Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bad Campaigns Create "Fudgers"

WISH-TV is churning the story that “Andre Carson’s campaign is broke.” Here’s the rub. The Carson campaign ordered TV time that had to be surrendered when payments were not made. Rumors are circulating that the Carson campaign has even asked its employees to forego paychecks. Congressman Carson’s response: “They're being paid, very well in fact and they're excited, too.”

I’m always said I'm supporting Carson, but boy, it’s getting harder. If Carson’s campaign isn’t broke, it is certainly broken. And if his campaign manager is getting paid “very well,” he’s making too much money.

The campaign has been plagued with mistakes, and this last one is particularly embarrassing because one of two things has to be true. Either (a) Carson DOESN’T have the money, which means somebody seriously overshot fundraising expectations; or (b) Carson DOES have the money, but the campaign decided to use it at a different time or in a different fashion, which means the initial decision to buy the ads was flawed (which, in turn, allowed Jim Shella to suggest the campaign was broke when it wasn’t).

I’ve met Andre Carson. He’s very engaging, and I believe that many of his critics would have a different opinion about him were they to actually meet him. But at the end of the day, he will be judged, just as Clinton and Obama are, by how well his campaign “functions.” The mistakes of “the campaign” become the mistakes of the candidate, just as the mistakes of his congressional office will be his. Andre Carson needs to RECLAIM ownership of his campaign before DCCC starts meaning “Democratic Congressional Campaign Cooked!”

Here’s what you need to know about the DCCC. It tries to cultivate young political operatives. Normally, this is a good thing. People cut their teeth in the background of high profile, competitive races or in the foreground of long-shot campaigns, and they move up the hierarchy. The DCCC keeps resumes on file, and then they ship “their people” to whatever state “needs them.” The DNC and DSCC do the same thing.

But, I assure you, loyalties can be divided. Whether the DCCC will say it or not, these operatives are there as watchdogs for the DCCC. If the campaign is going well, DCCC money might follow, which is why so many candidates don’t bat an eye when the DCCC says, “We’re sending you staff.” BUT if the campaign is not going well (per the reports of the DCCC-installed manager), it might dry up. Think about it. Carson’s campaign manager, Alex Zwerdling, has worked in four different states in the last four years. His allegiance to Andre Carson is what when compared to the fact the DCCC can ensure he gets his next job if he gives them good intelligence?

I’ve never met Zwerdling, but by all accounts, he’s a decent guy. But that doesn’t make him a qualified campaign manager for a highly-contested four-way primary, no matter what the DCCC says and no matter how many field operations he’s handled. Almost ALL of his public comments have been bad, and his response to Jim Shella (first, saying it was a tactical decision then saying “no comment”) is just another example of being “a deer in headlights.”

Before anyone thinks that this is a knee-jerk reaction, and I’m the local yokel who “don’t want none of them thar DC boize in their fancy suits comin’ in here tellin’ us what to do,” remember that we’re not the backwater. We’ve got HUNDREDS of good Democrats in Indiana who were trained under a state party organization that was deemed so good, it’s leader, Joe Andrew, became head of the DNC. We’ve got HUNDREDS more who were trained under Robin Winston, a man who actually exceeded Andrews’ efforts (in my opinion) in field operations. And an awful lot of these folks worked on congressional races.

So, why does Andre Carson need someone whose only experience as a campaign manager was working for a guy who lost a three-way primary in Wisconsin?

I am praying the Congressman was telling it straight about the staffer salaries. But what are the chances with the predicament he was facing? There are so many things you just CAN’T say in a political campaign, and I cannot think of a greater momentum killer then, “We can’t make payroll.”

This is why when you make a decision to fudge or not, you should certainly consider that the FEC report is going to show every date you wrote a check. If your staffers were getting paid weekly, and then all of a sudden nobody got paid for 2 months, you’re going to get found out. And it will look very, very bad.

This is precisely why you don’t want to ever be put in the position of having to choose to fudge or not. The right campaign decisions make it easier to tell the truth.



Anonymous said...

I agree with you...Andre Carson is by far the best candidate for a multitude of reasons. His campaign and Zwerdley seem to be making a lot of bad decisons and obviously do not know the local political terrain. Add this to the fact that we have a county chair [Mike O'connor] who has NEVER run a successful campaign and it is scary. I personally spoke with Andre who assures me that the money is there, more is coming in daily, and that lots of radio/tv is purchased and staffers are being paid. I also checked with a staffer I know well who has not missed a check yet. I know the locals supporting Andre know how to put a ground game together and that is reassuring. Still questions need to be asked about some of the tactical decisions. One little item then leads irresponsbile Carson hating bloggers like one who is trying to "advance" his GOP buddies into a feeding frenzy of misinformation and lies.

Chris Worden said...

Anon 9:14 a.m.:

Thanks for your comment. That makes me feel better, but not about the staff. If the money was there, Zwerdling could have crushed this just by saying, "We're flush, and if you want to look at our bank statement, I'll show it to you on background so you don't print something that is demonstrably false. We've just decided to go a different direction." You know what happens if he says this? There's NO STORY.

But for the late hour and the bad press that a shakeup would cause now (Advance Indiana DOES love to talk about personnel changes in D campaigns as if it indicates a collapsing campaign), I'd recommend that Carson retool his team.

Anonymous said...

Interstingly - I had a Woody Myers Volunteer stop by my house today. I told him I was a republican. He asked if I wanted a yard sign. I did tell him out of all of the Democrats in the race I would vote for Myers.

He did not leave a yard sign but did check my name off a short walking list he had.

I wonder if they were out looking to see how many R votes they might get ?

I wonder if I will get my yard sign ?

My guess on Andre is he iseither short on cash ( 33% chance ) or they decided not to roll out the ads they had planned and do new ads with the Obama Endorsement ( 33% Chance ) or some other unknown reason.

artfuggins said...

I wont pretend to know the reason a handful of tv spots were cancelled but I can confirm that it wass not because of a lack of money

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you know half of the story but not the other half. What else do you not know ?

Anonymous said...

Carson's the best candidate? Are you joking?

He's a nice guy. Engaging too. But if his last name was Smith, he'd be nowhere close to this race. Orentlicher's the most qualified, and Myers is close.