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.

Early voting could be extended

Updated at bottom, but as predicted early voting was extended through Friday, November 2.

Due to the possible effects of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Martin O’Malley has issued this statement:

Governor Martin O’Malley (Friday) issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency with respect to Hurricane Sandy.  Depending on how the storm develops, Hurricane Sandy may have an impact on early voting, which is scheduled to take place between Saturday, October 27 and Thursday, November 1.

The Election Law provides that “[i]n the event of a state of emergency, declared by the Governor in accordance with the provisions of law, that interferes with the electoral process, the emergency proclamation may:  (1) provide for the postponement, until a specific date, of the election in part or all of the State; (2) specify alternate voting locations; or (3) specify alternate voting systems.”  Md. Code Ann., Election Law Article, Sec. 8-103(a).

The Governor’s Office and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency are actively monitoring weather developments in order to determine whether changes to the early voting schedule may be necessary to protect public safety.  In the meantime, the State Board of Elections, the local boards, and all early voting locations should continue their preparations for early voting and ensure that all voting sites remain open and that all election staff report for duty.

As the storm stands at the moment (I’m writing this late Saturday night) the biggest impacts could come Monday into Tuesday, although deteriorating conditions may force a shortening of Sunday hours as well. My best guess is that whatever days are scrubbed will be added onto the back end, so losing Monday and Tuesday will likely mean early voting is extended into Friday and Saturday of this coming week.

Locally this may not matter as much since the Civic Center is also a polling place on Election Day (it just happens to be mine, so I know this.) But there may be other venues where interceding events place an extra financial strain on local boards of election which didn’t anticipate a change in schedule at this late date. It may also affect turnout slightly as two of the slower days of early voting are traded for two days with the potential for more activity, with an extra weekend day. Still, perhaps 80 to 90 percent of the in-person votes will be cast on Election Day itself.

Yet judging by this picture from Saturday interest in this election in general is high (h/t Jackie Wellfonder):

Early voting at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, October 27, 2012. Photo by Jackie Wellfonder.

I don’t suspect the lines will be as long on Sunday and may not be present at all Monday and perhaps Tuesday. But there are a lot of people who want to vote; let’s hope they choose wisely.

Meanwhile, there are two other local events which could be jeopardized by Hurricane Sandy: a townhall meeting Andy Harris scheduled for Monday evening in Fruitland and the U.S. Senate debate on Tuesday afternoon at Salisbury University. If I still have power I will strive to keep readers abreast of developments in both.

Update, Sunday 1 p.m.: Judging by these two Facebook pictures, early voting has heavy turnout again today. No word yet on whether voting is postponed for tomorrow and Tuesday.

Update, Sunday 2 p.m.: The Harris townhall slated for tomorrow has been scrubbed due to weather, according to the Congressman’s Facebook page. Same goes for early voting Monday, per an announcement from Governor Martin O’Malley.

Update 3, Sunday 5 p.m.: The PACE debate at Salisbury University involving the U.S. Senate candidates is another casualty of the weather.

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.

A volunteer effort

Those of us who are political junkies have likely done a sign wave someplace where you gather a few supporters and simply stand in a high-traffic area excitedly promoting your candidate. Normally we do these in front of our headquarters or along U.S. 50 to catch weekend traffic bound for Ocean City.

But this one would be hard to top – 2 1/2 miles along Rockville Pike in Montgomery County, Maryland. Yes, it’s considered a liberal hotbed but in the words of the subject of this excitement, “we concede no ground.”

Campaigns can be interesting things; the stuff lifelong friendships are made of. But one has to ponder how people who have their best interests at heart couldn’t vote for a candidate with a good background of public service as a law enforcement officer and Secret Service agent; a guy whose stance on the issues is a great match for the state in which he lives and who has backers who care enough to get out on a Saturday, spread out along this busy thoroughfare, and express their support.

Ben Cardin can count on his special interest money and perhaps union thugs bused in for the day and given a box lunch to be his Astroturf support base. Rob Sobhani is simply trying to buy votes with 30-second commercials promoting his independence when it sounds like the only thing he’s independent from is a consistent set of principles. Maybe he could hire those few political mercenaries who would sell themselves out to the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, passion and grassroots support don’t always translate into votes, and far too few know who Dan Bongino is at this late hour. But the only way to get that name recognition is to put it out there as much as we can and hope for the best. We have a candidate who qualifies.

