The real polls are yet to come

Because there isn’t a whole lot of interest yet in the race, polling from reliable sources doesn’t exist yet in the Maryland gubernatorial primaries. Since none of us are privy to internal polling done by the campaigns – if someone is, he or she’s not talking – two state websites have attempted to step into the breach: the old reliable Red Maryland and the upstart Red White and Blue.

In both cases, their polls show a spirited three-way race, with David Craig holding a 7.5 point edge over Ron George on the Red Maryland poll. But on the RWB poll, Charles Lollar leads by 4 points over Craig.

Having done polls myself, I know the results are rife with manipulation, as the campaigns exhort their supporters to vote in the respective polls to make their cause look better. A victory in these polls can prove to be a little lift in the real polls, as success tends to breed success.

However, I approach these with the theory that the more passionate supporters who would vote in these internet ballots exist in rough proportion to those found in real life, so I accept the idea that it’s a three-way race. A simple averaging of the polls in question would put David Craig at 33%, Charles Lollar at 30%, and Ron George at 23%, with the rest supporting one of the other candidates. As it turns out, the numbers for Craig and George are fairly consistent on both sites, but Lollar’s fluctuates by 16 points between the two.

Yet if you do a little digging into the actual numbers as I have, you may find that these polls are perhaps propping up one of the contenders to an outsized extent. The RWB poll is better for calculating this because the numbers are broken down not just by county in percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each county. Unfortunately, the Red Maryland poll doesn’t provide the same crosstabs, but it does break down responses by county enough so I can make an educated guess as to how things really are.

Let’s begin with the obvious: there are three counties which are ridiculously oversampled in both polls, and all of them directly benefit two of the candidates. Both Harford and Talbot counties favor David Craig in an outsized manner, which is natural because Craig is Harford County Executive and running mate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio comes from Talbot. The other county is Anne Arundel, which benefits Ron George as he represents a portion of that county.

As it turns out, Anne Arundel (and to a lesser extent, Harford) are so oversampled that they suck the oxygen out of a number of counties – many of which tend to favor Charles Lollar. Out of nine counties significantly undersampled on the two polls, Lollar carries six of them, Craig two, and George one.

So when I adjusted the data to fit a more realistic turnout model (based on the RWB poll results, which featured the necessary raw data) I found that Lollar picked up four points, Craig lost four, and George (somewhat surprisingly) gained one. If you made that adjustment to the Red Maryland poll, you literally have a three-way battle which is anyone’s to win: Craig 28%, Lollar 26%, and George 25%. On the RWB poll, Lollar would have a commanding 42%-30% lead over Craig, with George lagging behind at 23%.

Truthfully, I don’t think Charles Lollar has 42% of the vote right now, but I don’t see him as third place either. At this stage in the game, it’s all about getting activists and volunteers, and I can give you an example from the Farm and Home Show this past weekend.

You may recall these pictures from my Facebook page:

I can tell you that the David Craig signs in the top photo and the literature on the upper right edge of the bottom photo all came courtesy of Craig’s county coordinator, who was my second volunteer of the weekend Thursday night and already there with bells on when I came by to check after work; she was an hour early for her shift.

The Ron George signs came courtesy of the candidate himself, as he stopped by sometime Friday to drop them off. I had some Ron George literature sent to me prior to the event, but it appears to be supplemented by the inserts; moreover, I had no bumper stickers or palm cards when I started. I do now.

Meanwhile, the yellow Charles Lollar palm cards and business cards in the middle of the second photo came via a volunteer who took time out of her trip to the beach to drop them off on Friday. (She would have also brought a big sign, but I advised her against it.) Now that’s dedication, and that’s why it’s important to get an early start on a campaign so the word can be spread.

So perhaps these are the polls of activists, but if Ron George only has support in Anne Arundel County and David Craig rests on his laurels assuming the Baltimore area is his, they may not even make it to the primary when there’s the possibility of Larry Hogan and Michael Steele to consider. I don’t see both of them entering the race, but one of the two may make the field too large to support. Worth noting, though, is even if Michael Steele took his 6% support in the Red Maryland poll, added the entirety of the undecided, and got the Blaine Young supporters to back him, he would still be fourth.

That would be the penalty of getting into the race late, banking on name recognition but not having the grassroots support needed for victory at the polls. Money can do a lot, but it can’t always win – otherwise we’d have a new Senator named Rob Sobhani.

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On a completely unrelated note, you are reading post number 3,500 in the series I call monoblogue, Not bad for nearly eight years of work, you think?

A lack of interest – or a lack of faith?

In news which wasn’t totally unexpected, the petition drives for both reinstating the death penalty and rescinding the onerous gun laws passed by Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly both fell short of the 18,579 signatures necessary to continue the process through the end of June.

It seems to me that each failed for a different reason.

In the case of the death penalty petition, which was backed by mdpetitions.com – a group that had previously been 3-for-3 in getting statewide petitions on the ballot – it seemed like there was a resigned resistance to their efforts given that all three of their previous referenda lost at the ballot box. Moreover, it wasn’t like we hadn’t already done without the death penalty for nearly eight years before SB276 passed, since the last Maryland execution occurred under Bob Ehrlich in 2005. With just five people remaining on Death Row in Maryland, those who believe in maintaining the ultimate penalty on the books probably figured that they would only delay the inevitable, as a future General Assembly could (and likely would) once again vote to drop the death penalty in a few years’ time.

It’s worth pointing out, though, that this was simply a change of statute and not a Constitutional amendment, so a General Assembly restored to its senses could bring the death penalty back. It’s likely we would have to go through the referendum process in reverse, though, as signatures would surely be gathered for a ballot question on the issue. And since the death penalty is pretty much a 50-50 issue according to the most recent Maryland Poll, legislators who vote to make it a ballot issue – as a Constitutional ban would have to be – could potentially see the initiative on the same docket as their re-election.

In order to kill the death penalty in Maryland once and for all, look for opponents to go the Constitutional route in the 2015 or 2016 session in order to secure more votes for the Democratic nominee for President here in Maryland in 2016. It won’t pass in 2014 because any Constitutional amendment proposed there goes before voters in the same year.

Conversely, mdpetitions.com took a pass on petitioning the SB281 gun bill to referendum, with the stated belief that our rights under the United States Constitution are not subject to a balloting. They opted to join the effort to fight the bill in court. Instead, a new competing entity called freestatepetitions.com took up that banner with just a few weeks to gather the signatures. So the fact they came within a few hundred signatures of the minimum tells me the passion was there, and the petition stood a fair chance of success if started earlier.

And while the idea of a referendum was supported with the thought of buying more time to fight the law in court, the fact the petition drive failed was immediately trumpeted by gun grabbers as proof their bill had overwhelming public support.

Similarly, those who worked to eliminate the only crime control method with a zero percent recidivism rate crowed about both their victory and how the 2012 election set things up. State Senator Jamie Raskin:

Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat who lead his chamber’s floor debate on repeal, said lawmakers were emboldened after voters upheld same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for immigrants who are in this country illegally when those laws were petitioned to referendum on last fall’s ballot. Friday’s announcement that organizers could not find enough votes to send the death penalty question to voters, Raskin said, further proves that Marylanders back the legislature.

“The defenders of the death penalty promised retaliation, but their bark was worse than their bite,” Raskin said. (Emphasis mine.)

The retaliation may yet come in 2014 despite this interim failure. Raskin may not feel the voters’ wrath in his relatively safe district, but those in swing districts may fall victim if they voted to spare convicted murderers capital punishment.

So once October 1 rolls around, those in the Black Guerrilla Family and other gangs who seem to be in control of Maryland’s prisons will have even less to fear because their actions won’t be subjected to the needle. Hopefully we won’t need the senseless murder of corrections personnel to prove that taking away that possibility was a short-sighted action.

In the meantime, though, we are left to wonder about one thing. What if either petition group had the financial muscle to pull a Rob Sobhani and pay people to gather petition signatures? With a financial incentive, to me there’s no doubt enough signatures would be gathered but everything in these failed drives was done in a volunteer fashion.

And since these groups now have a little bit of forced downtime, there’s a project I would love to speak to you about. Since Rick Pollitt wants to see a referendum before moving on an elected school board, and we can’t get help from Annapolis to otherwise make it happen, perhaps getting the signatures required to put it on the Wicomico County ballot next year will get things moving. Why should a board appointed by the Governor control a $180 million chunk of our tax dollars, with nearly $40 million of that directly coming out of local taxpayers’ pockets?

