Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Money can’t buy love, but can it buy voter support for would-be Congressman?

Raja Krishnamoorthi is the man who wants to serve in Congress, and is desperate to believe that his fund-raising ability can help him become a member of that particular political club.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: He's got the cash

Krishnamoorthi’s chances of actually getting elected to Congress in next year’s election cycle took a serious blow when the results of a poll were made public last week.

THAT POLL SHOWED Krishnamoorthi only getting 8 percent voter support if the election were held today. That compared to 69 percent support for the other person who has indicated interest in running for the Illinois Eighth Congressional District seat – Tammy Duckworth.

Admittedly, it is possible to discount the results of this particular study because it was compiled by a political analyst hired by Duckworth. The study is meant to show Tammy how serious a candidate she would be if she proceeds with plans to run for the post – which is a new Congressional district in the suburbs drawn in such a way that there is no incumbent AND that a Democrat would be the favorite to win.

But what that study says is that she is a serious candidate because she is known (remembered for her 2006 bid for Congress against now-Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.) and respected (the veteran who lost her legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down).

The perception going around among political observers these days is that Duckworth will mop up the floor with Krishnamoorthi – and that he’d be better off getting out now so that he doesn’t make political enemies who would single him out for abuse in ANY future campaigns for electoral office he may choose to run.

THAT IS WHY Krishnamoorthi is going out of his way to boast of his skills in coming up with campaign cash. He issued his own statement on Monday that reminds us that only five political people raised more money than he did during the most recent time period recorded by the Federal Election Commission.

That report indicates that between the mid-May date that he began his Congressional campaign and June 30 (the FEC deadline, his more recent fundraising will be covered in a report due by Sept. 30), he came up with $412,647.
DUCKWORTH: She's got the support

That’s a lot of money.

There are some candidates for whom that would be enough of a budget for the entire campaign.

KRISHNAMOORTHI BOASTS THAT his total is the highest reported nationally by a Democrat seeking an open seat in Congress, the fourth-highest among non-incumbent Democrats and the ninth-highest among all Democrats running for the House of Representatives.

It definitely is the biggest total among any politico in Illinois. But will it matter. Because it seems that Krishnamoorthi is running against an opponent to whom that might not be good enough.

Tammy Duckworth’s support is just that overwhelming.

Duckworth’s operatives were quick to put out the word last week that the only way a 69-8 lead could be overcome would be for Krishnamoorthi to use his money to run such an incredibly negative campaign against her.

THE PROBLEM WOULD be that such a negative tone would have backlash against him. He’d have to turn this election into a case where people despised everybody running for office. Which probably means they wouldn’t bother to cast ballots.

So it might not work, under any circumstances.

Krishnamoorthi’s new statement about his financial skills is meant to make people think that he’s not dead; that he is capable of being competitive.

Which is something he needs to do, because if the perception starts to take root that his campaign is merely a token effort meant to prop up his own ego, he’d find out how quickly that people whom he thought were supporters would turn their backs on him.

HE MIGHT EVEN find them promptly shifting their financial support over to Duckworth, in hopes that she would “forgive” them for their earlier political “treachery” of giving money to Krishnamoorthi.

If that motivation sounds cynical, keep in mind that it also is real. Because the number of contributions that come from people who are sending a few dollars to a candidate who captures their fancy are few.

Many people and entities that make donations are merely hedging their bets on who they think will win, in hopes that the candidate will remember them favorably when they transition to elected officials.

Of course, before one dismisses Krishnamoorthi’s statement as a face-saving tactic, keep in mind that Duckworth’s poll may well have been a similar tactic.

KRISHNAMOORTHI ALREADY WAS getting “ink” about his fundraising skills. Releasing that poll’s results was a tactic that helped create the impression that he should not be regarded as a candidate equal to her.

Which is to say that I don’t quite buy the idea that Krishnamoorthi is only good for 8 percent of the vote. If he truly were that “fringy,” people would not have been THAT eager to give him more than $400,000 in a five-and-a-half week time period.

It is still early in this election cycle. The primary election between the two is still eight months away, and so much can change between now and then. Which makes me think that at least some of the information we’re now taking as political “gospel” will turn out to be incredibly obsolete by Election Day.

It also makes this particular office seem more like a game of political "chicken" to see who can go the furthest to one-up their opponent.


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