of distinguishing real-hopers from no-hopers.
It is hard not to throw money at candidates opposing particularly loathsome GOPers (McConnell, Abbott). But repeatedly pointing out that winning winnable races also undermines the Most Loathed’s power – by denying them majority status – might be helpful.
David, have you read any of the fundraising posts on Balloon Juice in the last 2 years? :-)
Yea….I’m in that district. It was redistricted last cycle with California having lost one Representative in the 2020 census. The prior Rep (Harder – D) was redistricted to (mostly) Stockton and Modesto was cut in half. My portion going to a Fresno heavy new district. It was depressing. It took us decades to go from conservative Republicans representing the area to finally getting a decent Democrat for a couple cycles. Harder won in ’22 but our guy didn’t.
@Baud: there was an organization in Ohio that was raising funds to make sure every Democratic candidate in races for the Ohio legislature got at least $500 I think it was. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I remember a woman who decided to run as a write-in when no one was challenging the R in her district and it meant a lot to her. No, she didn’t win but maybe she’ll file to run next time. Baby steps!
We do have to start challenging Rs everywhere. Maybe with more judicious donating, but McConnell etc should not run unchallenged.
@Eunicecycle: The best thing our voters could do is vote D down the ballot. Last I heard, a lot of our voters just vote just the top line and leave the rest blank.
I’ll add my appreciation for another core Balloon Juice Jackal Strategy in the 2022 cycle: funding GOTV efforts led by communities of color.
MI, NV, AZ: we played a part in some very important victories in those states, because of our GOTV partners.
It would be nice if hopeless emotion-campaign candidates used their war chests for other close races.
I’m still working on Getting Smart.
Adam Gray wasn’t one of BJ’s targeted candidates, as I recall. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar screen. Will he run again?
I recall at the time that race didn’t track as ‘no hope’. McConnell was historically unpopular, even in his own state, and the polls were very very close, with McConnell a step behind in some of them. And then – he wins in a landslide? I’ve never heard a plausible explanation for that outcome and until I do, I’m going to persist in my belief that something hinky went on there.
@New Deal democrat: We lived in Kansas at one time, and I agree. I saw that the legislature passed an abortion bill over the Democratic governor’s veto. Seems short sighted, given the recent vote re choice. Reproductive healthcare should be a winning issue there.
@WaterGirl: Pretty sure David was not criticizing BJ in his post.
@Anonymous At Work:
It’s a bit mixed. You can guess in advance that some races won’t be close, like ones with a huge partisan advantage. That at least lets you exclude some races as ones that are likely to give good bang for one’s buck. For example, I wouldn’t encourage anyone outside my district to donate money here, because the Democrats have a big enough partisan advantage that the Republicans have pretty much stopped even trying.
@kindness: I worked really hard for Harder. We had the mindset that the race was neck and neck. The only drawback was his campaign people were from DCCC and for the most part arrogant fucks who we locals had to go directly to Josh when we needed to get something done.
@CaseyL: Yes! That’s exactly why I spend so much time on this full-service blog! I have been non-strategic in the past, swayed by my loathing of the McConnells and MTGs of the party of hate. I am so thankful for WaterGirl’s leadership in helping us all make smarter choices in our donations.
Sherrod Brown could use our help this cycle.
We had the same issue when we volunteered at the Stockton office for McNerney’s first campaign.
At least the DCCC ignored the campaign until a few weeks before the election (the polls were positive at that point). But my goodness, they treated the locals (who had been calling and going door-to-door canvassing for months and months) like we were invisible. I had to personally call the local campaign director to let her know they forgot to assign us an election day job or even invite us to the strategy session for volunteers. She was shocked and really apologetic.
I had hoped that their attitude had changed by now, but it sounds like it hasn’t. Why do they treat locals like this? It makes no sense.
@JML: That’s the thing–beyond a minimum threshold more money in a race yields diminishing returns, especially compared with visibility and endorsements, which are arguably free.
My prospective constituency included a number of left-leaning Big Celebrities (one in particular who has already said she’s the problem, it’s her) who could have really moved the needle if they’d been engaged, but without a couple million dollars in the bank you don’t get their attention. Same with the DNC–the buy-in to be considered a “real candidate” in a congressional race is a quarter million dollars.
Lincoln’s mayor, Lierion Gaylor Baird, is currently the most prominent elected Democrat in the state, and she is very good. Pete Ricketts and the Peed family have between the two of them put in 1.5 million dollars to beat her. In the April primary she came in first with just under 50% against two Republicans. Her opponent, the beneficiary of all that money, resigned from the legislature so she didn’t have to vote on controversial bills (including the 6 week abortion ban that was blocked in a cloture vote yesterday – Hurrah!). The election is Tuesday and we have already early voted.