Just let me know; you know how to reach me.

Rumor has it…

Certain quarters of the Maryland blogosphere are reporting that one prospective participant in the governor’s race is going off in another direction. A website called The Red White Blue as well as Jeff Quinton at RedState have both made the assertion that something I heard when speaking with a representative of another politician was true – Dan Bongino will be announcing his intention to reclaim the Sixth Congressional District seat for the GOP. Shades of Alex Mooney!

This is particularly interesting to me when you consider that just last week Bongino put out a release purportedly critical of Martin O’Malley:

Sadly, the plague of bureaucratic, government corruption is not limited to the IRS and DOJ. It appears that the O’Malley administration is attempting to rival the Obama administration in bureaucratic ineptitude with its newest scandal. The lavish, inappropriate spending of federal “stimulus” funds by Baltimore City school staff on fancy dinners and expensive watches is another sad example of the very real penalty of an increasingly unaccountable and growing government. The growth of both federal and local bureaucracy has created a ‘soft tyranny’ of diffuse responsibility. When government grows large enough to diffuse responsibility among many than the responsibility for managing it effectively belongs to no one.

But that O’Malley criticism was absent in a statement Dan made yesterday on Facebook. Instead, it leaned more in a direction critical of Washington:

The recent spate of scandals is indicative of a trend line moving painfully in the direction of a “Members-Only” government.

In over a decade within the ranks of the Secret Service, and many years in the White House, I was unfortunate enough to have been a witness to this system, which has become strictly insider-driven.

Those who are appropriately “connected” live by a completely different set of rules & government means something completely different to them. The tax code, healthcare policy, election law, environmental regulation and many other areas have been corrupted and are being used as tools to both punish and reward.

There are solutions out there but you must push your Representatives. A simplified tax code, patient-centered healthcare reform, a reduction in the burgeoning administrative state and the rolling back of many administrative functions to the states would reverse this destructive trend and help restore us to vibrant growth and give our children hope that this is not the best it is ever going to be.

Interesting choice of words: “you must push your Representatives.”

Yet the obvious question I first had when I heard this assertion was: Bongino lives nowhere near the Sixth District. There’s nothing stopping Dan from moving to that area prior to the 2014 election, though, nor does the law preclude a “carpetbagger” from representing a district because Congressmen need only live within the state they represent. Perhaps it’s still the second-best Maryland option for a Republican despite Roscoe Bartlett’s 20-point loss last year. (Andy Harris isn’t going anywhere.)

But if you look at election results, the numbers indicate an uphill battle for Bongino: he ran seven points behind Bartlett’s pace in Montgomery County – albeit these are countywide numbers for Dan and his was a three-way race.

On the other hand, Bongino carried Frederick County over Ben Cardin (although not necessarily the Sixth District portion, which Bartlett lost by 20 points.) Bongino was 400 votes behind Bartlett in Washington County, just over 1,000 votes behind in Allegany, and a little over 200 behind in Garrett. In the latter three counties, though, Rob Sobhani drew 19 percent, 13 percent, and 4 percent respectively. These counties also lie completely within the Sixth District, permitting a more direct comparison.

So I’m sure Dan Bongino has the same information I do, and probably more since he has the time and staff to delve into precinct-by-precinct results. The obvious question is whether he can make up twenty points.

One thing Democrat John Delaney has now that he didn’t have in 2012, though: a voting record. But John will have plenty of money, and perhaps the one advantage Bongino would have over would-be challengers like Delegate LeRoy Myers – who decided earlier this month not to seek another term as Delegate – is the success he had nationalizing his Senate campaign.

Of course, all this speculation could be for naught, just as the phony Bongino/Keyes ticket was last month. This is doubly true considering the source, who would likely benefit from Bongino skipping the governor’s race. But if anything it proves that Dan Bongino has some mojo as a prospective candidate for something, whether he stays home or becomes a proverbial carpetbagger.

Maybe Andy Harris should watch his back.

Ten Question Tuesday: January 8, 2013

Welcome to the debut of my newest feature, Ten Question Tuesday. This interview segment may or may not feature exactly ten questions, but the intent is to learn a little more about those personalities who help shape local and national politics.

Today’s guest needs no introduction to Maryland Republicans. Dan Bongino survived a ten-man Republican primary to easily win the U.S. Senate nomination last April and ran a spirited race against incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. The entry of independent candidate Rob Sobhani altered the race and blunted Bongino’s momentum; still, as we discuss here there were a lot of lessons to learn and useful information to be gathered for future GOP efforts in Maryland.

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monoblogue: The first thing I want to know is: have you even rested since the election?

Bongino: (laughs) For about four hours or so. The day after the election there’s always that feeling of, ah, you lost. There are no silver medals in politics – although there are different degrees of success and failure, of course – there is only one Senate seat and only one person sitting in it. It wasn’t me, and I felt like we worked really hard. But I didn’t take any time off…I had a workout the next day, which was something I wasn’t able to do on a regular schedule during the campaign which kind of cleared my head. My wife begged me at that point to take some time (yet) I don’t think there’s any time to take. This isn’t the time for pity, this is the time to find out what went wrong and fix it. So I haven’t taken any time – I’ve got a number of different things I’m working on right now; it’s a pretty extensive list.

monoblogue: I noticed you have a consulting business; in fact, when I arranged the interview I went through Karla (Graham) and she’s one of your (consulting firm’s) employees.

Bongino: Yeah, I think the consulting business…it was obviously slow, intentionally, during the campaign, because I just didn’t have any time to take it on. So there were things I could do and things I couldn’t do; I immersed myself completely in the campaign. That’s now picked up pretty well for me, we jumped right back in on that.

But we have a PAC we’re starting. Contrary to some rumors spread by some within the party who I think are more aligned with political positioning rather than political philosophy, my campaign didn’t finish anywhere close to in the red. We were actually cash-positive by a significant margin – well over $60,000 and it’s coming in more by the day. You don’t want to finish a campaign cash-positive – or cash-negative – but with us, we were relying on donations. I wasn’t Rob Sobhani, who funded it with my own money, or Ben Cardin, who had a steady stream of donations due to 45 years in politics. I had to rely on the money as it came in, and toward the end, the last four months we were out-raising Sobhani and Cardin combined by really heavy margins. We did not want to run a fiscally irresponsible campaign like our government, so we budgeted our money to be responsible – to ensure we had enough to pay our salaries at the end, to pay off the printing company, the internet management company…it’s like running a business. It came in so heavy in the last week that I think we would up with roughly $70,000 left over, which we’re going to use to fund Republican causes. It’s one of those initiatives now as well.

monoblogue: So basically you’ve become the Bongino PAC.

Bongino: Yeah, you can call it the pro-growth alliance, because it’s going to be a very targeted PAC. Everybody understands I’m a conservative – I don’t think that’s a mystery to anyone – but I want the PAC to focus exclusively on job growth and the economy. I’ve said all along the Republican Party, in my opinion, we don’t have a messaging problem – we have a marketing problem. I could not be clearer on that.

Our message, when you think about it, the President of the United States ran on our message. “I want to cut the deficit and control spending…I’m only going to raise taxes on people who won’t get hurt by it.” These are all messages that the Republican Party uses, that the President stole. Of course, he was disingenuous about it, but it just accentuates my point further that our message won a long time ago. We have a very serious marketing problem, and we have what I perceive in Maryland to be a lack of a short- and long-term plan politically.

When you ask some in the party “what’s the plan going forward?” like you would ask in a business “how will you launch this new product line?”…a business runs on three simple principles: how do you find new products for your markets, new markets for your products, and how do you shut down inefficiencies in your business. You can apply those principles to any business on the planet, including politics. Now we have to find out how we get our message to new markets, because we’re not reaching black voters, we’re not reaching Hispanic voters…I would debate we’re not reaching Montgomery County or Baltimore City voters at all, and we have to do that.

monoblogue: Well, here’s the one thing that I’ve noticed, and this has been true of almost any race statewide since I moved here, and I’ve been here since 2004. We seem to have a barrier of 40% we just can’t break, and the question is: if you have a message that sells, how come we can’t break the 40% barrier? What is the deal where you can’t swing the extra 10 percent plus one over to our side?

