Monday, May 24, 2010

iPOPA's Week in Review

Sorry to be a bit dormant this past week. Sometimes it’s "so many stories, so little time." Here’s your week in review with my quick “hits” plus a follow up on Vop Osili and "name combat."

Hawaii Special Election Victory Meaningless for GOP
Republican Charles Dijou won a three-way, Hawaiin special election for U.S. Congress against two Democrats. Dijou’s “victory” with forty percent of the vote was not surprising. The surprising part was RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s statement that the victory was significant because it was the “district where the President of the United States was born.” (Shhh! Don’t say that too loud, Mike. You might get ousted by the staggering percent of Republicans who still think the President wasn’t born in America!) Stelle undoubtedly wanted to add significance while he could since he knows they'll give this back in November, provided one of the D's clears the field.

Souder Said What?!?
Maybe I’m just burned out on politicians who lecture on morality while living below their own standards, but Mark Souder’s comments today don’t sit well with me at all. We all sin. But what galls is the idea he actually thought about sticking it out because “there was no evidence of an affair.” To know you're betraying the very ideals you claim to serve while clinging to the right to stay? That’s the greatest arrogance in this sordid affair.

GOP's Rivera Keeps Good Company
If anybody thinks the Democratic Party is not open to all comers, look at this photo of Republican, At-Large City-County Councillor (and generally amiable guy), Angel Rivera, at the Indiana Latino Democratic Pac’s Cinco De Maya membership drive. Inquiring minds want to know - did he cut a check?!?!

iPOPA Revisits "Name Combat" and Vop
Sometimes I revisit analysis after feedback from fellow politicos, friends, and fans. Today is one of those days. I’ve written about name combat, and I noted that candidates with “foreign” sounding names almost always fare poorly. But I also wrote that Vop Osili, whose name is nowhere near “Jim Smith,” would assist our party more than Tom McKenna as our Secretary of State candidate. Many have wondered about this seemingly contradictory conclusion. McKenna would clearly outperform Osili in name combat, right?

Absolutely, statewide. But here's the part that might depress you, Democrats, so I left it out. I'm not overly optimistic that either Tom or Vop can win in November. Indiana is still a Republican state, chocked full of what I call open-minded, Republican leaners (insert your joke here, Democrats). And the further you go down the ballot, the harder it is for a Democrat to win, absent staggering fundraising advantages or a very feeble Republican opponent.

To illustrate the point, consider this. Indiana hasn't seen a Democratic Secretary of State since Joe Hogsett left in 1994, an Auditor since Otis Cox in 1986, a Treasurer since Jack New left in February of 1979, and a Superintendent of Public Instruction since 1973! Democrats have done best electing Attorneys General with Pam Carter in 1992 and Jeff Modisett in 1996, but both of those campaigns lucked out to a degree in having opponents with some deficiencies Democrats exploited to draw stark contrasts.

Pam Carter had done securities enforcement, which we pitched as "white collar crime prosecution," and she was running against a criminal defense attorney, Tim Bookwalter, who had defended "rapists," "molesters," and "drug dealers." Jeff Modisett had been Marion County prosecutor while his opponent, Steve Carter, suffered from a charisma deficit and had never tried a case. "Not one." Does an AG try cases? Of course not. But this is politics, folks. Perception IS political reality.

Even Hogsett's 1990 Secretary of State win was unique because he was running against Bill Hudgnut, the Mayor of Indianapolis, the most despised city in the state for everybody who doesn't live here, and Hogsett branded Hudnut as a guy who "raised taxes 27 times." Plus, Hogsett harnessed the Evan Bayh mojo to raise over a million dollars. This year, we have my Wabash classmate, Charlie White, running as the Republican. (Could his name literally get any more vanilla for name combat purposes?) White's springboard to statewide office is his service on the Fishers Town Council. Unless there's some astonishing opposition research of which I'm not aware showing White has voted to raise some town tax over and over, this race will be very difficult.