Bongino outraises remainder of Senate field in third quarter

I stand with Dan. Do you?An interesting piece of news from a hard-working campaigner.

I have not been able to confirm one piece of the puzzle, but according to FEC records Ben Cardin raised $636,375.27 in the third quarter while Dan Bongino amassed $735,157.75 in the same time period. I’m told by the Bongino campaign that independent challenger Rob Sobhani only raised $30,000 from outside sources during the same period but have not been able to confirm this as the Sobhani campaign hasn’t released third quarter figures yet. Most of the millions spent by Rob have come from his personal fortune. If this is indeed true – or relatively close – this means the leading fundraiser was the challenger – who raised more than the rest of his opponents combined – and that’s somewhat of a rarity in this political day and age. That’s especially true when the seat is considered by most conventional wisdom to be a safe one for the incumbent.

Of course, cash on hand is also important and the incumbent Ben Cardin has a wide lead there of about $2 million to $300,000 for Bongino. If not for the nearly $2 million in PAC contributions Cardin has accepted this cycle, though, the money race would be nearly even. Special interests have made over 1,000 individual contributions to Ben Cardin to keep him in office; on the other hand just 25 contributions of that sort have found their way to the Bongino coffers and they are mainly from other Republican clubs and candidates. Meanwhile, according to a Maryland Reporter story from earlier this month Sobhani had spent $4.4 million, so the claim of $5 million by the Bongino camp is probably accurate.

And after months of carping about debate exclusion, the state will have its chance to hear Rob Sobhani in that forum on October 30 here in Salisbury, according to Salisbury University’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, the debate sponsor. Yes, it’s a 3 p.m. debate and I’m not sure if it will be televised; moreover, the trio will have to share the stage with Libertarian Dean Ahmad and write-in Democrat Ed Tinus. But this will be Sobhani’s chance and our opportunity to ask him questions as well.

I suspect there will be plenty of press there from both regular and pajamas media.

Update: I meant to add a comparison to the 2010 cycle, which did not feature a third-party candidate but did have a later primary. But at this same point in that 2010 campaign, incumbent Senator Barbara Mikulski had $1.8 million cash on hand to Eric Wargotz’s $466,000. Unfortunately, the contributions for the reporting period (which was shorter in this case) for Mikulski were about $290,000 while Eric’s campaign-to-date outside contributions were just short of $225,000. (He ended up with an overall total of about $266,000.)

Long story short: Dan Bongino has outraised (in one quarter) the entirety of Eric’s campaign by a 3:1 margin. Getting that national exposure has certainly helped make him more competitive.

Winning ad and endorsement

It’s almost like Dan Bongino wanted to hit the reset button.

No, he hasn’t made any sort of campaign gaffe that I’m aware of (although Rob Sobhani alleges one of Dan’s campaign volunteers did) but the confident challenger to Ben Cardin of a month ago has had his horse shot out from under him via Sobhani’s insurgent, predominantly self-funded campaign. So Dan’s going back to what built his campaign in the first place: another key endorsement and the re-release of a 90-second campaign commercial I felt was one of the best presented in this campaign.

The endorsement comes from former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who also served as President Bush’s first Homeland Security Secretary. In a statement released by Bongino’s campaign, Ridge said:

Dan’s qualifications for a seat in the Senate reach beyond his experience in law enforcement and national security. His personal initiative, diverse education, and impressive achievements in community service as well as private enterprise, will well-serve the people of Maryland.

It would be interesting to see how much further assistance Ridge or any of those others who endorsed Dan will provide now that he’s being attacked from both the left and (mostly) from the left-center. Personal campaigning would be particularly helpful since Dan and Paula can’t be everywhere.

Through the grapevine I have heard a little bit of muted criticism of how Dan is running his campaign, basically from people who either a) are disgruntled because Dan is not addressing their pet issues or b) believed Richard Douglas would have been a better Republican nominee (even though he got into the race later and, like Sobhani, also had primarily self-funded his campaign.) Personally I don’t necessarily agree with every plank of Dan’s platform and I certainly would have been comfortable had Richard won the primary, as he actually did in my home county.

Yet in looking at Rob Sobhani’s key issues I’m left wanting – for example, why isn’t a 15% tax rate good enough for everyone? And level with us about where this $5 billion in “public-private partnership” money is coming from – are we going to socialize risk and privatize profit? We already have a Senator who’s great at spending money; something particularly irksome when his party can’t even be bothered to put together a budget.