Bongino: I see it strategically, there’s a number of problems…it’s a big question. I’ll be talking about this at the MDCAN as well. There is no plan…let me give you an example because it’s easy to say that… Here’s some things we’ve been doing wrong with the swing voters.

The Democratic Party, despite literally a decade with Governor O’Malley – we’re closing in on the end of his term (and) ten years of really consistent monopolized Democratic rule – and I would debate even in the Ehrlich administration as well, and that’s not a knock on Ehrlich; I’ll explain that in a second – that’s nothing to do with him. (Despite the) monopolistic Democratic rule, the Democratic Party in Maryland has managed to out-register voters in contrast to the Republican Party, 400,000 to 100,000. How is that? How is that with BRAC, people moving into the state, frustration with the bag tax in Montgomery County, frustration with the income tax just about all over the state, frustration with the bottle tax in Baltimore City, that we as a Republican Party have had no consolidated effort to register voters at all?

And if you dispute that, I ask you where you saw the plan? Where did you read the blueprint on how to register voters? Now, there are counties out there that are doing a fantastic job, but there is no statewide…St. Mary’s County as an example. Carroll County registered five times as many Republicans than the Democrats have registered Democrats. Harford County, three times. I use St. Mary’s as the blueprint; they doubled the number of registrations compared to Democrats because it was a very consolidated, targeted, guided effort by the Central Committee and the clubs to get a mission done, which they accomplished. So that’s problem number one, registration.

The second problem: we’ve absolutely forfeited the black and Hispanic vote. I’ll give you an example from my campaign: I had actual donors – very few, but some donors – they asked me to not attempt to spend a lot of time in those places, deeming it a “lost cause.” Now they’d been beaten up there before with candidates who’ve gone down there to communities we should be in, and the results just haven’t been there. But that’s not an excuse to give up; because we haven’t found the right formula doesn’t mean we stop searching for the potion. Forfeiting the black and Hispanic vote is political suicide.

monoblogue: I completely agree. And that’s one thing that I know, we’ve paid lip service to that for years and I’ve been in the Republican Party here since 2006. Now there’s one other aspect I wanted to get into, and maybe it kind of goes in with your role as an outsider, but I want to back my readers up to the first time you and I met.

We first met when you came to our Republican club meeting down here in Wicomico County in the summer of 2011, and you brought (2010 gubernatorial candidate) Brian Murphy with you, which immediately piqued my interest because I was a Brian Murphy supporter in that primary.

Bongino: Right.

monoblogue: So given that as a starting point, the other portion of the question is: did that help you…how did it help you raise a national profile? I know Sarah Palin came into Brian Murphy’s campaign at a late date and endorsed him and that probably at least put him on the map – and I noticed she did the same thing with you. There seems to be a linkage between you and Palin because I just happened to hear a little podcast you did on a very Palin-friendly website. Obviously you’ve used Sarah Palin and people like that to build more of a national profile than any other Republican candidate in Maryland…I would say that even Bob Ehrlich doesn’t have nearly the national profile that you do. So how do we leverage that?

Bongino: Money, media, and volunteers are a campaign, so the question is how do you leverage a national profile, which is really just name recognition nationally. How do you leverage that to getting media, to getting extra money into the campaign, into getting volunteers? I think we did that quite well. A lot of…some insiders on both sides took shots at us afterward…saying we’d lost by a good and healthy margin. But I don’t think anybody took into account was the successful operation we’d put together considering we were only funded, really for the last four months, to finish second out of three candidates despite being outspent by a factor of almost 20:1.

Now we did that by using the national profile, and what I think is important and is an operation that has largely been lost on some of us – quite a few Republicans in the state – is a mastery of the media message. I think what our campaign did – and this isn’t me trumpeting my campaign on any kind of pedestal, I’m just speaking to the fact we got a lot of national media – we were very careful to manage the message. We understood the ideas that had punch, and Karla and I had what we called the “hook” – what was an angle to put Maryland on the map, to put this Senate race on the map? In some cases it was my Secret Service experience as a federal agent commenting on “Fast and Furious.” There were other cases, there were scandals, and unfortunately those scandals, I thought, took on a life of their own – Colombia scandal of course – but there was an opportunity there to defend an agency that I loved being a part of. I thought they were getting a bum rap – there were a few bad eggs and I didn’t appreciate that, so we took an opportunity there to defend the Service, that certainly helped.

Here’s a thing a lot of folks forget as well, and it’s one of the most important points here; the most salient that I can take out of this – when you get an opportunity to get in front of a national audience, whether it’s on Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity multiple times – you have to be interesting. Not sensational, not scandalous – interesting. You have to say things that give people a reason to listen, or else you’re just another voice coming out of their car radio. And I was very careful to come in there very prepared about what I wanted to say and what I wanted to speak, so that then led to more media. Media begats more media, it is a virtuous cycle. When we did Hannity, then we went to Beck. When we did Beck, we went to Levin. When we did Levin, we would get on Fox.

monoblogue: It established credibility.

Bongino: Yes, and you get into a cycle, and then the contacts start to see you as a reliable, exciting guest that brings energy to the show and I think we did twelve or thirteen different appearances on Hannity. If you’re interesting, not only does that begat more media but that begats donors. Those donors…the way I would leverage that is if you donated $25 after I did an appearance on Hannity, I’d call you. Sometimes I’d spent half an hour on the phone with people, talking about issues that mattered to them – they weren’t even Maryland citizens. But those $25 donors became $250 donors, who became $1,000 donors, who despite the poll numbers continued to support me. Someone sent me an e-mail, as a matter of fact – I don’t think he wants me to give up his name, but he’s an out-of-state donor – who started very small and wound up donating a substantial amount of money to my campaign. He said, “I’m not investing in the Maryland Senate race, I’m investing in you.” And that’s how we built a database of over 20,000 donors. That’s a substantial list, a very credible list – nationally speaking, not just in Maryland.

And finally, volunteers. When you’re on television and radio it’s an obvious force multiplier. In the case of the Hannity show during drive time you’re speaking to 14 million people. I would always get out the website and we would get people on the mailing list, which grew into 10,000-plus names and 3,000 volunteers. And I would make sure with the volunteers – and I encourage other candidates to do this as well – your volunteers don’t work for you, they work with you. That’s not a soundbite; you have to act that way and portray that on your campaign.

When I would ask volunteers to show up for a sign wave, which a lot of people didn’t like the approach, they have no idea what went on in the back end. We would sign wave, and I had consultants who had never won anything telling me, yeah, that’s a waste of time. What they didn’t understand was, on the back end of our website I could analyze how many people went to our website after we’d go to a neighborhood and sign wave with twenty or thirty people – the exponential growth in volume in donors, volunteers, and traffic to our website was usually singularly located to that area I was the day before sign waving. But the genius consultants didn’t know any of that. I’m glad they don’t because they recommend other people don’t do it.

…I would show up with the volunteers, this was a really hot summer. We had something like a month straight of 90-degree weather; I’d show up there in my suit and I would stand out there an hour and a half, breathing in smog in Montgomery County, waving at cars as they came by with the volunteers who understood that it wasn’t just talk. I would talk, I would ask them about their families and how things were going, and it became a family atmosphere where it wasn’t just banter…that’s how we did that, leverage that whole model into something I think very special.

monoblogue: I think you would be a very good speaker on just getting media attention, and how to be interesting in front of the media. That’s something a lot of our candidates could use because we’re trying to get elected here. We have a message, but we need – that is the missing link. It’s hard to be interesting to people sometimes – it’s not always my strong point either.

Bongino: I’ve been watching a lot of our locals; some are very good and some of them I’ve watched, I think there’s a tendency to speak to a canned soundbite with the fear that, if you get off this script, you’re going to say something you don’t want to say. I would say if that’s the case you shouldn’t do media – you shouldn’t. You can win without it, you can do print interviews, but – not to knock him now – Rob Sobhani was the perfect example. I mean, Rob Sobhani essentially stopped doing serious live interviews at the end because every time he got on the air he would say something ridiculous – you know, the famous “I hit the jackpot” quote…the DREAM Act, he would say four or five different things, sometimes not realizing that obviously these interviews were going to be broadcast and cataloged and people would catch him on it – you have to go out there and be confident you’ve done your homework and you’re ready to go.

monoblogue: Here’s one thing… I’m curious about this, and I know I’ve seen media about this since the election. (Regarding) 2014, and I know – I’ve been in politics long enough to know you don’t want to rule anything out or commit to anything at this point. But is there something that you would not necessarily rule out, but you would favor as far as an office to run for?