I’ve been regularly donating since November or so and am going in Sunday to make phone calls. She’s been good at raising money — probably now over a million herself from smaller donors than her opponents. The last time she ran and won the total expenditures for both candidates were somewhat over 10% of what is being spent on this race. The Republicans really want to knock her off.
Did I mention she is really good. I was at a small fundraising event this week where a local pulmonologist spoke about how her covid policies saved lots of lives and put Lincoln in the best 10% of communities for avoiding covid deaths. I first heard her speak as just a neighbor at the 2008 caucuses where she spoke eloquently for Obama, just off the cuff. She’s really impressive.
@Scout211: Jerry got rid of the DCCC people and got his own in-house campaign team. They are all locals. We had really good relations with him and his team here in Lodi. Since Jerry retired, his campaign staff formed a political consultancy that has been really good for Dems in San Joaquin county. By the way, they had nothing to do with the arrogant DCCC assholes.
@surfk9: I really liked Harder. He’s a moderate but not a Blue Dog Democrat. I know I live in red (purple) California and it was really good having him in DC representing me. Now I’ve got a Fresno dickhead in DC who wouldn’t take my calls even if I tried to call him (I don’t). Keep the faith.
@SuzieC: From ballotpedia
Three Democrats have declared so far.
President Johnny Gentle (famous crooner)
I donated to Flowers a couple times, small contributions, but how was I supposed to know? I didn’t see polling of the race, and I thought MTG had been so crazy that her own district might have turned on her. Obviously I didn’t know the depths of the fever swamp.
@kindness: Apparently calling helps even when they know you would not vote for them if your life turned on it. Or so I’ve been told by people who should know. Generally staff keep tallies of call numbers, so calling can still do some good.
Obvious Russian Troll
There is a balance here. I mean, McConnell was almost certainly going to win his election.
But you have to support the Democratic candidate at least a little. I mean, footage of McConnell snapping off the heads of a couple dozen babies might have come out and made it a tight race.
@kindness: I hear you. I’ve had McClintock for what seems like a million years. Sigh.
@Layer8Problem: Aren’t we all?
@surfk9: Good to hear. We moved to Calaveras after his first election so we weren’t involved after that. I’m happy that they fixed that mess.
@Baud: I have heard that, too. They need to be educated that’s for sure. I know people are reluctant to vote for someone they know nothing about in some cases, but I hope they can be convinced that most Ds are better than most Rs.
Really appreciate the strategy you all have taken in 2022. I was impressed.
thanks for taking on such a thankless task!
Outperforming suggests your campaign got more people to the polls – did that get more votes for Democrats up ballot or down ballot? Lead to wins or closer contests?
@Obvious Russian Troll:
Given the Republican voting base, being nice to babies would have hurt his reelection chances much worse.
Obvious Russian Troll
In the 2020 election, I think it would have pushed a ton of Kentucky voters to voting for the Libertarian candidate.
McConnell still wins by 5%, but it does force McConnell to go into the shade to regulate his body temperature.
Really, baby-eating plays better for Republicans in Presidential elections.
An important point here: Frisch may have “only” raised $2 million, but until 2018, that would have likely put him in the top 5 percent of fundraisers for the House. Even today, that’s more than enough to run a wide ranging and effective house campaign in a media market that not New York or LA.
@Obvious Russian Troll: I don’t disagree, but for all that Amy McGrath had a great candidate profile and taking a swing at a Moscow Mitch is a fun idea and all…we could have had just as much fun and accomplished as much with 80% less spend in KY for her and spreading that money elsewhere.
Where the DCCC needs to get it’s brains together is how to get more seed money to candidates (especially first-time candidates) with strong profiles that can compete in a district so they have that early money that allows them to: staff up a field operation early on in the campaign season rather than trying to slam together a canvass crew in September, develop a real messaging calendar and sequence out a rollout of the candidate in the summer (when the rates might be a lot cheaper) to define themselves and still have money to run a real campaign in the fall, etc. And also find places to stash good candidates for a cycle after they come up short the first time around so they can run a second time without them going bankrupt. (The GOP is good at this, historically: they’ll stash a candidate at a think tank after a loss so they can build more connections, draw a paycheck, get their name into the news, and be able to start campaigning again early)
@President Johnny Gentle (famous crooner):
a fair question. For next time, how about posting a question here asking what folks think of contributing to this or that candidate? And keeping an eye on the pitches made here for various fundraising efforts.
And I knew you would! That’s why I donated!! :-)
Thanks for your comments.
Something, something, 80% of life is showing up.
You showed up. That’s important.
Unfortunately, polls are broken, so we don’t really know if a Flowers or a Gideon or a Demings or an Abrams race is
closehopeless or not in the heat of the battle. We do know, though, that one can only make the rubble bounce so many times before it’s not rubble any more.
Enough money is vital, but much more than that (especially multiples of that) is resources better used elsewhere.
I meant Gray, but the point still stands.