Even some of Rob’s not-so-key issues bother me: on his petition, Rob’s nascent campaign expressed that Sobhani was “pro-choice and supports gay rights.” Granted, these aren’t as important as the economy but since I’m pro-life and read the latter as support of Question 6, I can’t support that when I have a much better conservative alternative who would support private investment targeted as those individuals wish because the government would take less of their sweat and toil, not at specific projects which may be helpful in limited instances but would more likely enrich Sobhani’s cronies.

So Dan is working back to square one, resuming the important endorsements which bolstered his campaign before Sobhani even considered getting into the race. He also has something just as important: plenty of grassroots support. Once the air war is joined, which is a given because of Bongino’s solid fundraising quarter, the early advantage Sobhani enjoyed by not having to survive a primary will dissipate.

This isn’t about “hitting the jackpot,” nor is it about putting someone back in office so he can make it a half-century on the public’s dime as an elected official. It’s about serving the people of Maryland.

Remember that on Election Day.

The Sobhani story

If you are old enough to remember the 1992 election, you may recall that the usual two-player Presidential game had a party-crasher by the name of Ross Perot. Eventually after a few campaign fits and starts Perot got 19% of the national Presidential vote and allowed Bill Clinton to win with just 43 percent (incumbent George H.W. Bush received 38 percent.) Some say that the eventual result would not have changed even without Perot, and perhaps my little piece of anecdotal evidence bears that out – I voted Perot but had he not been there I would have held my nose and voted for Bush. On the other hand, I also talked my spouse at the time out of voting for Clinton and into Perot. (Or so she said.) Still, there’s a part of me which believes Bush may have hung on to beat Clinton if not for Ross Perot and the Reform Party. (Which, by the way, is trying to make a comeback in Maryland.)

So after writing on Friday about the recent Gonzales Maryland Poll (which posted yesterday) I saw a couple items on independent U.S. Senate candidate Rob Sobhani. This in particular piqued my interest.


Perhaps Mr. Sobhani has a unique sense of humor I don’t understand given his Iranian heritage and loyalty to it, or Dan Bongino took him out of context. But then there was another item I spied on my Facebook page and alluded to in my previous link that led me to do a little research on the political donations of one Rob Sobhani. I’ll get to that shortly.

Worthy of note in this context is that Sobhani has run for the Republican nomination for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat on two previous occasions – 1992, when he finished 5th out of a crowded 15-person field behind eventual GOP nominee Alan Keyes, and 2000, where he was runner-up to Paul Rappaport in an 8-way race.

Yet in his first FEC report on June 30, Sobhani recorded some typical expenditures. The timeline is as follows:

  • On February 5, the campaign paid Sullivan and Associates for legal services. They were paid again in May.
  • The Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies was paid $21,000 on March 10.
  • Presumably the polls were agreeable, since Sobhani paid a total of $142,171 to both Savanna Communications and Arno Political Consultants for petition services from April through June.
  • In addition he began a marketing campaign prominently featured on this website, at a cost of $1,800.
  • Finally, he hired Igoe and Associates as a consultant on June 15.

With the possible exceptions of Sullivan and Associates and hy.ly, the firms Sobhani used are fairly reliable Republican backers. But that doesn’t add up with his pattern of personal political donations.

I went to Opensecrets.com and pulled up a lengthy file of Sobhani’s political giving over the last 22 years. During a 15-year stretch from 1991 to 2006, Sobhani donated a total of $9,400 to a group of candidates which were almost exclusively Republican, with the one exception running as an independent. He also gave a total of $9,340 to the state and national Republican parties. His last donation to a Republican was to Michael Steele in 2006, who ironically ran for the very Senate seat Sobhani is trying for now.

But after a five-year hiatus, Sobhani started giving again – to Democrats. First was Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran for the Sixth District nomination won by John Delaney. Pooran was endorsed by a number of leftists including Howard Dean and Keith Ellison, the lone Islamic member of Congress. Just before the June 30 deadline, Sobhani doubled down and donated $250 to Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents the Memphis area. Most notably, Cohen sponsored a amendment reducing infrastructure funding in Afghanistan.

Perhaps it’s a way to burnish his independent credentials, but this seems quite curious for a guy who used to be a Republican to have gone so far to the left, at least in his political giving.

