Taking a break – from talk radio

March 23, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Delmarva items, Mainstream media, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Taking a break – from talk radio 

Back on Saturday I posted an update to Facebook in response to a RedState diary. My message said:

I used to listen to Rush daily at work, or when I drove around the region in my previous job… but now I just can’t do Rush’s (or Sean Hannity’s) all-Trump, all-the-time talk radio anymore.

Part of the reason is that I work in an office and figure it’s better to pay attention to what’s going on rather than be distracted. But at one time I didn’t mind the distraction – as I noted, in my former job I had several presets for Rush depending on where I had to go that day. Prior to that I would have my radio on from 12 to 3 when I sat in my cubicle at my old jobs.

But I don’t find it as interesting anymore, and perhaps if you multiply that by a few thousand that was the reason we lost a talk radio station lately. Earlier this month the former talk radio station WICO-FM (92.5) became a simulcast for WCTG-FM (96.5), a music station with its studios in Chincoteague, Virginia. I actually didn’t know this until I saw a WCTG billboard in Delmar, Delaware and wondered why a station that far away was advertising there until I saw the 92.5 addition. Admittedly, I’m pleased because now I have a music station for my drive to work in the morning.

In the old days I would have been a little upset because the AM signal that Rush and Hannity are now presumably on doesn’t carry as far as the FM signal did – I could listen all the way down into Virginia on the days when I traveled that way. Now I wonder if this is a trend. A quick look at Wikipedia – perhaps a biased source but a source nonetheless – states Limbaugh is on 590 stations. That is less than the “over 600” generally attributed to him, but not to any great degree.

But one thing I have noticed over the last few years is a change in the type of advertiser that is found on Rush. I realize that this isn’t the era where more familiar products and services are hawked on talk radio, but it seems the advertising demographic is skewing to the same type of content you see on the nightly network news – more stuff for older folks, such as supplements and security systems. Talk radio in general seems to attract survivalists (like those who would buy the food with the 25-year shelf life) and those who would be likely to purchase precious metals because I would hear those spots, too.

Maybe the issue for me is how serious it’s become. You used to laugh when you listened to Rush, but for me there doesn’t seem to be the humor in it anymore.

And with the advent of social media I can get a lot of conservative news and commentary without appointment radio. (Perhaps my new favorite is The Resurgent.) Others can listen all day to internet radio and podcasts to get their political fix – Lord knows there are enough would-be Limbaughs, Becks, and Hannitys out there. I’m not one who listens to the plethora of possible content – just let me read it and be done with it.

I may still turn on Rush from time to time when I go out for my lunch hour, but I think the days of listening wall-to-wall have come and gone. Everything has its season, and it wouldn’t shock me to find more and more political talk radio stations trying a different format in the months to come.

Creating his own outlet

February 15, 2015 · Posted in Campaign 2016, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Creating his own outlet 

To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)

But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.

Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin.  While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.

Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.

But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.

So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?

Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)

If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.

Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.

If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.

On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.

Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.

The problem with ‘real’ people

August 5, 2014 · Posted in Campaign 2014, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The problem with ‘real’ people 

I saw this when it originally came out, but Michael Hausam at the IJReview website basically took Dan Bongino’s recent “us vs. them” Facebook post and shared it for the whole internet to see – and that was a good thing. Read it, then come back here for my thoughts.

What has truly gotten this nation into trouble is the political class. Think about how Washington works these days:

  • It is a culture which uses the force of law to extract your hard-earned money in such a way that you really don’t notice it anymore. You may grumble when you see all the deductions in your check due to backup withholding but just try getting them to stop.
  • That money is supposed to go toward addressing the various problems we have in society. Whether you agree with these purposes or not, funding goes to the military, dollars go to running the judicial system, money goes to providing all of the entitlements politicians have passed over the years, and so forth. But the Catch-22 is that solving the problem would make the agency, bureau, or whatever group superfluous and/or unnecessary and all those who work there would have to find honest work. Can’t have that.
  • Yet all that paper being pushed really doesn’t produce anything, Now one may argue that constructing infrastructure is something government does to produce worth, but most of the time it’s a private contractor doing the work – they’re just being paid with public funds. Government is generally in the service business as opposed to creating things of worth like automobiles, fields of corn, or extraction of minerals – and thank God for that.
  • In any case, there are a group of people within that culture whose aim in life, it seems, is to skate along as a “political consultant” and tell candidates who may or may not have been earnest people to begin with just how to fool people into believing they are one of them.

