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The next news cycle on Maine Senate campaigns' fundraising
(through the period ending this evening March 31)
has only a few ways it can go --€“
none of them great for incumbent Republican Susan Collins:

Headlines on Democratic challenger Shenna Bellows' second quarter of fundraising
(if Bellows' multiplying endorsers and supporters are making a final push to chip in contributions)
will predictably be along the following lines:

“Unknown challenger
attracts even more contributions
as she becomes known.”
There are two possible headlines on incumbent Collins:
1.      “Incumbent’s quarterly fundraising again beaten by upstart challenger”,


2.    “Incumbent massively expands massive war-chest”.

See below the jump for more on:
•    these headlines' consequences, and
•    how (and how effectively) the money can be spent.

Collins would prefer the second headline, but there is such a thing as

a candidate having "too much” money
(See: Mitt Romney, Meg Whitman, etc.),

...especially an incumbent like Collins who already had more than $3 million on hand (in a small state with cheap media market) at the end of 2013.  

Of course this news cycle will pass quickly, and attention will shift to how, and how effectively, both candidates' money is spent.

Spending much more than $3 million in a small non-flashy state tends to yield rapidly diminishing returns, but the first question is:

can the incumbent’s spending of $1 or $2 million knock out the young challenger?
There are two main kinds of advertising Collins' money can buy: positive and negative.

Collins's benefits from positive advertising are limited as follows:

•    The swing voters who have previously supported Collins think they already know who she is, so Collins can’t gain much by spending lots of money talking about herself.

•    Little that any advertisement could say about Collins would be more beneficial to her than swing voters’ previous vague perception that Collins is moderate and familiar.

•    Most specific votes and positions that Collins might highlight would be an invitation for Bellows to direct the media and the voters to the ways in which Collins’ votes and positions are “too little and too late” in comparison with the current and trending policy preferences of most Mainers.

Collins' can effectively spend much more money on negatively attacking challenger Bellows, but this type of spending:
•    Raises the challenger’s name recognition and further undermines the incumbent’s aura of inevitability;

•    Surrenders the “nice” and “victim” cards that Collins has played in prior elections;

•    Enables Bellows to retain a “nice” image even while counter-attacking.

Collins could spend on carrots and sticks to obtain endorsements from local Democrats, but this is a difficult time to emphasize such an approach, as each week’s national news reveals more about its use and abuse by Chris Christie in New Jersey. Some spending on this by Collins would be logical and probably productive, but Bellows can keep it’s consequences to a minimum it by making so much more progress in the coming weeks that most Democrats grow ashamed to openly endorse her Republican opponent.

Alternatively Collins could spend the money training field workers (separate from Senate constituent services offices) in Maine’s many small towns -- like Shenna Bellows is doing. But:

What messages will Collins' workers deliver?

•    How easy is it to train a large number of field workers to talk up positions that have been designed and tweaked for 18 years less for the purpose of clarifying or resolving issues than for the purpose of generating a vague image of (ever-more Right-straddling) moderation?

•    How can Collins' workers respond to the obvious question of why Collins' "moderation" has endlessly failed to stop Republicans' gallop away from moderation and constructiveness?

The other thing field workers can do is subordinate issues to simple loyalty and turnout, through canvassing, reminders to vote, and assisting voting logistics like filling out forms and travelling to polling stations. That’s the kind of trench warfare that wins an election marathon, which Bellows' quick start and persistence can force Collins into running.

Each time Collins' original polling edge narrows

•    this narrowing will energize and multiply Bellows' campaign workers, and

•    the growing risk of losing might demoralize some of Collins' campaign workers;

•    in any case, Collins is not going to find it easy to

pivot from 18 years of “nice and safe”,
to 6 months of “productive, exciting and worth trench-fighting for”, matter how much money she spends.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Collins wins by getting (2+ / 0-)

    so many Democrat's votes. I wish I knew how to convince these dems to vote for Shenna. I don't understand what motivates them. I know one person, quite progressive, who votes for Collins because he thinks that it's important to have Senators with seniority and thinks Collins relatively liberal. I told him that Collins and Snowes votes for Roberts and Alito show they can't even be counted on to protect a woman's right to choose.  Most races across the land are waged by convincing independents that the Democratic brand is better than the Republican brand. This race is more about convincing people who already buy the Democratic brand to not vote Republican.

    I'm hoping that Shenna's strong stand on the NSA peels away some of the automatic wingnut support that Collins gets simply because these folks think the dems =big government.

    music- the universal language

    by daveygodigaditch on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 06:27:08 AM PDT

    •  Twas bad news for SC's previous opponents, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      it suggests that Collins' support is, though mile-wide, also inch-deep.

      The general principle that

      'You can't fool all of the moderate Democrats all of the time'
      and the fact that
      trying to move from 18 years to 24 years starts to look a lot like "all of the time",
      ...may be part of the reason that George Mitchell, William Cohen and Olympia Snowe -- all of whom had higher winning margins than Susan Collins -- each decided not to ask Maine voters for more than 18 years in office.
  •  Collins' mask of moderation wl be severely tested (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    daveygodigaditch, BMScott, where4art the showdown now unrolling between Dianne Feinstein, backed very aggressively by Harry Reid, and the CIA, backed with attempted finesse by Susan Collins, but with much less finesse by Saxby Chambliss and Richard Burr.

    The CIA's primary goal appears to be delaying release of the Senate torture report until the November election, and they have outraged Feinstein and Reid.

    So this showdown could easily drag on for much or all of this year's campaign, making it harder and harder for Collins (who has already been criticized for this in several Maine newspapers) to disguise her partisan and anti-libertarian role.

    Shenna has the perfect profile, knowledge and skills to press this issue.

    Shenna's out-reach to Rand Paul admirers gains strength from every new twist in this "unprecedented" (Reid's and Mark Udall's very apt term) and dramatic showdown.

  •  Republican Collins has voted 9 times, for an Repub (3+ / 0-)

    to lead the Senate, and by extension, the Senate Committees. That alone should motivate the Dems to back one of their own, and maybe some real moderate Republicans that are tired of McConnell, Cruz and Inhofe's antics will join too.

    Bellows is everything we could ask for in a candidate and has found a chink in the incumbent Republican's armor. Over a dozen Progressive groups have endorsed her, and the generally conservative DSCC has too. Strangely some members of Dkos seem unable to decide that a 50 state strategy is worth fighting for.

  •  Kossacks can help with the narrative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BMScott, where4art

    Collins will come out with higher numbers this time - she can't afford to let Bellows beat her on the total again, after seeing how that changed the dynamics of this race. And she's got plenty of friends on K Street. But if she can't match Bellows in the number of small donors- and the odds are good that she can't- the Bellows campaign can make hay with that.

    If you can help out, follow the link at the beginning of the diary to get to a matching link. Or go to bellowsforsenate and click on the Contribute button there.

    Support a Progressive Dem from Maine for US Senate! Bellows for Senate

    by Illegitimi non carborundum on Mon Mar 31, 2014 at 07:13:29 AM PDT

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