But rather than speculate on what his motives were, I wrote an e-mail to Rob and asked him a few questions point-blank:

  • Since you have run for the Senate before in 1992 and 2000, what made you decide to run as an independent? Was it a case of not having confidence in the MDGOP banner or did the party move in a direction you were uncomfortable with?
  • I noticed your last two political donations were to Democrats after a decade and a half of almost solid GOP giving? What was your rationale in doing so, given you have a message which is somewhat conservative?

I received Rob’s reply yesterday, which I am presenting in its entirety:

Thanks for your interest in my campaign. I am pleased by the support I have received so far and attribute it to the fact that my message resonates with many people in our state who are tired of politics as usual.

With regard to my decision to become an independent, I have lost my faith in both parties to fairly represent people’s needs today. Our economy is in trouble, and I see few solutions offered either by Republicans or Democrats. That is why I am trying something different. I think a lot of people share my thinking on this, let’s see as the campaign continues.

I have personally supported Republicans and Democrats in the past in cases where I believed the individual offered something important in the respective races. We should all be able to declare our independence in this state. Only by creating more jobs and getting our economy going again will we restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children. At the end of the day, that is our duty, and it is more important than any party ideology.

I’m sorry Rob feels that way about the Republican Party, as I see it as the most viable vehicle to represent what the people truly want and need to have to prosper – freedom and liberty. And while he’s correct in assessing the fact our economy is in the dumper, the question of whether what he is proposing as a cure will work still needs to be explained a little more to me. Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland makes an interesting case that Sobhani should run for a different office in a post which could otherwise do well as a hit piece:

…to me, the role that Sobhani is suggesting he fill as a U.S. Senator is generally filled by a Governor. Because it is the Governor who is more directly responsible for creating economic development within the state. Furthermore, I sure as heck don’t want a U.S. Senator who thinks that his role is to go to Washington and send the bacon home to Maryland, no matter where the money is coming from.

But the statement  Sobhani makes about adding to races is more telling, and perhaps explains well why he’s gone from staunch support of Republicans to backing Democrats. I’m not sure what Steve Cohen adds to his race since he’s in a D+23 district anyway, but Pooran shares Sobhani’s Iranian heritage.

Yet in order to have a chance to do as Rob says and “restore the quality of life we’d be proud to pass onto our children” it seems to me there should be a set of guiding principles involved. Rob oversimplifies this by saying on his campaign site that:

The parties are both locked into narrow ideological agendas that prevent them from talking to one another or working together for meaningful solutions. As an Independent, I’m not beholden to either political party. I hope to bring people of goodwill from both parties together.

One man’s “ideological agenda” is another’s principles, and among Republicans we should hold these truths to be self-evident and we should sell out our core beliefs to no one. NO ONE. There really is no middle ground between freedom and tyranny.

And don’t we have a President who promised to be “post-partisan?” That lasted about as long as it took for a Republican to show some backbone and be greeted by the President saying “I won.” Compromise, rather than fealty to the principles which made our nation strong, has placed us where we are now.

There is one other observation for me to make, and if Rob chooses to hold his cards close to the vest on this point I suppose I can understand. But it’s another question which should be asked.

Over the last few years in the Senate, there have been two independents: Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. While the are ostensibly unaffiliated, in reality both have caucused with the Democrats as Sanders is an avowed Socialist while Lieberman was once a Democratic vice-presidential nominee and won his seat in 2006 despite losing in the Democratic primary and re-entering the race as an independent.

So let’s say Sobhani defies the odds and pulls the upset. Will he caucus with the Republicans because that’s his traditional political home and the side from which he seems to be pulling more support, or will he caucus with the Democrats based on the fact his Senior Senator is in that caucus? Or will he wait and see other results so he can gravitate to the winning side? Imagine the scenario of Mitt Romney winning the White House but the Democrats controlling the Senate by a 50-49 margin – will he sell his position to the highest bidder like just another business deal?

At some point he’s going to have to choose.

It’s a shame, though, that it appears Dan Bongino doesn’t want to include Rob Sobhani in the debates (at least that’s how the AP story depicts it.) Let Rob’s voice be heard, and let him answer some tough questions. I’m sure I would have some more.

Ben Cardin’s been in office for 46 years, and Dan Bongino has been on the campaign trail for 16 months. If money can buy a Senate seat, I suppose we will find out from a guy who’s barely been at it for six months and only officially announced four weeks ago.