Bongino: I’ve got a list together that a couple of trusted confidantes on the campaign and I are going through – best options, worst options, me being a business mind and a rational maximizer like any good economist would be – do a cost/benefit on each and a cost/benefit’s not just for me, but it’s for the party. I’ve said over and over that I don’t want to run for something that I think would be good for me but bad for the party; I think that would be hypocritical. But, yeah, there’s a number of things I’m looking at – I mean, I don’t think it’s any secret that the Governor’s race, the (Anne Arundel) County Executive race, there’s some other options out there as well that I’ve been considering. And there’s also the option of not doing anything electorally but staying involved in the process through the PAC. I’m writing now for Watchdog Wire, and I do pieces on RedState that are getting some really good traction, so there’s that possibility as well.

I really don’t know, but I’m going through the numbers and at the presentation at MDCAN I’m doing I’m going to be very deliberate, too, about what needs to get done numbers-wise because I don’t know if some of the candidates running now for some of these positions understand how difficult a statewide race is going to be. Not unwinnable – I ain’t never believed in that, and I believe in fighting the fight – but a statewide race in Maryland right now is going to be very, very tough, and it’s going to require a lot of money, a significant media profile that can bypass our local media, and a number of volunteers that is just going to be absolutely unprecedented.

monoblogue: Well, that makes sense because there is not a big, broad base of experience in the Maryland Republican Party on how to win a statewide race. The only person that’s done it in the last 40 years is Bob Ehrlich, and he lost two of them after he won one. So he’s not exactly got a great track record, either.

Bongino: Right. And one of the more disturbing aspects – and I’m not talking to the candidates we have now for governor, I’m talking about some others…you look at the Rumsfeld book, the “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” – the unknown unknowns are always the most dangerous thing because you don’t even know what you don’t know. I was very aware of that when I ran, I had no political resume and was very careful to start slowly. That’s why I got in so early, because I knew there were intra-county dynamics, there were party dynamics, and I wanted to be careful to avoid any significant controversies that would derail a campaign.

I’ve spoken to some who just don’t seem to understand that there are things going on in the state that they’re just completely not aware of…I’ll give you an example: I was at an event, one of them, it was in Montgomery County, and a woman walked in who was a very prominent, active Montgomery County Republican – donor, hosts events, is a terrific person – and he looked at me and said, “who’s that?” And I thought to myself, “wow, that’s not a good sign.” (laughs) It was one person, and I’m certainly not going to extrapolate too much from it, but that’s not the first time that happened.

I’ll bring up some specific county dynamics – the compressor in Myersville, that was a big deal. Water contamination on the Eastern Shore; I didn’t know about that, (it’s a) big deal. SB236 hurting the farmers: (another) big deal. The fact (some candidates aren’t aware) that there are farms in southern Maryland: a big deal…The fact in Calvert County, we have some struggles getting votes in Waldorf. These are things that a statewide candidate – you’re not going to have time anymore to learn this. I mean, I was two years out and I didn’t have a primary. These are things I’m more than happy – even if I decide to run, it’s not in my interest for any of my primary opponents to do poorly at all. I would be more than happy to share this information, and I mean that. I’m looking to do what’s best…if I did decide to run I know I can win on my merits and I don’t need to win by hoarding information. There’s just so much going on around the state and it’s not like Oklahoma (where) there’s just really a breadbasket of issues and that’s about it. Maryland is not like that; there are very regional problems; natural gas in western Maryland. These are all very important things and they need to know it all.

monoblogue: It’s not exactly “one Maryland” like our governor likes to claim.

Bongino: No, it’s not.

monoblogue: That’s a good place to wrap this up. I appreciate the time!

**********

Honestly, I could have spent another hour on the phone and there were other items I didn’t check off my list. But this lengthy read will have to do for now. Perhaps when Dan makes up his mind about 2014, I can arrange a return visit.

Next week’s guest will be Jonathan Bydlak, who heads the Coalition to Reduce Spending. It’s a recent addition to the advocacy groups which inhabit Washington, but professes a more unique angle and focus on their pet issue. Look for it next Tuesday.

The importance of data

Fellow blogger Judy Warner, who now contributes to the Potomac Tea Party Report, tipped me off to an article on the Atlantic website; an article which provided a glimpse at perhaps the most important part of Barack Obama’s electoral victory. Obviously it’s packed with effusive praise for Obama’s campaign in general, for the Atlantic is at heart a highbrow liberal magazine.

But there’s an important point to be considered: say all you want about Obama’s wretched foreign and domestic policies, but he knew how to get re-elected despite being arguably the worst president since Jimmy Carter when it came to bungling both sides of the equation. Oh sure, we on the conservative side know that the mainstream media ran interference for him like the Chicago Bears of another era blocked for Walter Payton but in the end it was Payton who made the defense miss tackles and not easily bring him down.

The part about the Atlantic‘s piece by Alexis Madrigal which stuck out to me the most, though, was the Obama campaign’s willingness to go outside the political arena and find people who simply knew how to make the best use of the technology out there. (If only he would do the same for economics and Constitutional scholarship.) Of course, there was a symbiotic relationship between the two since I’m certain the vast majority of those who signed on were in Obama’s philosophical corner, but this is the technology edge that the Republicans swore up and down they would negate this time around. Instead, we had the well-documented and discussed crash of the ORCA system on Election Day which cemented the demise of Mitt Romney’s Presidential bid.

The orphan of Romney’s technology failure could be traced back to the fact that those who were by trade political consultants – and hence “knew how the system worked” – really didn’t know squat about the technological side of things. Ten years ago e-mail lists were golden because that was going to be the new way to reach voters. In fact, as I recall, the first rendition of Obama For Against America had a massive list of somewhere around 13 million e-mail addresses to start from (including mine.) But their technology team built up from there and integrated all sorts of data collection and outputs tailored from it.

As an example, remember the post where I related the fact they knew I hadn’t donated to the Obama campaign? The fact that they could tie together the database which had my e-mail address and the one where they had the records of who donated was seemingly beyond the capability of the Romney camp. Instead, the Romney side would send me the EXACT SAME e-mail several times – once from their campaign and then through three or four different “sponsored content” sites to whom I’m sure the Romney people paid handsomely for their list. Unfortunately, I happened to be at the very center of that Venn diagram and I’m betting that most of you reading this were too. But does a generic e-mail motivate someone to go to the polls or donate?

Once again, the key difference came down to data. Maybe I wasn’t high up on the sophistication level of the Obama people because they knew I was sort of a lurker on their e-mail list. I’d bet a dollar to a donut they knew I was a XXX Republican voter and therefore gave me the minimum of e-mail efforts; meanwhile, the uncommitted or newly registered voter (or one who bothered to fill out more information at the Obama site, unlike me) had a variety of messages tailored for him or her. You don’t honestly think the “Julia” advertising campaign or the Lena Dunham “First Time” commercial weren’t calculated to arouse a group they knew they had a maximum of potential voters within? It’s also why they promoted the false “war on women” narrative, with plenty of media help to play up unfortunate statements by U.S. Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

Since the Romney campaign all but ignored Maryland, let’s look at one statewide Republican campaign we contested, that of Dan Bongino. Just as a recap, Bongino began running for the U.S. Senate as a first-time candidate in the spring of 2011. He had no political experience and his main initial backing was from someone who had ran and lost badly in his first run for political office at the statewide level a year earlier in Brian Murphy. It wasn’t exactly a broad platform to begin from, and the key question in the race early on was whether 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz would try again. He didn’t.

But Bongino worked hard to overcome many of his disadvantages, and had the attribute of a compelling, man-bites-dog sort of story: a former Secret Service agent quits to make a seemingly quixotic U.S. Senate run in a liberal bastion of a state. Moreover, he’s young, well-spoken, and telegenic, with a rags-to-riches life story that unfortunately too few got to hear outside of the conservative echo chamber. Dan did well at nationalizing his campaign thanks to that story, and managed to win the Republican primary in April over the game but underfunded Richard Douglas and several other less qualified candidates.

