Friday, December 08, 2006

What if Kissell had gotten adult money?

National Democrats have probably been kicking themselves mentally ever since the Nov. 7 election, when Larry Kissell came within a few hundred votes of unseating Republican Robin Hayes in the 8th Congressional District race. Kissell, a former textile worker and teacher, lost by 327 votes, and a lot of Democrats think he might have unseated the four-term congressman if the national Democratic Party had given Kissell some adult money to run.
The state Democratic Party put out a news release the other day pointing out that Hayes spent about $2 million in the 2006 campaign and Kissell about $450,000. That works out to about $32.83 per vote for Hayes, compared to $7.43 for Kissell. The implication is that if Kissell had more serious money, he’d have overtaken Hayes. It was that close.
Well, maybe. After all, Democrat Mike Taylor ran well against Hayes in 1998 in a campaign that should have alerted Democrats to possibilities. These kinds of comparisons are always interesting “what-if” exercises, but two elections are rarely alike. Democrats also once pondered the “what-if” after the 1978 race for U.S. Senate.
That was the first re-election campaign for Sen. Jesse Helms, and probably was the best opportunity for Democrats to unseat him. Helms raised and spent about $8 million that year while the eventual Democratic nominee – then-Insurance Commissioner John Ingram, chosen after a tough primary runoff against banker Luther Hodges Jr. – spent about $264,000, according to one newspaper story. Helms got 619,151 votes and Ingram got 516,663. That worked out to about $12.92 per vote for Helms and about $1.96 per vote for Ingram – though Ingram got no closer than 45 percent of the vote. Still, because Ingram got so many votes with so little money, it set many to thinking that a well-financed candidate might be able to unseat Helms in 1984. Democrat Jim Hunt tried but didn’t.
No doubt Kissell, who has already announced he’ll run again in the 8th District, will draw a lot more campaign contributions in 2009. But he’ll have a hard time sneaking up on Hayes. And with Democrats in power in the House and Senate for two years at that point, he may not have the same voter unrest boosting his campaign.
In politics, money counts for a lot. The winner usually is the candidate who spends the most. But timing also counts. Ask John Ingram.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dems won other seats around the country that were underserved by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee et al. Perhaps the Kissell campaign put too much faith in the reach of the netroots and spent too little time on the grassroots, such as motivating volunteers on the local street level. Where were the get-out-the-vote and get-to-the-polls efforts on that rainy election day? The Kissell volunteers in Charlotte kept one heck of a low profile. Additionally, the candidate himself played it pretty safe when it came to emphasizing Hayes' position in the pocket of Bush&Co. I'd like to see Kissell get more experience in a local or statewide office ... and maybe someone like Jennifer Roberts or a similarly experienced politician take on Hayes in 2008.

Anonymous said...

Absent in all of the verbiage I've heard since the narrow Hayes victory is the fact that the 8th District is a Democrat-majority district. Hayes has always had partisan odds against him but has won comfortably until now. Not to take all credit from Mr. Kissell but this was an election in which teh Republicans suffered across the board. So Republican Hayes won again in a majority Democrat district in an election year in which his own party suffered widespread defeats. I think this speaks to Hayes' strengths more than Kissell's.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1:

I think you missed where Kissell inspired more volunteers for GOTV than ANY dem challenger in the country... at least according to the DCCC.

And some of those 'experienced' Charlotte pols you mention might not be so good at an Ophir fish fry or Locust BBQ as those in the Great State of Meck think.

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