It’s been several months since I’ve spoken to Dan; since he’s running for office on the other end of the state I have been simply observing from afar for the most part. Having said what he did on Facebook and now beyond, it’s no wonder he’s filled in for Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on their radio shows – the question is always whether the glitz and glamour of the Beltway would affect him as it has so many other promising conservatives. Granted, he’s been inside that bubble (so to speak, as indeed he has) for several years so there is the unique perspective. To turn a phrase, we have to elect him to see what’s inside him and I have no problem with that. I think I can trust Dan to do what’s right, even with his taste of the life inside.

But perhaps I’m not a “real” person either, since I follow politics more closely than probably 99% of other people and write about it more than 99% of that select group. Take my county of 100,000 people and I’m one of maybe 1,000 who follow the political events closely and, yes, there are maybe 10 of us who write a lot about it. Yet in my position I have to interact with the non-political world on a daily basis and I intentionally write about other things to stay grounded in reality and keep what little sanity I have.

My biggest fear is that those who claim to be outsiders will reach the pinnacles of power and prove to be no better than those they replaced. (As The Who sang, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”) One argument within the TEA Party movement is whether it’s gotten too much like the rest of Washington, just with a different set of hucksters getting rich from it. Being on an e-mail list isn’t about discussions of policy, but appeals like this:

The clock is ticking… and there are now less than 100 days left before Election Day.

That means less than 100 days to door knock, make phone calls and attend community events to earn the vote of citizens in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Every day counts.

And that’s where you come in. I need to finalize our grassroots strategy for the next 95 days. We need to budget our campaign expenses for the final 3 months of this race.

Will you help us finalize our budget before the end of the month by sending $25, $50, $100 or more before MIDNIGHT tonight?

We must budget for media buys, purchasing lawn signs, bumper stickers, campaign materials — even small items like pizza for volunteers!

In case you’re wondering, that’s from Dan’s campaign. Now I don’t begrudge Bongino looking for money because he needs it – at least with him you’re donating to a candidate and not necessarily a consultant. I’m probably on a couple hundred different e-mail lists like Dan’s because I’m a blogger and follow politics. (The Democrat ones are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny and good blog fodder.) And yes, I do mention it at times when a politician forms his own PAC and tries to get in on that game.

The biggest problem the TEA Party movement has is that they can’t elect everyone at the same time. 2010 was a good example – they picked up all those House seats but didn’t take over the Senate because only part of the body was up for election. Then it only takes one bad election (like 2012) to muck up the works for another half-decade. In 2014 they can take over the Senate but we’re still stuck with Barack Obama’s phone and pen.

And it’s the people they don’t elect who create an even bigger problem. A true rightsizing of the federal government would probably incite riots throughout the Capital region as thousands and thousands of government workers suddenly found themselves without a paycheck. Unemployment in Maryland would probably be double-digits overnight. But while some have the courage to tell the political class to hit the road, their numbers are few compared to the thousands who occupy official Washington and have created their own job security by doing just enough to stay fully funded.

They’ve long since bought the Democrat party lock, stock, and barrel and I’m not so sure the GOP’s not on the payroll, either. That’s the problem with people – too many can be bought.

The Maryland internet radio shakeup

Over the years I have compiled a (very) occasional series of posts called “Radio days.” The idea originally began as a post-mortem of my first radio guest spot way back in 2007, but I’ve stayed with the concept for subsequent appearances. They’ve become much more infrequent as the most supportive local radio station adopted a syndicated morning show – most of the series of posts arose from a stretch where I was a monthly guest on Bill Reddish’s old “AM Salisbury” show.

But where terrestrial radio has gone away from individually-hosted shows to national syndication – at least in a smaller market like Salisbury – internet radio is thriving. Granted, no one is making a living like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, or other talk radio giants are, but the success of internet radio stems both from narrowcasting to a specific but passionate market and having the convenience of being able to listen later. (The aforementioned talkers will let you do that, too, but it will cost you.) If I can’t catch a show at its appointed time I can sit and listen at my convenience later that evening or even a few days or weeks after the original airing.