If you start from the perspective that neither guy is likely to eke out a victory (and trust me when I tell you, I hope I'm wrong), all that's left is the question of who can do the most for the rest of the ticket. Because many African-Americans are dedicated, straight-ticket voters, that will be Vop. To do the most for the party, Vop doesn't even have to compete everywhere. He just has to drive up D turnout in high African-American areas. His core market will be people who might not vote but for their chance to elect Indiana's first African-American Secretary of State and maybe Governor.

One colleague said that any benefit from Vop on the ticket would be cumulative because in many places with high African-American populations, you already have other African-American candidates, for example, like in Indianapolis with Andre Carson. I disagree somewhat with respect to Carson. There's no doubt his a vote-getter, but his district only touches 445 of the 590 precincts that comprise Marion County. With respect to everywhere else, outside of Indianapolis, any African-American candidate would be down ticket, and they are not likely to have the money to afford the high media exposure that will motivate voters.

Is Vop a lost cause? Absolutely not. But to win, he would need to raise at least $1.5-$2 million to do a solid statewide TV buy, and he'd have to have an absolutely captivating bio ad. That's the counter to name combat deficiencies - favorable name ID (a/k/a "personal likeability"). If people know and like you, the name won't matter. The problem is that too many politicians with "funny" names never get to that level of recognition. Also, Vop would need to outspend White, and he'd need a scorched earth negative to blast a hole in White. While White's fundraising has been lackluster ($39,500 cash-on-hand as of March 31), Vop hasn't been on a million-dollar pace ($68,000 cash-on-hand on March 31 to McKenna's $96,000).

If Vop wins at the state convention, money will shake free as all the "smart money" people can quit hedging their bets and grow spines, but $1.5 million worth? That's a tall order. (Yes, it will take that much. Remember that Linda Pence raised a cool million and still lost to Greg Zoeller in 2008, which was clearly a favorable Democratic year). What is more likely is Vop having money in a range that makes media geared toward drumming up turnout more sensible than for persuasion.

On the subject of name combat, I knew Una Osili had finished 4th of 8 in her state convention delegate race, and every "African" name fared poorly (look here at state convention races), even in Marion County.

But I wondered how a "McKenna" might do in "name combat." The results from Hamilton County were encouraging...for Mary Ann McKenna. For Tom, not so much.

Take a look at this astonishing result for at-large Hamilton County state convention delegate, and see if you notice any of iPOPA's "name combat" rules in play.

3097 - 9.36% - Mary Ann Mckenna
2963 - 8.95% - Nancy Funk
2876 - 8.69% - Trish Whitcomb
2869 - 8.67% - Janet Rummel
2725 - 8.23% - Bonnie J. Kennelly
2681 - 8.10% - Rita D. Richard
2527 - 7.63% - Christopher A. Brown
2428 - 7.33% - Christian K. Renner
2344 - 7.08% - William A. "Bill" Latham
2289 - 6.91% - Alan D. Albright
2125 - 6.42% - Keith Clock
2092 - 6.32% - James Steven Bohner
2089 - 6.31% - David Snead

Did everyone pick up that the first six candidates are all women, and the last seven are all men?

Then I turned to Tom McKenna's race for state convention delegate, and, in a word, "Ouch."

1141 - 6.54% - Judy S. Goldblatt
1126 - 6.46% - Josephine E. "Jo" Latham
1118 - 6.41% - Mary Russell
1111 - 6.37% - Kathryn M. Raymore
1070 - 6.16% - Felicia D. Brown
1068 - 6.12% - Sonya P. Wendel
1062 - 6.09% - Caitlin C. Intermill
1047 - 6.00% - Monique D. Wise
1018 - 5.84% - Deborah Hejl
1015 - 5.82% - Tom Mckenna
907 - 5.20% - Patricia M. Toschlog
814 - 4.67% - Henry Winckler
803 - 4.60% - Cary A. Hudson
786 - 4.51% - Keith D. Boland
702 - 4.03% - Douglas M. Kinser
698 - 4.00% - Myron K. Richardson
674 - 3.87% - James W. Rosensteele
654 - 3.75% - Tom Decoster
620 - 3.56% - Edwin E. Russell

