Explaining the partisan difference

Reader Joe Ollinger forwarded to me a recent Washington Times summary by Anjali Shastry of a Democratic counter-proposal to Governor Hogan’s redistricting reforms.  On the heels of our latest Wicomico County Republican Club meeting that featured Walter Olson, co-chair of the state’s Redistricting Reform Committee, the timing is fabulous.

There are a couple great tacit admissions that we should take away from the Maryland majority’s plan. In essence they were conceding that, indeed, these districts were put together for partisan advantage. But rather than be contrite, they whine that they can’t “disarm” unless some other Republican state somewhere does the same. That condition may already be met: North Carolina had to postpone its Congressional primary elections in order to redraw two districts deemed to be inappropriate, and that is a state with a Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Of course, even that won’t satisfy Maryland Democrats who have thrived on the ability to redraw the maps to suit their purposes. For example, what are the odds that random chance would dictate 44 of the 50 Republicans in the Maryland House represent districts that are larger than the state average? And did the voting tastes of the state change so much that in two years (2000 to 2002) the state’s Congressional delegation went from a 4-4 split to 6-2 Democrat at a time when then-President George W. Bush’s popularity in the aftermath of 9/11 was at a peak?

People are fed up with the crap. While I question their wisdom in believing Donald Trump is the appropriate candidate to convey the point, there are millions who are tired of the political gamesmanship. Here in Maryland Larry Hogan rode into office as a centrist Republican, has arguably become the state’s most popular politician with the impending retirement of Senator Barbara Mikulski, and has decided one of his priorities is to make the redistricting process more equitable between not just the two parties, but voters all over the spectrum who may not like the two party options. I can’t argue with that. (It’s not like he asked to go back to the old system where each Maryland county had its own Senator, which times two is the method I would favor to restore balance to our state’s government by making sure counties have their interests protected. Instead of direct elections, it would be the county’s legislative body making the selections.)

And then we have Jamie Raskin’s “ranked choice” idea. This video probably explains it better than I can:

270ponents claim that RCV encourages turnout and discourages negative campaigning, insofar as it’s been applied on a local level. However, there’s an argument that voters won’t take the time to familiarize themselves with the multiple choices and that RCV can still be manipulated by the formation of slates.

Yet Raskin’s idea of multiple-candidate Congressional districts is already being implemented here in Maryland, a state which has a variance of House districts based on their overlaying Senate districts: some are three single-member divisions, some are divided into a two-member district and a single-member district, and others are completely at-large. In most of those at-large cases a single party wins and oftentimes the opposition doesn’t even fill out the ballot.

As is often the case, when Maryland Democrats don’t get their way they point the finger of blame at outside entities. Sorry, this one is on you guys.

The profitable enterprise

I received an amusing e-mail missive this evening from the Washington Times, and it suited me well because I didn’t really want to discuss politics after last night’s debate I didn’t watch. Seems it only took them 33 years and over a billion dollars to finally have a profitable month. And if you go to their website – which is the reason they are even close to being in the black, since the print edition is a money pit – you’ll find the reason: it’s almost as bad as the Examiner site for annoying ads. (Having once written for examiner.com I can vouch that money doesn’t spread much among those who provide content.)

Reading that and realizing I’m only weeks away from the decade mark of doing this site made me ponder my profitability. While it’s not making me rich, my site does make me a modest profit mainly thanks to compensated posts and the handful of political ads I accept. (I don’t want to guess my hourly rate on doing this, though, because I’m sure it’s expressed in millage, not even pennies.)

Yet it took from about the time I graduated high school to now for the Washington Times to make money. This despite the fact they had a niche in the market that was otherwise mostly unfilled as a right-leaning print outfit. It sort of makes me wonder about whether I have the patience of Job in developing this site further given the fact I work full-time outside the home.

While that was the case for the first three years I did this site, too, the big difference is now being in a family rather than single. It takes time to be the soon-to-be husband and stepdad, and that lack of available time was one reason I brought Cathy on board.