Perhaps the Bongino campaign hit its peak just before Labor Day, because just as people decided to start paying attention a newcomer jumped into the race with a populist promise and millions of dollars at his disposal. Obviously this threw the Bongino campaign out of balance and too much time was spent trying to fight off the challenger on the ladder below while the guy above him had little to do but watch the other two battle it out. It was almost as if Dan had to run a second primary campaign in the midst of a general election, this time against an opponent who was much better-funded and inundated the airwaves with slick 30-second commercials beseeching people to “declare your independence.” Like it or not, the “independence” pitch was a message that worked with those who were sick of party infighting but didn’t want to bother enough to go into the details of Rob Sobhani’s pledges.

But imagine what could have been had Dan had the same sort of database and expertise used by the Obama campaign? He could have targeted his message in such a manner to counter the incumbent’s record to certain voters, rebuke the so-called “independent” to wavering supporters, and kept the money stream flowing from the die-hard element. There was no question in my mind that Dan’s message had broad appeal, and perhaps had the roles been reversed between Bongino and Sobhani to where Rob was the GOP nominee and Bongino the unaffiliated candidate, the results would have been about the same. The only difference would be that the Maryland GOP would have been embarrassed about losing to an independent candidate as well as a Democrat.

That’s not to say that there aren’t potential databases at our disposal. We have an idea of those who are most worried about illegal immigration (Question 4), and are pro-family (Question 6). Those who came out against Question 5 and Question 7 can also be construed as sympathetic to at least part of our message. Then add in all the AFP people, TEA Party participants, and fiscal conservatives we know and one can build up a little bit of a knowledge base. Of course, the key is keeping it up to date and determining relevant messaging for the situations which crop up.

A new era is dawning in politics. The old scattershot standby of sign waving doesn’t seem to be very effective anymore, even as well as Dan did it in one memorable afternoon. There were a lot of cars going by on Rockville Pike that day to be sure, but there was no way of knowing whether these were even registered voters. Maybe it’s because I don’t get a lot of Democratic campaign e-mail, or maybe there’s just not enough of a base around here to make it worthwhile, but I never hear about a Democratic sign waving unless it’s in the form of a larger protest. What few Democratic tactical e-mails I received (from the Obama campaign, naturally) had to do with person-to-person events – making phone calls from the local headquarters or having “watch parties” for various campaign events at people’s homes. The former was probably more effective for reaching out to undecided voters while the latter kept the zealots motivated to keep giving of their time and talents. And it came down to having the database to know where I lived and what events were being planned by supporters via solid communications between volunteer and campaign. Those functions were handled on a local level on the Romney side, not always well.

It has been said to me on many occasions that conservatives win on issues and that we are a center-right nation. Obviously I believe that and if anything I think we need a stronger dose of limited government.

But data is king. It’s not enough to have the registration lists and do the door-to-door and phone calls, both of which seemed to be sadly lacking in Maryland thanks to a self-defeating prophecy which states Republicans can’t win statewide elections so why bother trying? That’s a good start, but we also need to invest in the electronic end of things and, more importantly, look outside the incestuous web of political consultants who talk a good game about political IT and find those who do these things for a living. Not all of the Web and social media gurus are liberal Democrats – admittedly, most are but we have to build up a farm team there as well.

I believe we can overcome all those “demography is destiny” and “you can’t convince the minorities to vote GOP” naysayers by using the right data to send them the conservative message. We can win, but it will take hard work, a lot of prudent investment outside of the good-old-boy, inside-the-Beltway system which continues to insure us defeat after defeat, and less of a reliance on things we always thought worked before but have outlived their usefulness.

All of us movement conservatives have some sort of talent, and there are a growing number who believe mine is in analyzing information and providing it to readers in a coherent fashion. As I said in my book. I believe there’s a place for someone of my talents in a conservative, limited-government movement. Years ago I read a self-help book which said I should manage around my weaknesses so I took that to heart and play to my strengths, and mine is in gathering my thoughts and turning them into pixels on a computer screen or words on a page.

But there’s a far bigger place for those who know how to corral data and put it to use so people like me can communicate to the largest number of relevant people possible, while others who have that gift of gab and outgoing personality needed for the task are sent to knock on the right doors and dial the right phone numbers with the right message for the listener. It’s never going to be foolproof, but we have a long way to go just to be adequate.

Finally, we have to treat this like a war. Of course I don’t mean that in the sense of carnage and mayhem, but the idea of taking time off or letting someone else do the job is no more. A soldier has to be ready for anything at any time, and we have to be ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice, keeping an eye out for future elections. On that front, I’m very disappointed I’ve seen no action in my hometown and no credible candidate file to either run against our mayor or the two City Council members whose seats are up in this cycle. Nor do we have a good idea yet of who will be running locally in 2014. (In that case, though, we happen to have a number of incumbents but there are seats we’d love to contest and fill as well.)

Not all campaigns will be successful, but I think we can take a step toward eventual success in learning from our tormentors, and the Atlantic profile provides a quick case study.

Is a conservative, pro-liberty message viable in Maryland?

The question expressed in the title is perhaps the most vital one going forward for Maryland Republicans. Some are already arguing the state is a lost cause, and when your state’s winning Presidential write-in is Santa Claus (yes, Santa was an official write-in candidate so his votes counted) it’s pretty likely that too many expect things from the government.

In 2012 there were two statewide candidates bearing the Republican ticket and two Libertarians. While the circles aren’t perfectly together, if you made a Venn diagram there would be a lot of common ground and that percentage could make a difference someday. So for the sake of this argument I’m adding them together.

  • President: Mitt Romney 971,869 + Gary Johnson 30,195 = 1,002,064 (37%)
  • U.S. Senate: Dan Bongino 693,291 + Dean Ahmad 32,252 = 725,543 (27.5%)

Arguably, of the two Republicans the case can be made that Bongino was the more conservative while Romney was perceived by most as relatively centrist (and the closer he got to the end of the campaign, the more he drifted toward the center.) But in that Senate race there was the third man, and polling suggests that for every two votes he took from Democrat Ben Cardin he took three from Dan Bongino. Add 60% of Rob Sobhani’s total to this mix and you have 984,103. Figure in the 2.7% undervote on the Senate race as compared to the Presidential one and it looks like the current conservative/libertarian ceiling is about 1 million votes statewide.

So let’s say that 1,000,000 is the magic number. If our side had turned out 1,000,000 votes for each past statewide election:

  • The 2010 statewide elections for Governor and Comptroller would have been nailbiters rather than over by 30 minutes after the polls closed.
  • Those elections would have been for an open gubernatorial seat because Bob Ehrlich would have been re-elected in 2006. Michael Steele would have ran this year as an incumbent, and the other two statewide races would have been agonizingly close losses.

You’ll notice that these are gubernatorial cycles rather than Presidential – simply put, 1 million votes in Maryland won’t win in a Presidential year. The only GOP candidate to ever exceed 1 million here was George W. Bush in 2004 and he was running as an incumbent (and still lost big.)

So the trick is getting the same base which comes out to vote in the Presidential election to participate in the gubernatorial ones. But at the same time we have to expand our share of the pie somewhat to be more competitive in Presidential races rather than having GOP campaigns write Maryland off as a lost cause before the campaign even begins.

While there is a share of the electorate which has as its focus a single issue (generally social issues like abortion or gay marriage, although this extends to items like Second Amendment issues or property rights) most people vote their pocketbook and unfortunately they’ve come to grudgingly accept that the government is going to take more out of their pocket regardless of how much they complain. After all, in 2010 – during a TEA Party wave election – Maryland voters re-elected a governor who had raised taxes on practically everyone. But Martin O’Malley successfully pushed the message that “a fee is a tax” and could paint his GOP opponent Bob Ehrlich with the same brush. (O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats then merrily went on to raise many of those same fees.)

Yet at the same time a growing proportion of these voters have become recipients of these same government handouts the increased taxes pay for, creating a situation where redistribution of wealth is the means by which the majority party maintains power. After all, when over half depend on government for their well-being then those in charge of the government tend to stay in charge.

Somewhere we have allowed the opposition to paint us as heartless government cutters. And the other problem is that telling people that “it’s your money” doesn’t work as well when they receive the money from a governmental unit. That doesn’t have to be the ever more ubiquitous EBT card – it can be employment by a governmental unit, whether city hall, the local school, or any of the thousand other bureaus, agencies, or even nonprofits which depend on government grants for their existence. Remember, that cop on the street, your child’s public school teacher, or the lady at the MVA are all government employees, but so is the Salisbury University professor or – indirectly – the grant writer at the nonprofit. Nearly all of them have a vested interest in making sure the taxpayer money spigot remains flowing, because many are scared by the common media narrative into believing the TEA Party is going to leave them high and dry.