Update: Mark Newgent at Red Maryland has unearthed the pitch sheet Sobhani used to gather signatures. I didn’t know that Rob was “pro-choice and supports gay rights,” did you? I’ll concede that, indeed, these issues are less important than fixing the economy (although Sobhani’s plan is dubious in itself – after all, wasn’t Solyndra a sort of public-private partnership?) but America is also better-served by those who believe in upholding traditional morals.

Bongino gets another conservative endorsement

Adding to his pocketful of meaningful conservative backers, Dan Bongino’s U.S. Senate campaign announced the endorsement of the FreedomWorks PAC today. Max Pappas, Executive Director of the PAC, noted in a statement:

Dan Bongino has the rare ability to simplify and effectively communicate limited-government economic principles. As a small business owner himself, he has seen first-hand how excessive regulations and taxes punish the risk-taking entrepreneurs at the heart and soul of America’s economy. Bongino has also been a vocal leader for allowing parents to have a choice in their children’s education.

Bongino’s opponent Senator Ben Cardin is an automatic vote for President Obama’s failed policies, which have dramatically increased the federal government’s spending and debt while stunting economic growth. In contrast, Dan Bongino understands that bailouts and stimulus spending do not create jobs, entrepreneurs do, and he will fight to get big government off their back so they can resume growing the economy.

Naturally, Dan was happy about the support:

I have long been a supporter of FreedomWorks and their tireless efforts to engage and mobilize the conservative grassroots. FreedomWorks is on the front lines of the fight for smaller government and fiscal sanity – a fight I gladly join them in. I am proud to have the endorsement of FreedomWorks PAC.

I did a little research on the FreeedomWorks PAC and, while they have a low six-figure amount (about $116,000) in the bank as of July 31, the real benefit to Bongino may be the publicity and awareness this endorsement will bring. The PAC is but a small portion of the overall FreedomWorks umbrella.

As the PAC boasts:

In the 2010 midterms we ushered in the largest electoral landslide in more than 70 years, electing a huge freshman class committed to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom.

The 2012 election is our chance to do even more: growing our House majority, flipping the Senate for fiscal conservatives, and making Barack Obama a one term president.

Obviously Bongino would fall under the “fiscal conservative” heading, and he seems to have a pretty good head on his shoulders regarding that point.

One thing which characterizes Dan’s stump speeches is some variation on the theme that Republicans prefer low taxes, but few if any are radical enough to say we should pay no taxes – after all, we need to support the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure, provide for the common defense, maintain our system of justice, and so on through basic functions of government spelled out as duties under the Constitution. At one time we could do this almost solely through tariffs, but that day has long past as government – even its most basic functions – gets more expensive. Unfortunately, we also have to consider what we owe and the unfunded obligations we have to those who are living now but expect Social Security, Medicare, and pensions in the future. (Hint: don’t hold your breath unless we make radical changes like I spell out in my book. A little self-promotion never hurts.)

Of course one can argue that Bongino has no record of fiscal conservatism to fall back on because he’s never voted for (or against) a budget, a government program, or any other item of public interest for that matter. But my counter to that is that the incumbent has voted against fiscal conservatism every chance he got, so the absolute worst we could do is a wash and I have a lot more confidence in Dan than that. To use another state’s example: even though once in awhile he’s quite maddening to conservatives and the TEA Party, taken as a whole Scott Brown has been a vast improvement over Ted Kennedy or Martha Coakley.

By the same token, there are some among the 28 candidates FreedomWorks PAC is endorsing who might lead me to scratch my head, but in toto they would present a much better opportunity to advance the conservative cause in the right direction than electing their Democratic opponents. I would rather the debate be between right-of-center and far-right than middle-of-the-road and far-left, as the case seems to be now.

So Dan should be pleased with this newest endorsement, but the trick will be that uphill battle to get the endorsement of 50% +1 of Maryland’s voters come November 6. It should be easy to convince the thoughtful ones, but those who just sort of hazily walk in and cast their ballot need to know the name Dan Bongino. Let’s make sure they do.

Hammering home the point

If there’s one thing which can be said about Dan Bongino, it’s that he is very, very telegenic. Here’s an example: this interview with Ginni Thomas at the Daily Caller. (I had issues last night with this video so sorry, no embed.)

The only complaint I would have about the video is questioning why they had to use the profile camera angle when both parties aren’t involved in the shot. It makes Dan look like he wouldn’t look you in the eye and in my dealings with him there’s nothing further from the truth.