A thing to remember, 80% of the staffers working on a lot of these campaigns could care less about the electoral prospects of Democrats and other districts. They’re out there to soak up as much money for that specific campaign as they can. So if not lie, they’re going to intentionally mislead you about the prospects of their candidate winning a race So that you’ll put more money behind them no matter what they’re polling shows internally.
One thing that any Flowers donor could have done was to check out past elections in the district. They would have found that no Democrat had come within 25 points of a Republican since the Georgia 14th CD was created in 2011. Redrawn, the distric still had a Republican lean of well over 14 points. A disparity in candidate quality would not overcome that stuctural advantage..
Generally, candidate quality has less importance now than demographics. Last November, Lauren Boebert was almost an exception that proved that rule. She’s probably a less competent Rep than Greene, and almost lost because of that. But the projected partisan lean of the new Colorado 3rd CD was something like R+9, much smaller than for Greene’s GA 14th.
@fancycwabs: That’s how we got Sinema
I understand what they mean.
But, I find 3 or 4 ‘ hopeless’ candidates that I think are good candidates, and I support them every election cycle.
Because, we need to support good candidates, even in ‘ hopeless’ situations. Just to thank them for running.
@Obvious Russian Troll: At his age and health, there is a chance he might die after the primary. We do have to run someone if we can, not let him be unopposed.
I donated $100 to McGrath even though I figured she wouldn’t win. Because 1) she had a better bio/chance than any recent person he’d run against and 2) screw Moscow Mitch. If he had to spend more of his money for his own race it means less that he could give out to help other Republicans.
Is there some data to back this assertion?
I have complained here before about the hard-sell from D candidates once you get on ActBlue and other D-leaning mailing list. And it seems to be getting worse as Dems do well with small donors (unlike Rs who usually get some huge PAC or billionaire to fund their campaigns).
@Roger Moore: Snapping TURTLES gotta snap.
My focus is on Colorado, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia (not MTg area), Nevada. I think WV is gone.
@rikyrah: agree. We complain that so many races are unopposed, then we complain we’re wasting money on the challengers. Fucking bullshit.
I disagree to some degree. Look at how close we came to ousting Boebert, for example. And the unexpected wins in some other areas (Oregon, was it?). These are unstable times and anything can happen. Also, spite donations aren’t necessarily transferable, and it’s better to have that money out there supporting the Dem message than not. The biggest problem for us is always apathy and despair. Any action (short of violence/law-breaking) is better than none.
I donated to both of the above cited “loser” campaigns (Flowers and McGrath) through VoteVets. That they both raised tons of money because they ran against deeply unpopular to us politicians isn’t actually their fault. Both were acknowledged long shots, and no one was misled.
I look forward to the day in the future when campaign finance reform eliminates the need to raise ridiculously large sums of money to run for office. Until then we all need to decide for ourselves how to triage our donations because no one has a magic bullet for every race.
And since this really annoys me: let me just point out that asking people to put themselves and their families through the kinds of ugly political campaigns we have now for several months to a year or more; opening themselves up to potential violence (or in some cases actual death threats); humongous campaign expenses and grueling schedules; and then to castigate them as “losers” and openly bemoan the donations they received isn’t very good for recruiting good candidates to run in every district. Which is supposedly our goal.
@Jess: The unforseen win you speak of was probably Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s, in the Washington 3rd CD. That was an open seat held by Republican Jaime Herera Buetler. Herrera Beutler voted to impeach Trump and came in third in the jungle primary. Then Ms. Gluesenkamp Perez narrowly beat her radical Republican opponent in November.
Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez is in her early 30s, and the only public office she’d held was on a local soil and water conservation board. She also did a lot of unpaid work for the Democratic Party. Democrats understand that her district is a prime target for Republicans, and Gluesenkamp Perez is an early fundraising leader among Congressional Democrats.
A general note on contributions: I may have sounded at #54 like I thought people should not have donated to Marcus Flowers’ campaign in the Georgia 14th CD. My point was just that people can, if they want to, find out for themselves more info about a district that could inform their decisions. But informed or not, it seems to me it’s their business how they spend their money.
@Anyway: nope. Totally a swag.
Dead thread, but this a point often overlooked when people make the “Only Donate To The Winners”-type argument. Every dollar Republicans have to spend defending even their safe seats is a dollar they can’t spend attacking Democrats running for other seats. That ultimately makes the “spite donations” worthwhile.
@New Deal democrat: Vote for Docking, Vote for Docking, for Intergrity, Vote for Honesty!
I swam with his nephews at KCAC in the 1960s, at a time when Democrats routinely won gubernatorial races in both Kansas and Missouri.
That time is not encased in amber, it is a time and an ethos that can be accessed now, if only we should make it so.
Mark von Wisco
A fraction of that Marcus Flowers money could have been enough to put Mandela Barnes over the line in Wisconsin!