Indeed, there are certain cases where they could be correct. But one argument I wish Dan Bongino could have amplified more, because it was effective, ran along the lines (I’m paraphrasing from memory) of being happy to pay for the cop on the street, the public school teacher, or the soldier in Afghanistan – but he drew the line at cowboy poetry festivals in Nevada.

Obviously one can argue the merits of a project which benefits one small area – the drought-stricken farmer in Indiana whose subsidized disaster assistance we criticize may feel the same way about Ocean City beach replenishment here. Moreover, those are small potatoes compared to the huge entitlement spending begging to be cleaned up on the federal level.

But we have to start small and gain trust, particularly when it comes to state politics. For all his tax-raising faults and sacrificing the needs of his state in order to pursue the personal gain of higher office, Martin O’Malley is not an unpopular governor. Arguably this could be due to plenty of help from a sympathetic media, but he’s used the state’s better-than-average unemployment rate (thanks to adjacency to the seat of federal government) to convey the message that all is well. Those who have differing opinions don’t have the same blowtorch to get the message out – 25,000 Facebook followers for Change Maryland is great but hundreds of thousands of Marylanders subscribe to the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post. While I wish to have thousands of readers a day and believe my message is worth the readership, I don’t reach that many with this little candle of mine – it’s no blowtorch quite yet. To be quite blunt, if you took the unique daily readership of ALL the political blogs which deal with Maryland politics – even including their attempts at multimedia – and added them all together, you might equal the readership of a regional newspaper like the Daily Times. As it stands at present, we’re the guppies in an ocean of media, and we have to work at expanding that sphere of influence as well.

Yet the very argument we have a winning message remains untested. Perhaps Dan Bongino was a nearly perfect spokesperson for a conservative message, but there were factors which affected his Senate bid: a perceived lack of life and business experience compared to his opponents, and the fact that one opponent ran a populist campaign with non-specific promises no one forced him to flesh out. Rob Sobhani wanted the debates and so did we, but Hurricane Sandy had other plans for our state and hard questions weren’t asked.

Yet even if Bongino had ran his 2012 race unmolested, the probability is strong he would have picked up around the same 36 to 37 percent which has seemed to be our ceiling in Presidential years. We have to convince about 300,000 more voters in a Presidential year that – assuming we have a conservative, pro-liberty candidate, of course – it’s in the best interests of both them and succeeding generations to cast their ballot for such a person. In one lump, that seems like a lot, but it really only takes a handful of politically agnostic neighbors or friends per activist to accomplish.

In the near future, 2014 is looming and there are at least four candidates who are looking for conservative, pro-liberty support (although they may or may not necessarily have a compatible message: think Bob Ehrlich.) Yet the same rules apply; as I demonstrated earlier getting 1 million votes in a gubernatorial year keeps us at least close and climbing the ladder for another 100,000 may put us over the top.

Yet we cannot rely on a politician – even one as articulate as Dan Bongino – to deliver our message for us. It’s time for all of us to do our part, even though many of us are still burned out on the lengthy 2012 campaign and the disappointment we feel with the results. Indeed, we lost this time but there’s always the next election. Spread the word that we CAN win!

Lollar’s second draft

November 24, 2012 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2014, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off 

Those of you who have been following Maryland politics for awhile may recall that in 2010, before Bob Ehrlich finally made up his mind whether to give it another go and even prior to the upstart Brian Murphy upsetting the state GOP apple cart, there was another likable, passionate young politician who was being drafted to run for governor.

Former Charles County Republican head Charles Lollar was tripped up by a residency issue, falling just short of the five-year timeline decreed by state law based on his voter registration date. But prior to that he had made the rounds, attracting notice on RedState and appearing at the summertime Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in Crisfield. Lollar also gained fame when former GOP chair Jim Pelura asked him to head a “Maryland GOP Anti-Tax Plan Commission” in 2008.

But after Lollar withdrew from the governor’s race, he turned his sights on the difficult task of unseating entrenched Fifth District Congressman Steny Hoyer. He got 35% of the vote, but a few months later landed on his feet by being named head of the Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity.

It was on the “New Day Maryland” advocacy group’s website, though, that Lollar wrote he would make a decision soon:

As some of you may know by I now I have been asked to consider a run for governor in 2014. In fact, there has been a “Draft” campaign started along with a FACEBOOK site advertising such. May I say that this has humbled me to say the least and I am honored to have such friends and patriots that think so highly of me and my family.

In the upcoming months, I will be spending a tremendous amount of time considering this endeavor as I want to ensure this the right direction for me and my family. Additionally, I am meeting with business leaders throughout the state of Maryland discussing my solutions for the economic struggles of our great state to include our rising unemployment as I outlined in the “RedPrint” for Maryland that can be found on my site www.newdaymd.com.

I humbly ask each and every one of you to pray with me considering this all impressing matter. Whether you are within or without the borders of Maryland, I will need your support and prayers if in fact my family and I continue down this road. Please feel free to go on the “Draft Charles Lollar for Governor” Face Book and leave a message, I guarantee you it will encourage those who have authored this Draft as well as myself.

You all have my commitment that after considerable contemplation and prayer I will let you all know of my decision by the first of the New Year.

So what would a Lollar candidacy bring to the table?

Obviously, he’s a minority Republican, but any advantage from that with those voters would be negated if one leaked Garin-Hart-Yang internal Democratic poll from September is correct and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown is the Democrats’ frontrunner. Furthermore, Michael Steele (among many others) proved that blacks vote for ideology before race. Yet Lollar has a compelling message which still needs to be put out in the hopes of changing hearts and minds in both that specific community and (more importantly) the state at large. Truly, prosperity and freedom aren’t (and shouldn’t be) limited by the color of one’s skin – those of us on our side take that to heart.

A second effect, though, is one of splitting the TEA Party vote a little further. Certainly the tough-talking fiscal conservative Blaine Young is a leading candidate among conservatives, but TEA Parties will have another choice if Lollar jumps in. Of course, the “establishment” Republicans also have a conundrum when they consider the choice of David Craig vs. Larry Hogan, both of whom are more known quantities in GOP circles. Hogan may also negate what advantage Lollar has in southern Maryland based on the fact his father represented the area in Congress for a few years back in the 1970s.

Lollar would also have to play catch-up in fundraising, but Lollar’s media-friendly approach could catch on nationally like Dan Bongino’s did. (Of course, if Rob Sobhani decides to run for governor all bets are off.)

Depending on the audience he seeks, though, Lollar may want to embrace (or have to live down) a statement he made in this BET profile on minority convention delegates. Of course, context is key and it’s doubtful the “not overly impressed with either party” part of the interview came without plenty of context, knowing Charles.

If I were a betting man, I’d place my money on Charles getting into the race – it’s not like he wasn’t interested before. The only thing which may hold him back would be lack of support from his family and I’m certainly not in the position to speculate on how they would feel about such a decision. From what Lollar says, we’ll know soon enough anyway.

Election Day 2012 in pictures and text

To be honest, the picture part of this will be pretty lean. But here’s one of all the signage lined up along Glen Avenue:

Signage along Glen Avenue.

This Election Day was a little unusual because I had to work – in previous years I was able to use a vacation day but my outside job is extremely busy this time of year. So I didn’t get to my assigned polling place (which happens to also be my voting location) until about 2:30.

As I noted on Facebook, the Obama representative was already there.

Obama's empty chair in full force.

It is worth noting that in the time I was there I had only a few campaigners keep me company: one from the Bongino campaign who was there throughout, one volunteer representing the Maryland Marriage Alliance who was there about 3/4 of the time (and had also been there in the morning), a Democratic operative who was there for perhaps a couple hours, and at the tail end this guy:

Libertarian candidate Muir Boda.

Truthfully, by the time Muir got there I’m not sure it did much good, nor did about half of the 130 or so palm cards I had regarding the ballot questions. But he did get almost 4% of the vote, in line with previous LP candidates here.