But let’s talk profit. I still think this site is the right venue for certain non-political advertisers who want to reach a regional audience. It’s been some time since I checked my Google Analytics, but historically I have had an audience all across Maryland, with some play in D.C. as well. Maybe you have a niche of your own that seeks customers who are more intelligent and discerning. I think this could be the ticket.

In strict terms of how much I pay for the server vs. revenue, this has been a net winner for most of the last ten years. But I want to help you succeed, too.

The R3volution will NOT be televised

On Monday another former Presidential candidate tries to become a media maven.

In and of itself, that’s not unusual as several of the alsorans have taken to the new media in various ways: Newt Gingrich has Gingrich Productions, which works in the realms of film and literature. Rick Santorum founded Patriot Voices as an advocacy group, but one which offers a movie called “Our Sacred Honor.” Perhaps the closest to doing multimedia is Herman Cain, but the ambitious “new online network of programming designed to give you the other side of popular culture, politics, entertainment” of CainTV has seemed to devolve into a mix of regular short videos and written commentary to go along with Herman’s nationally-syndicated radio show.

Yet the idea is still appealing, and on Monday Ron Paul will debut what he calls the Ron Paul Channel. There he promises:

When the Ron Paul Channel launches, we’ll take mainstream media by storm. No advertisers, no corporate agenda — just the truth delivered exclusively to subscribers like you.

From the looks of it, there will be at least some daily programming on the Ron Paul Channel beginning tomorrow – perhaps not a 24/7 setup like a cable news network, but having an exclusively online presence also saves in the overhead of actually securing a channel on cable or satellite, as Glenn Beck has done. Similarly, another alternative news network targeting the conservative audience is the TEA Party News Network, which is comprised of videos of their personalities on other news sources.

Trying a more conventional route, however, is One America News, which went on the air in July and runs constant programming to around 10 million cable-equipped homes. Their alliance with the Washington Times lends them some gravitas but may lead to a perception that they’re a knockoff of Fox News.

But Ron Paul has a rabidly loyal following that these other outlets don’t, with the possible exception of Beck. So what kind of audience can such a channel expect?

Let’s look at some numbers.

In 2012, according to Wikipedia, Ron Paul received 2,095,795 votes. However, there are perhaps 10 percent of these voters who would be the most militant followers and that’s the base one can expect to at least look at the RPC. So we’re down to 210,000 homes and maybe 10 percent of that crowd would be using the RPC as their primary news source daily. I think 21,000 viewers daily is a fairly decent estimate of their potential audience to start if all goes well and the programming is of sufficient quality. It may seem like a lot but it pales in comparison to what the cable networks reach, even on a summer weekend.

(As a point of comparison, the social media presence of the RPC has fewer than 13,000 followers right now between Facebook and Twitter. So I may not be far off base.)

It’s worth mentioning, though, that the RPC won’t be looking for sponsors, but subscribers. To me, that implies a monetary component which could be a few dollars a month or more for enhanced access. Obviously I could be wrong, and I hope I am because one would think that spreading the truth according to Ron Paul would be done in such a way to make it as accessible as possible.

A channel run by moneybombs? I suppose it’s possible; after all, we’ve found over the last half-decade or more that Dr. Paul is a pretty good marketer.

A loss of discipline

The original intent of this post was to discuss onetime educator and current candidate for governor David Craig’s thoughts on Common Core, which were the subject of an op-ed in the Washington Times yesterday. We had touched on the subject of education in an interview I did with Craig when he announced his campaign last month, and Common Core has become a whipping boy for those concerned about government intrusion on our children’s lives. Craig points out this phenomenon of an expanding federal role:

It used to be a teacher’s primary goal was to “reach” a student. That will never happen as long as politicians and education bureaucrats in Washington insert themselves between teachers and students. Common Core is a backdoor way of nationalizing education, one based on a notion that children are to be churned out of schools on conveyor belts and into the workforce. It will never work.