But if you have forty minutes this is a valuable chance to hear what Bongino has to say, in depth. It’s the raw video from one which was culled by Anthropocon‘s Jim Jamitis and praised by conservatives like Sarah Palin. I didn’t know it existed until I looked for a better source to embed the first video.

Having been involved in politics for almost twenty years, I’ve found there are rare people who seem to cut through the political crap and are genuine. I would put Dan in this category, even though I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Let’s just put it this way: unlike his opponent, I wouldn’t have to be convinced he’s my friend.

So how is the Bongino campaign going? Well, the conventional wisdom is that Ben Cardin is safe, so there’s no recent polling. The most recent poll I found is a PPP Poll from 2010 which had Cardin defeating a generic Republican 51-33. (The poll was intended to match him up with Michael Steele, who Cardin beat 58-28.) But it’s telling that in the poll Cardin only had a 42% approval rating, with 28% disapproval. Against the current partisan breakdown of Maryland voters, the poll oversamples Democrats by 4 points and Republicans by about 1 point, so I suspect Cardin would be polling under 50 percent now. More recently, the Gonzales Research Maryland Poll from January had Cardin with 51% approval, but it didn’t project a primary opponent.

The same polling company did a survey last October which stated Cardin had 32% who “definitely would” vote for him with 25% saying the opposite. Supposedly 1/3 of Republicans would consider voting for Cardin, but they hadn’t met Dan Bongino yet. Considered in that respect, with that seven-point margin it’s a little surprising that people believe Maryland is safe Cardin territory, but they’re probably basing that simply on the 56-26 Democrat partisan advantage in the state. One thing about a significant percentage of Maryland Democrats, though: they’re not necessarily party loyalists.

Yet Dan Bongino is ceding no ground and Ben Cardin’s not covering a whole lot of it. Apparently Ben’s counting on that $1.5 million in the bank to carpetbomb the state with 30-second commercials, but it’s possible Cardin may be aced out by the massive spending on issues like Question 7. There’s only so much commercial time available and television stations are licking their chops, imagining a robust bottom line thanks to at least $11 million spent so far by gambling interests.

So in this case grassroots may be more important than money, and I’d rather side with the true conservative believers than the hired guns who are in it for the box lunch or time off work on Election Day, like this rent-a-mob.

As Bongino said:

I will not let the Republican Party cede the moral high-ground to a Party driven by lofty intentions and failed results. Time to take off the gloves and fight for what we know is the right path forward.

Speaking of Dan, this also gives me an opportunity to update yesterday’s post on the Libya response. Bongino added these remarks in a release today:

The Administration’s continuing claims that the Libyan protests, which resulted in the horrific deaths of four Americans along with our Ambassador, were the result of unpredictable, spontaneous protest activity are either intentionally deceptive or demonstrate complete incompetence.

Having spent over a decade reviewing threat assessments from all over the world, it is hard to believe that given the amount of information Libyan officials claim to have passed to the U.S. government regarding the active terrorist threat to our personnel on the ground, that the Administration sincerely believes this deadly assault to be spontaneous. There are only two potential answers, either the threat to our personnel was ignored due to incompetence or political concerns regarding the approaching election influenced the allocation of security forces to the region. I am calling upon the State Department to immediately release any information related to the threat assessment which led to the sub-standard and deadly security footprint in Benghazi.

The Hillary Clinton State Department? I’m not holding my breath that she’s going to fall on a sword for Obama. Interesting times indeed.

But returning to my main point: we have to believe this race is winnable because a lot has changed in the six years since Ben Cardin eked out a surprisingly close 10-point victory over Michael Steele – in an awful year for Republicans. Cardin is not the shoo-in people think he is, so let’s get to work and prove the conventional wisdom wrong once again.

The third man

The U.S. Senate race in Maryland became a lot more complicated when businessman Rob Sobhani formally kicked off his campaign last week.

Sobhani, who petitioned his way onto the ballot by gathering over 77,000 signatures, announced his bid in a three-city tour last Tuesday. And while he’s slowly built his self-financed campaign over the spring and summer, he comes into the race with an issues page which reads as relatively conservative in some areas, more moderate in others.

Most of what he has spent of the $227,000 he’d loaned to his campaign through June 30 went to gathering the signatures for his petitions, so the signatures amassed at a cost of over $100,000 weren’t necessarily through a grassroots effort like those to place several issues on the November docket. Yet Rob got them and made it to the ballot, so apparently there is a group in Maryland who wants to think outside the two-party box. (It would be revealing to find out the overall political configuration of the signers, though.)