One thing I noticed about this polling place – perhaps as opposed to the Delmarva Evangelistic Church where I had worked a couple times before and perhaps due to early voting – was that business just died after 6 p.m. or so. Once the rush of people coming from work subsided, we had little to do but talk among ourselves.

According to the state Board of Elections, just about 32,000 people came to vote on Election Day in Wicomico County after around 6,400 took advantage of early voting. So only about 1 in 6 voters decided to vote early here, but I think part of that was the crowd who used to come after 6 previously.

One thing I have heard in the post-election discussion, though, is how bad the turnout was nationwide compared to 2008.  Barack Obama lost about 10 million votes overall while Mitt Romney failed to meet John McCain’s total by a couple million votes. Give or take, about 12 million people sat this one out and the question is why. But that’s one for another day and perhaps another analyst.

What I knew, though, was when I arrived at Republican headquarters to watch the votes be counted I could tell the mood wasn’t joyous. It simply didn’t have the sound of a victory celebration, and most likely it’s because so many of us were sure and assured that Mitt Romney would pick up about 52% of the vote. Instead, it seems like Rasmussen, the group out in Colorado whose economic math forecast a Romney victory, and even the Redskin Rule were all wrong.

Instead, the evening was a disaster for conservatives in Maryland and elsewhere:

  • Despite the thought that Romney could outperform John McCain, the final totals once again reflected a 62-37 landslide for Obama. Instead of losing by 25.4% Romney lost by 25.1%, meaning that we’ll catch up by the 2264 election.
  • The good news: Ben Cardin only got 55% again. Unfortunately he won by 28 points over Dan Bongino. But even with upstart candidate Rob Sobhani taking away more votes from Dan than Ben, it’s likely the final margin would have been comparable to the 2010 U.S. Senate race between Barb Mikulski and Eric Wargotz had Sobhani saved his millions.
  • All the time and effort getting signatures to place various ballot issues on the docket seems to have gone for naught as all three of those efforts passed. The closest ballot issue was Question 6 but the destruction of traditional marriage still passed with 51.9% of the vote.
  • Far from taking advantage of the Democrats having to defend 23 of 33 Senate seats up for grabs, the GOP lost 2 seats in the chamber and now sit at a 45-55 disadvantage. While poorly considered remarks by Republicans Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana were played up in the media, they somehow failed to notice the holes in the record of Elizabeth Warren (a.k.a. “Fauxcahontas”) of Massachusetts, who won.
  • Black conservatives took a hit as well: Allen West is trailing his Democratic opponent pending absentee ballots and Mia Love lost narrowly in Utah. While the House stays in GOP hands, the margin will decrease slightly so Obama had some minor coattails.

So what do we do? Well, on that I have to ponder some more. I just know I left the GOP party once Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were called because those were the linchpins of Romney’s strategy. And it will forever be debated locally whether the Maryland GOP’s insistence on helping elsewhere may have hurt the cause of local officials, but given the large margins of defeat it likely would have made no difference.

I’ve said before that Election Day is my Super Bowl and right now I have an idea of how those who were on the wrong side of the blowouts common during the 1980s and 1990s felt in the days afterward. I have a low opinion of many in my adopted home state who eschew logic and rational thought for free stuff and feelgood policies which will be detrimental in the long run.

But there is always hope and another election coming around the corner. The work has already started for that one.

Conservative? Really?

Apparently there is a letter being sent to Maryland Republicans from Anthony Marsh, who is one of us but has decided to vote for independent candidate Rob Sobhani. I disagree with Marsh’s choice, but that’s his right as an American. The photo comes from Dan Bongino’s Facebook page, but I don’t know the source. I didn’t receive a copy of the letter myself.

Letter from Republican Anthony Marsh and Sobhani voter guide.

Of course, I look at these things with suspicion considering the source and how far this falls from the typical Republican thought. So I looked up Anthony Marsh to see how loyal of a Republican he is, and insofar as federal donations go he is indeed straight-line GOP.

But there was one thing the letter reveals about Anthony Marsh – he’s a political consultant. And given the factoid he’s written a book on how to write copy that gets votes it’s obvious he’s putting his talents to work.

Moreover, I found it interesting that Marsh has worked on political campaigns in several farflung places like the Middle East and the former Soviet Union – precisely the same places where Rob Sobhani has made his biggest deals. Is Marsh looking for another “in” to these regions by working with Sobhani?

Marsh is also interesting as a big supporter of Michael Steele, including these laudatory articles he wrote in 2009. Ironically, in one Marsh writes:

…to take back Congress Republicans have to run smart, upstart campaigns that aren’t afraid to use surprise and aggressive tactics. Republicans can’t win by running campaigns as if the GOP were still in charge. Newsflash to GOP candidates: no one is going to parachute into your district with $4 million this election year.

Well, Rob Sobhani did – unfortunately, he’s spending it in a manner that’s crippling the Republican candidate. And since the guy can’t even do a robocall properly – forgetting the obligatory disclaimer and authority line – it’s truly a question of whether this guy is ready for prime time. (Notice that this robocall hasn’t piqued Ben Cardin’s interest, but he noticed the last large-scale robocall without an authority line. That whole faux-voter suppression issue seemed to be the only thing which woke Ben up from a six-year-long stupor in the Senate.)

It’s a sad way to end a campaign with such promise. TEA Party Republicans have developed somewhat of a reputation as being the ones who won’t moderate their views and cost our side elections, but you can’t blame our side for this one. Nope, that tar brush needs to paint the mushy middle and those who wouldn’t stand behind our nominee. This one is on you for undercutting Dan Bongino and making the road to GOP victory that much more difficult.

No love lost

Huge update on the bottom!

I guess you can safely say that Rob Sobhani won’t be on Dan Bongino’s Christmas card list this holiday season. From Deputy Campaign Manager Sharon Strine:

First, Rob Sobhani pulled the wool over the eyes of Maryland Democrats, as reported by The Baltimore Sun and The Gazette. Now, the increasingly brazen Sobhani, who is running as an ‘Independent’, is attempting to fool Maryland Republicans as well.

Although Sobhani recently expressed his support for the Maryland DREAM Act, today he held a telephone town hall directed at Republicans featuring Maryland Republican Delegate Neil Parrott, who has been a vocal opponent of the legislation.

Sobhani’s too-numerous-to-count and openly contradictory campaign positions are a disservice to Maryland voters. Maryland voters are entitled to know who and what they are voting for, not a political chameleon using his massive personal fortune to engage in a campaign of deception and mystery.

Since entering the race – funded by a multi-million-dollar ‘personal loan’, Rob Sobhani has been hard to pin down on his beliefs.

Is this the type of character we want as our next U.S. Senator – someone willing to throw away principles when it suits them? Maryland deserves better.

While our campaign fundamentally disagrees with the politics of Senator Ben Cardin with regard to his stance on taxes, Obamacare, and school choice, we respect him as a person. With Sobhani’s continued disingenuous and dishonest campaign activities, we unfortunately cannot say the same for him.

The thing I’ve never been able to figure out about Rob Sobhani is why he couldn’t do all the job creation funding he promises by himself. Why does he need the Senate seat to bring in that much investment? Is his work going to be up for sale to the highest foreign bidder, regardless of overall intent? We already see dozens of officeholders who come in as middle- to upper-class and leave as multi-millionaires despite an annual salary in the low six-figures. Funny how that seems to work, huh?

Advocating for a flat tax rate for most taxpayers as he does or calling for a tax deduction for student loans – yes, that is appropriate for the political realm because a layman can’t necessarily accomplish that goal. (I’m not sure I agree with the latter because I’d prefer a consumption-based tax, but that’s something which can and should be debated on the floor of Congress.)

Yet the other day I heard a radio spot aimed at a conservative audience (because it aired during Sean Hannity’s show) attempting to tell me Rob Sobhani was the only conservative choice. This example, though, is just one of many positions Sobhani’s campaign posts on his Facebook page:

(W)hile Rob and many of us believe that abortion is terrible, Rob believes the decision should remain between a woman and her doctor. If the majority of citizens and the representatives you elect have an urgent need to change the law, he trusts it will happen because in a democracy it is the will of the people that should rule. As for the Affordable Care Act, Rob believes the insurance industry should be reformed. Rob believes that there are positive aspects to the bill, including the provisions on pre-existing conditions, and extending coverage to young adults, but thinks the bill should be amended to improve the insurance market mechanism so that it would be less dependent on the government and better suited to free market forces.

