Friday, March 07, 2008

Clinton primary coattails

I've been tracking the PA-18 Democratic primary for a while now as I think the incumbent Republican, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) is vulnerable to an aggressive challenge, as he has not had that since he took the R+2 district immediately after it was redistricted to favor him in 2002. I think Beth Hafer (D-Mt. Lebanon) is a pretty good Democratic challenger who has a decent range of party/institutional/good ole boys support, as well as progressive activist support. She fits the district, and she has a good political last name, as her mother, Barbara Hafer has been a fixture in moderate politics in SW PA for a while.

I just received a fundraising e-mail from the Hafer campaign (the first one I have received in months), and it has a couple of strong points in it. The one I liked was the attempt to focus most of her energies against the incumbent, and not her two Democratic primary challengers. She is framing Murphy as corrupt and out of control, which if she can make it stick, is a powerful frame. There is enough supporting evidence circulating that enough people have heard/seen that this charge should stick if aggressively pursued.

Another aspect that is interesting in her e-mail is the assumption that the energized Democratic Presidential Primary vote will help her campaign. I think this is very likely as I am projecting PA-18 will go heavily for Hillary Clinton on April 22nd, and one of Clinton's strongest groups of support are older female voters. Hafer should get a significant boost from down ballot waterfall voting, and in a three way primary, that will be a decisive factor. I wonder if there are other districts that will see Democratic Primary Clinton coattails?

However there is one thing that I really don't like the e-mail and it is who she is using for her polling/strategy:

We have raised the most money of any Democratic challenger. And have put that money to good use. Our campaign team includes nationally renowned firms Penn, Schoen & Berland, Adelstein Liston media services, and JMG 360 direct mail. Moreover, our new campaign manager comes from Joe Sestak’s 2006 Congressional campaign and is familiar with unseating a corrupt Republican incumbent. [emphasis mine]

Bragging about Penn is never a good idea among Democrats. It is a statement with no real value add to it unless the message is being aimed at high money, DLC/Emmanual aligned donors, but this e-mail is targeted at small and medium size donors ($50 to $250 is probably the quartile range that they want to get from this segment of the donor base). Even the people who think what he does is valuable don't like him. The Clinton campaign team, for whom he works for, has buried several battle axes into his back already this month. Most of the activist base of the party thinks that he is a net negative at best. Just don't brag about bringing in the microtrending, school uniform, anti-video game violence, myopic Penn.

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