I agree with David’s sentiment insofar as it goes, and he brought up much of this in our discussion. It’s also worth pointing out that education is the lead issue on Craig’s issue page on his gubernatorial website.

Unfortunately this passion he shows in his op-ed and interview doesn’t seem to come through there. After explaining his career choice, initiatives in magnet schools, and new school construction, the curriculum receives short shrift:

As Governor, David will leverage his experience in public education to ensure that, at all levels schools are centered on one priority: to prepare children for careers of their choice. Too often, kids are coming out of college and advanced degree programs saddled with debt. The debt burden is so high, that parents and students are questioning whether the programs are worth the price. There must be tighter coordination between the academic community and the job market.

Craig states the problem well enough, but “tighter coordination” is really a platitude. Instead, what’s really needed is tighter competition between public schools, private schools, and homeschooling by allowing money to follow the child.

As it turns out, though, this run-of-the-mill op-ed comes on the heels of an unforced error on the part of the Craig campaign, something for which I will share a little bit of inside information. It’s nothing earthshaking to be sure, but necessary for context.

Let me freely admit up front: I’ve never run a political campaign, so a lot of what I’m saying comes from being a simple observer of how some political operations seem to run like well-oiled machines while others stumble their way to the election – generally those are the losing ones, but there have been a few which managed to overcome missteps.

But I was made aware (and sent a copy) of the op-ed a day in advance, most likely in the hopes of posting and discussion on my website. Among the active campaigns, I probably have the best professional relationship with David Craig’s because I know some of the players from many months back while others made an effort to introduce themselves to me. A little respect goes a long way.

And while Friday is already a little bit of a handicap for news coverage, the fact that David had an op-ed placed in the Washington Times is still good, basic free media for the campaign despite the fact that nowhere in the piece is it stated that Craig is running for governor or would have more to do with the Maryland educational system should he prevail. But those Maryland residents who read the Times probably know he’s in the race to be the state’s next chief executive.

In a perfect world, this op-ed would have been discussed on the social media and maybe drawn more coverage on background. (One could argue, though, that the campaign should have held off on it until August when school is more on people’s minds. We’ll see if the back-to-school sales start this weekend, in which case the timing isn’t so bad.) It would provide a lead-in to a more major series of events slated for Tuesday that most in the Craig campaign were building up anticipation for.

Instead, though, I may be the only person in Maryland paying attention to this op-ed from David because it was absolutely blown out of the news cycle by the announcement that Jeannie Haddway-Riccio would be Craig’s running mate. That, my friends, was supposed to be Tuesday’s big news, which would have given him additional attention coming into the Tawes Crab and Clam Bake down in Crisfield that’s generally the state’s most-covered summer political event.

And when I later found out some of the circumstances of the running mate discussion, my thoughts about a leak? Well, they may not have been officially confirmed but I would bet a stack of money as to how the news got to John Wagner and I am not a betting man.

What you have here is a classic example of giving a heads-up vs. a potentially damaging leak. No, in the long-term scheme of things it’s not a big surprise that Craig named Haddaway-Riccio – she’s an attractive young female candidate who’s worked her way into qualification for such an office. As a local party official I’m glad Craig did it early so we can see how other dominoes fall locally now that the seat has likely opened up. But losing control of the narrative can be a larger problem later on, depending on what comes out of an undisciplined staffer’s mouth. It’s hard enough to find good help in this state, as other candidates have painfully learned.

The Tuesday events will thus be somewhat anticlimactic because there aren’t all that many who pine to hear from the second banana on the ticket, particularly now that the surprise is gone. And who knows? Perhaps that will be a day for one of the competing candidates to make a major announcement of his own, truly burying Craig in the news cycle.

I may not be a campaign veteran, but it seems to me that controlling the narrative and not trying to be the big man on campus would serve the boss best. It’s a lesson I’ve learned in eight years of doing this job, and it serves me well to remember it.