The success of this turned out to be one of the subjects of my TQT interview with Andrew Langer a few months back, and oddly enough he figures in this post as well. “The Broadside,” a radio show he co-hosts with Mark Newgent, is one of just two shows not affected by a shakeup at Red Maryland Radio, which has emerged as a leading voice in Maryland politics. On Friday they announced a revamped lineup with three new radio hosts (fellow bloggers Jackie Wellfonder of Raging Against the Rhetoric, Jeff Quinton of The Quinton Report, and Examiner and former WBAL radio host J. Doug Gill), and two new shows focusing on the efforts of The Watchdog Wire (to which I contribute) and the 2014 elections.

On the other hand, three former RMN shows are leaving: “Lock and Load Radio” (previously “Seeing Red”) with hosts John and Andi Morony, “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy Radio”  featuring the quartet of Jim Braswell, Ethan Grayson, Tom Smith, and Paul Drgos, and Braswell’s Friday “Red Maryland Happy Hour.”

Those three will become the backbone of a new network called Free State Radio, to join “The Non-Aggression Principle”, which was formerly “Maryland Libertarian Radio.” They claim to have more of a national focus with the new network, as these shows were centered more around specific issues and politics in general than Maryland-centric issues. The resulting shuffle has most affected Wellfonder’s yet-to-premiere show, as it has bounced around from being originally envisioned as a Thursday evening show to Sunday evenings and now Tuesdays.

From what I have gleaned from listening to some of those involved,  the parting was on the hasty side and perhaps not the most amicable. Regardless of the circumstances, though, one has to marvel at the growth of the medium in just a couple years – what once was two shows is now going to be eleven, (Another strong Maryland contender, “Purple Elephant Politics,” seems to now be on at least a temporary hiatus. Maybe they’ll be next in the Red Maryland Network fold.)

Yet one also has to ponder the effect on the blogs involved as well. While Red Maryland has trimmed its number of contributors over the last couple years to around a half-dozen or so, their posting tempo has decreased significantly over the years to a point where they’re running about one to two new posts a day, with many of those simply promoting their radio network. The others involved post with a little lower frequency, although Quinton is known to have multiple posts a day on occasion. Surely even one hour-long show a week requires far more time and effort than sitting in front of a computer and talking for an hour, particularly in remote locations, so it will be a challenge for these bloggers to continue putting out quality content. On the flip side, though, having hand-transcribed 20- to 25-minute interviews, it’s likely they will be substituting 8,000 words of spoken content for perhaps 1,500 words of written content – and probably less, since in an hour’s time there may be editing and rewrites. I’ve been working on this post off-and-on for several hours today with perhaps about 60 to 70 minutes actual writing time, so there is some efficiency therein. But every blogger is different.

Another question I have has to do with money and sponsorship. Obviously I’m unsure as to whether the fledgling Free State Radio network has any backing; meanwhile, Red Maryland Radio is essentially self-sponsored as well as its income is derived from merchandising on Zazzle and Greg Kline’s law firm, which seems to be their one “outside’ sponsor. While Blogtalkradio makes money from the commercials they play prior to the podcasts as well as premium services for more well-heeled hosts willing to pay up to $250 a month for the privilege, they’re only sharing a portion of their revenue once you jump through hoops and build a large enough audience – similar to something like Examiner for bloggers. (From experience I know that’s a very difficult venue for success, particularly with a focus on politics.) While there’s probably money available from various campaigns as they get rolling for 2014, the question is whether they would spend the money on a somewhat limited audience rather than try their luck with cable TV or terrestrial radio.

So the question becomes one of the size of the pie. While we all try our best to expand our audience, the vast majority of people will remain devoted to pop culture, ignorant of political trends toward the erosion of our freedom, and perfectly content to allow the world to dictate their lives as long as they can be entertained. I believe the ancient Romans called this bread and circuses.

But as long as someone is trying to ring the bell, there’s the chance they may get noticed. So while a radio gig is probably not in the cards for me – at least not in an hour-long format where I have to carry the show – I’d be glad to lend my expertise as a guest or just listen to what some of these fine folks have to say. In many cases I already have.

Chances are they will have a better message than the one being put out by the party in power in both Annapolis and Washington, D.C.

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.

**********

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.

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