Tom McKenna, who has been telling Democrats he will beat Charlie White in the home county they share, finished tenth in a nineteen-person field of Democrats. You may say, "Yes, but isn't that just name combat being true to form, iPOPA? After all, unless Cary Hudson is a woman, you again have ladies in the top nine slots, then Tom, then another woman, followed by the rest of the fellas in the basement." But familiarity and likeability are supposed to trump name combat, which should tell us all something about McKenna's name ID in Hamilton County because there's no question about McKenna's likeability.

In short, I stand by my initial analysis: two likeable guys, two strenuous roads ahead.



FiniFinito said...

I appreciate the sentiment here Chris, but I believe you're mistaken on a couple of fronts. First of all, Vop has outraised Tom McKenna in most of the counties and definitely has outraised him in general as of the last report filed in April. His cash on hand appears lower due to the fact Vop opened a new campaign office and hired staff which as you know will deplete campaign cash on hand numbers quickly but will increase your electability factor by a huge margin.

Second of all, because of the fact he has an office and new hires this increases his chance of winning in November because here we are in May heading into June and Vop is already hitting the ground running. Charlie White has not been heard from much and has just as much promotion to do to get his name out there but has as yet not made any moves to do so. I call BS on this meme, but it does make sense on some level, its just not accurate in this case as far as Vop Osili is concerned.

Chris Worden said...


You know we're cool, but I don't feel like what you're saying is a refutation on any of my points.

Charlie White could not campaign at all and still have an advantage in this race by virtue of the state's political leanings. He could literally coast on being Charlie White, Republican and win with coordinated GOP campaign mailers....UNLESS Vop puts up a huge TV buy to fend off a "name combat" scenario, which my research has demonstrated pretty clearly he would lose.

I'm amused people somehow think my comments are anti-Vop. They aren't even remotely. I'm voting for the guy at slating, and I'm going to cut him a check. My comments are based in a reality of what I've seen election cycle after election cycle about how Hoosiers respond to names that sound different.

Unfortunately, unless Vop's staff does nothing but raise money to the tune of at least $4-$5 in for every $1 out, and unless his office is cheap, he's losing critical dollars every month that could have gone into that very TV buy that would boost him to victory.

VOP can win this, but he needs beaucoup bucks down the homestretch, not dollars going up in an early flash of ceremonial campaign officialdom.

Let's hope you can all say I was wrong, wrong, wrong. That'd be so crow I'd love to eat.

Keith said...

Why didn't I see Vop run for convention delegate under his nickname Vop or his real name Ifeanyi Osili? Unless I overlooked it, I don't think Vop ran for convention delegate at all. Sort of unusual he wouldn't run to be a delegate for a convention in which he is a candidate don't you think?

I'm assuming the state party will allow him to be on the floor considering he is a candidate. However, per the convention rules, only delegates are allowed on the convention floor.

Joh(FiniFinito): Why would Vop buy office space now? I believe it's just another example of his reckless campaign spending. Vop has spent over $70,000 so far on a convention race. If I were a potential VOP donor I'd think twice about giving to a campaign spending money like Michael Steele.

FiniFinito said...

Keith: I'm not sure using your friend Tom McKenna's 10th out of 13th finish in his state delegate race is a solid example of a competent statewide campaign strategy. Tom is relying on the support of a handful of old cronies from his Bayh Administration glory days and now I see some new cronies as well at work.

Laying the groundwork for a fall campaign now because you have solid delegate support statewide is a pretty good indicator of the confidence Vop has in the level of support he has statewide. He's been to most of the JJ Dinners, he's been out door knocking and phone calling and he is meeting with every delegate he can get together with.