It’s also interesting to hear – admittedly, this is second-hand hearsay so you can assign whatever credibility you wish to it – that the Sobhani campaign was paying $4 per signature to out-of-state petition signature gatherers. He turned in 77,000 signatures when he needed 37,128, with roughly 1/8 of the required number coming from each Congressional district. If this $4 allegation is true, though, it will be very interesting reading when we see Sobhani’s next financial report since the current one is the June 30 filing and he needed to have signatures in to the state Board of Elections by the August 6 deadline he met.

There are also questions posed by blogger Jim Jamitis regarding Sobhani’s role in CNN’s “dubious journalistic practice of accepting ‘sponsorships’ from the very regimes they are supposedly investigating.” While Jamitis can be perceived as a biased observer because he has volunteered as a producer of online videos for opponent Dan Bongino, he still raises a valid set of queries.

Moreover, Rob is no stranger to politics, having made runs as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 2000, finishing fifth and second with 6% and 17% of the vote, respectively. So he’s not exactly an outsider, but he either decided he probably wasn’t going to win a Republican primary or that the GOP brand in Maryland was too tarnished.

To burnish his independent credentials, it’s worth noting that the two-time Republican candidate’s last political donation went to Democrat Milad Pooran, who was an also-ran in the Sixth District Congressional primary this spring. The $1000 donation was given last December, with a Potomac mailing address which matched the address given for Sobhani’s 2000 Senate campaign.

And it’s interesting what I’ve found about that 2000 campaign.

In October 1999, Sobhani was the beneficiary of a fundraiser put on by the Iranian-American Republican Council, San Francisco Chapter. Of course, it’s not terribly unusual for a candidate to attend an out-of-state fundraiser for a federal office, but some of what is attributed to Sobhani under “Issues of Interest to Americans of Iranian descent” is intriguing:

We asked Rob Sobhani (candidate for U.S. Senate from Maryland) to tell the Iranian-Americans about some of the issues that he will address if he is elected:

  • Taxation without representation.
  • Ending the demonizing and stereotyping of Iran and Iranians.
  • Streamlining non-immigrant visa requirements for Iranians applying to visit relatives and loved-ones in the United States.
  • Giving Iranians the choice of applying at any American embassy and consulate abroad for a non-immigrant visa.
  • Ending the harassment of Iranians entering and leaving the United States for the simple reason of being an Iranian.
  • Abolishing the current IRS codes and replacing it with a flat tax of 17% on personal income would help many Americans of Iranian descent who are self-employed or owners of a small business.

If all Americans of Iranian descent united . . .

Rob Sobhani added to the above that: Also, if elected, I will establish satellite offices in California under the umbrella of “Khan-e-Iran” to assist American-Iranians with their problems.

There’s more where that came from, although the latter article contains an interesting anecdote about how Rob went from campaign volunteer to staffer for former Congressman Connie Morella.

But isn’t the idea of America “E Pluribus Unum“? Making a protected class out of Iranian-Americans doesn’t make them any more American, just more protected. Imagine if an officeholder did the same for members of a particular religion or a more common ethnicity, such as Germans or Poles like myself.

It’s also interesting to see that Rob’s taxation stance hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last twelve years, although instead of 17% on everyone it’s now 15% on almost everyone, or as he now states:

I favor a simple, 15% flat rate for most working Americans.  Those who are making a lot more can pay a little more.

Why? I think we should all pay the same rate as a consumption tax – that’s the most fair solution.

I also fail to understand how a public-private partnership doesn’t use taxpayer money, since Sobhani is pledging to create over 100,000 jobs primarily through that vehicle. I suppose I need a little enlightenment on that point.

Of course, the real question is this: since Dan Bongino announced his candidacy long before Sobhani decided to jump back into the political arena – Rob started the campaign Facebook page April 25 and filed with the State Board of Elections on June 25 – coupled with the fact that his last political activity was a sizable donation to a Democratic candidate, is it possible that Sobhani is a stalking horse for Ben Cardin? With the success of Dan Bongino’s campaign becoming obvious after his April 3 primary win, perhaps our friend Ben needed a little insurance policy?

Granted, with his late start and limited funding Sobhani will be fortunate to crack double digits come November. But if those digits come out of the Bongino camp, Republicans may suffer a heartbreaking defeat in a race which was winnable.