Does that sound conservative to you? Not only is the first part a code phrase for “I’m pro-abortion,” the fact he only wants to tweak Obamacare to remove certain parts certainly doesn’t make him sound very conservative in my book. Those positions are one small step away from how Ben Cardin would vote, and I suspect if elected Rob would be much more likely to caucus with the Democrats than the Republicans.

And it’s worth repeating one phrase, just to make sure readers understand the ignorance exhibited within:

If the majority of citizens and the representatives you elect have an urgent need to change the law, he trusts it will happen because in a democracy it is the will of the people that should rule.

Mr. Sobhani (or whichever lackey of his wrote this): please note well that our nation was founded as a Constitutional republic. We are NOT a democracy. I would expect Ben Cardin to make such a mistake since he’s a liberal Democrat, but you should know better. In the Pledge of Allegiance, we do not express our fealty to the democracy for which we stand! That ignorance alone should disqualify him from office. Not only that, but we expect our representatives to have some sort of principle and not flip-flop depending on how the political wind of the moment seems to blow.

There is a very, very good chance that Rob Sobhani may have taken enough votes away from Dan Bongino already to cost him the Senate seat and allow Ben Cardin another six years on the public dole as one of the most leftward-leaning Senators in the country – a position that’s completely wrong for Maryland. For true conservatives, the choice is clear but it’s not Rob Sobhani. Don’t waste your vote on the ones trying to purchase a Senate seat.

Update: A friend of mine who wished to remain anonymous allowed me to use this picture of a sample ballot passed out by Penn National and paid for by…guess who. Read the very top endorsement and tell me again that Rob Sobhani is a conservative:

Yeah, that's really conservative.

That should seal things for any Maryland conservative or Republican.

Odds and ends number 62

While this is a Halloween day edition, hopefully you consider this a treat and Sandy hasn’t played any trick on my power which extends past today. (It didn’t.)

Did you know that the media has succeeded in demonizing the TEA Party to a point where it has the most negative connotation among political phrases? This according to Rasmussen, who claims a full 44% have been brainwashed into believing that being a TEA Party candidate is detrimental.

I take it as a badge of honor myself. Now if you’re considered liberal or moderate, that’s not good in my eyes.

Nor is this good – assuming it’s true, of course. I rarely take what this guy says at face value:

We’ve out-registered Republicans in every battleground state for the past THREE months.

Right now, we’ve got a total of more than 14,000,000 registered Democrats in battleground states like Florida and Nevada — that means we have a 2,400,000-person lead over Republicans where it matters the most.

And when it comes to voting early in battleground states, we’re in the lead in important states like Iowa and Ohio — and ahead in ballot requests in Nevada.

In Ohio, all public polling shows that the President has a double-digit lead among those who have voted. And nearly two-thirds of all voter registrations in the state in 2012 were in counties that President Obama won in 2008.

In Iowa, we lead in vote-by-mail ballots cast, in-person early voting, total voting, and total ballots requested. We also lead by a wider margin than we did at this point in 2008 in both ballots requested and cast. (All emphasis in original.)

Of course, that’s all subjective: registering voters doesn’t always translate to votes. This Politico story by Adrian Gray points out that Democrat turnout in Ohio’s early voting is down 220,000 compared to 2008 while the GOP is up 30,000. If that’s true, not all of these voters Obama is registering are going into his column. One could even speculate that Obama wants these early votes because people are changing their minds late and moving to Romney.

Meanwhile, one group is helpfully reminding non-citizens that for them, voting is illegal and could carry a severe penalty. Some will call it voter suppression and intimidation, but the law is the law. As Help Save Maryland notes:

While a few Maryland jurisdictions allow non-citizens to vote in their local elections, in general, non-citizens who vote in Maryland federal and state elections may be subject to fines, imprisonment and/or deportation.  Even registering to vote, or encouraging other non-citizens to register to vote, is a serious crime in Maryland, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

The problem has been made worse by Maryland’s past history of giving drivers’ licenses to illegal aliens. And organizations, such as CASA de Maryland, which provide services to illegal aliens, have posted notices in Spanish outside their facilities about helping people register to vote.

Another reason English should be our official language.

Someone else who is working against the grain assessed his two opponents succinctly after a recent debate:

(In this radio debate) both Senator Cardin and Rob Sobhani reaffirmed their commitments to a ‘government first’ economic recovery plan. While Senator Cardin believes this can be accomplished through increased taxes and increased government spending, Mr. Sobhani continues to campaign disingenuously by attempting to sway Marylanders for their votes with pie in the sky campaign promises that the Washington Post is calling ‘half-baked’. This is what we have come to expect from typical Washington insiders.

I am the only candidate making an ironclad promise to the citizens of our great state not to raise your taxes and to get the government out of your way, allowing our economy to return to growth and prosperity.

And the message seems to be working for Dan Bongino, as he continues to outraise his opponents combined. It’s unfortunate that their local debate was a casualty of Hurricane Sandy because I wanted to ask Sobhani about the concept of privatizing profit while socializing risk – if he can get $5.5 billion in investment, why not do it now?

A message that press guru Jim Pettit (the spokesperson for Change Maryland) has gotten out to a wider audience was recently featured on National Review Online. He writes about the Genuine Progress Indicator that Martin O’Malley is trying to foist on Maryland in lieu of actual job creation and true economic advancement. I spoke about it more on this post.

It’s telling to me that as O’Malley’s national profile increases, so does the reach of Change Maryland and, by extension, Pettit and Larry Hogan. Being a thorn in O’Malley’s side is obviously a popular gig.

So hopefully you’re in the process of recovering from Sandy if it affected you. Sorry I had to put up some seriously scary items on Halloween, but we could face an even scarier future one week from now if the current regime remains in place.

Sobhani closes in on $5 million mark

Nice work if you can get it.

Financial reports can be interesting reading, and it was interesting to find out that just 23 people have donated to Rob Sobhani’s upstart U.S. Senate campaign. 22 of them contributed a total of $27,595, an unknown number of others have chipped in $3,025, and Sobhani has dropped $4.61 million. Yes, you read that right: $4.61 million. All told, Sobhani has almost outspent all 23 of the other candidates who have ran for the Senate seat this cycle combined.

However, without Sobhani that distinction would fall to Ben Cardin as he’s spent $3.62 million himself. Dan Bongino is a distant third with just over $916,000 in spending. For comparison’s sake, those who ran for Maryland’s other Senate seat in 2010 spent just over $5.5 million in aggregate, with incumbent Barbara Mikulski accounting for just shy of $4 million and Republican Eric Wargotz spending just over $1.2 million. It appears that both the Democrat and Republican in this race are on track to spend in roughly that ratio.

Interesting as well is that just 8 of those 22 Sobhani contributors live in Maryland, with one being former Sixth District Democratic Congressional candidate Milad Pooran. Most of them also have what could be best described as ethnic names, and there is an expenditure from Sobhani’s report to a website called Iranian.com for advertising. Obviously there’s no law which prohibits those of a particular ethnicity from participating in politics, but I think this reflects statements he made in previous campaigns regarding his thoughts on being Iranian-American as opposed to a different, more common ethnicity.

Sobhani’s campaign yesterday released an internal poll which showed him at 20 percent support. (While Rob calls that a surge, it’s worthy of note that the number is little changed from the Maryland Poll last month while a recent Washington Post poll had him at just 14 percent.) But let’s say he gets that 20 percent and the total number of votes matches the 2004 election (the last Maryland U.S. Senate election in a Presidential year.) The 2004 turnout was 2,321,931 votes, which means 20% of that total is 464,386 votes. It also means that Rob may well spend over $10 per vote. That’s Presidential election territory, but Rob is running in just one state.

Of course, this third-person candidacy is possibly the greatest news Ben Cardin ever received because he can draw the same 54% he received last time and still win by 25 points because Sobhani draws far more votes from the Republican than he does the Democrat – it’s nearly a 60-40 ratio according to the Maryland Poll, which was conducted before Bongino got on the airwaves.

Starting tomorrow, though, Rob Sobhani will get his wish and be allowed to participate in three remaining debates: a radio debate on WOLB-AM in Baltimore tomorrow morning, a debate in front of a live audience here in Salisbury on October 30, and a televised debate on October 31 in Washington, D.C. Perhaps Rob can flesh out his platform, which so far has been rather sketchy.

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