Keith said...

Classy of you to start name calling ("cronies"). Surely if Vop wins at the convention he won't be asking Bayh or any of his "cronies" that you're trashing for any help or financial assistance. Right?

By the way, in interest of fair disclosure perhaps readers should know Joh (FiniFinito) is a paid staffer for Vop. I am just a Democrat supporting Tom McKenna who happens to be the most qualified and electable candidate for Secretary of State.

FiniFinito said...

And while we are at the full disclosure part of the mudslinging, Keith is the 5th District and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman. I work for Vop under the same self imposed rules I have used when working for all political clients - that I must first believe they are the best candidate for the job and secondly the most electable.

Vop has supporters all over Indiana who have contributed $5-$10,000. He has cris crossed the state making his case for why he should be our party's nominee. Where has Tom McKenna been? Outside of Hamilton County that is.

The real issues raised by this post by Chris is that Democrats are going to have an uphill battle winning this November. I believe Vop has the fundraising prowess to get the job done this fall. I don't think Tom McKenna can raise funds the same way Vop can. I also don't think Tom has the support of the base like Vop does.

Lawyer said...

I am not a paid staffer of anyone and I openly acknowledge I support Vop Osili.

Keith's statement regarding Vop's birth name puts me in mind of the people in the 2008 election who emphasized "Hussein" as in Barack Hussein Obama. The Democratic party is the party of inclusion and to see a Democratic candidate take a Karl Rove approach in soliciting Democrats is extremely disappointing. I dare say that if this continues, the McKenna campaign will be driving voters into the camp of Vop Osili.

As for running for convention delegate, I like the idea that Vop decided he would leave the convention delegate spots to the voting Democrats. Vop apparently believes he can easily win without his single vote.

Finally, hiring staff and opening an office are the actions of a candidate who believes he can win the convention and wants to be prepared to hit the ground running the day after the convention. These are the actions of a leader with foresight and vision.

Go Vop!

Chris Worden said...

I'm going to have to tell you two what my mother always said on long trips...

...children, please!

We have two great candidates, both of whom I admire and respect, so while my policy is to post every comment, I'm not sure how I feel about interparty sniping that feels too personal for my tastes.

If you want to make a case for which candidate is stronger, feel free. People need to hear the best arguments out there. But if you are going to make them, make them to iPOPA readers, not to each other, or you might not get posted.

Anonymous said...

Keith: Last time I checked the old strategy of laying low until the convention and then expecting to win in November hasn't worked out very well for Democrats. Thankfully, we have a candidate like Vop who understand that you must build a firm network of support around the state so that you are ready to go the day after the convention.

Vop was the first person to enter the SOS race and has been working extremely hard ever since. Sure he has spent more money than McKenna, he has been campaigning more and he raised more money than any other candidate! Vop has personally visited over 85 counties. Vop has spent more time in South West Indiana (where I live) than any other statewide candidate in memory, and I hear the same thing from fellow Democrats in other parts of the state as well. His delegate support and County Chair endorsements and Labor endorsement reflect that fact.

About the electability question: Vop is the only candidate talking about the other aspects of the SOS office. He is the only candidate with a solid vision about how to use the office to in new ways to help put people back to work. His plan is bold, actionable and is exactly the type of message that Democrats need this year.

Chris Worden said...

Sorry, but there will be no more comments. Keith rightly noted that this is getting like the Indystar. If you guys want to "take it outside" rhetorically speaking, do that, because I'm not putting up anything else.

Jon E. Easter said...

If you have questions for Vop about his given name or about his voting record, please ask him. He will tell you. I know this because I asked him. I again suggest you do the same. It's very simple. He's not hiding anything.

Anonymous said...

Charlie White is a liar and a cheater... This man has cheated on his wife multiple times.. Just ask the Fishers Fire Department! Enough said.