If a candidate for Congress wants to be inoculated from being on our target list, there is an easy way to do so: get on the right side of reform. Pledge to support one or more of the fundamental reforms listed at reform.to [....] Candidates have until 5 PM EST next Tuesday, August 5, to inoculate themselves.Facing the same harsh calculus known all too well to high school sophomores jockeying for dates to the prom, candidates and Mayday alike have, no doubt, been wrestling with the necessity of avoiding looking needy and shopping down-market. But this is a game in which -- in principle -- Mayday holds all the cards (twelve million of them, to be precise).
With the passing of the 5 PM August 5 witching hour just moments ago, I thought it would be interesting to look at the final numbers. Since the date of Mayday's 'warning shot', how many candidates have publicly self-administered inoculations against the Mayday plague by pledging loyalty to reform.to's paths forward? How are they distributed with respect to party affiliations? With respect to their campaigns' finances? These are more than merely inside-baseball stats of interest only to wonks, as they should provide us with some interesting and useful context regarding the five races Mayday plans to intercede in, and perhaps how Mayday came to those (soon to be announced) decisions. Join me below the fold for the answers.
Mayday's sister organization, reform.to, is the keeper of the list of campaign finance reform proposals that inoculees must ascribe to, and on its Twitter account, @reform_to, it prominently congratulates newly inoculated candidates as their promises come in. Assuming this is a complete reporting, we tallied all new candidate names tweeted by @reform_to on or after July 29 (the date of Mayday's ultimatum), and up till just moments before publication, as a measure of candidate response to the Mayday warning shot. The table at the top of this page (further discussed in the text below) summarizes the results.
The take-home lessons:
Overall, A Tepid Response
With some 900 candidates running for House seats alone, only 15 saw fit to respond directly to Mayday's July 29 challenge. Now, to be fair, numerous Democratic incumbents likely consider themselves to already be immune by virtue of having previously co-sponsored one or another campaign finance reform bill. Still, this showing is probably not what Mayday was hoping for. A little public show of moral support from some of those incumbents would have been nice, but didn't happen.
Republicans Are Distinctly Unimpressed
All of the 15 respondents are Democrats, which is perhaps unsurprising given the widely held impression that Republicans are the primary beneficiaries of Big Dark Money today. Mayday is a young effort with, today, only modest money to throw around; wake the Republicans up when it can go toe-to-toe with the sum of the Kochs, Heritage, Club for Growth, Citizens United, and the like.
In Some Cases, Not So Much an Immunization as an SOS
The majority of these responding candidates are, sadly, in over their heads: running forlorn hope campaigns on little more than lunch money (if that), in overwhelmingly Republican districts, against entrenched and well-bankrolled incumbents. The extreme examples here would be Mary Headrick (TN-03) and Alanna Hartzok (PA-09), with zero dollars between them in their war chests as of their latest FEC filings, going after well-heeled Republicans in heavily Republican districts (rated by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index with 16- and 14-point Republican advantages, respectively). Earnest and right-hearted as these inoculees undoubtedly are, nonetheless theirs are the kind of quixotic campaigns that do not excite support from national party committees and other conventional funders, who need to prioritize their giving for good reasons. Real Clear Politics hasn't even bothered to put up informative pages yet for the majority of these races -- they're that forlorn.
Still, a Few Exceptional Opportunities For Mayday
A handful of exceptions to the forlorn-hope characterization do, however, stand out. The most exciting of these is Jim Mowrer (IA-04), taking on Republican incumbent and noted crazy-person Steve King, in a district that is less overwhelmingly Republican than most here, and bringing some serious money to the table ($700K versus King's $400K as of last report). Of course, with his incumbent's advantage and his tea party darling status, King nonetheless holds the high ground. Nevertheless, from a progressive's perspective Mowrer looks like a great investment for Mayday. We hope it agrees. But will it? King has been a distinctly lackluster earner of PAC contributions (coming in 12th place among the 14 Republican opponents listed in the table). The argument might thus be made (by some) that King is far less beholden to Big Dark Money than most, which might make Mayday look partisan --something it appears to dread like Ebola -- should it choose to go after him. But on the other hand, this is a rare opportunity for Mayday to please both Democrats and Republicans alike...at least non-tea Republicans in House leadership, who would undoubtedly love to see somebody finally S King TFU. And should Mowrer win thanks in part to a tsunami of Mayday advertising, talking heads and pundits wouldn't be able to shut up about it either -- fantastic press ahead of its all-in 2016 effort. Plus it would largely erase the taint of Mayday's previous boneheaded endorsement of right-wing extremist Jim Rubens. So it would be an interesting play from a whole lot of different angles.
Likewise worthy of mention (and consideration by Mayday) are imunees Ann Callis (D; IL-13), chasing incumbent Rodney Davis (R) in the only race here that Real Clear Politics currently rates a toss-up; Doug Owens (D; UT-04) tackling Mia Love (R) (but in an overwhelmingly Republican district); and Mike Eggman (D; CA-10) challenging incumbent Jeff Denham (R) in an almost perfectly purple California district.
Mayday has proposed to back a total of five candidates in this cycle, and has already endorsed two: Staci Appel (D; IA-03) -- a fine choice -- and no-chance xenophobe Jim Rubens (R; NH-Sen). Mowrer plus two of the other three candidates discussed above would fill out its dance card nicely for this cycle.
Just do it, Lessig. You know you want to.
7:45 PM PT: UPDATE: Over at Irregular Times ( http://irregulartimes.com/... ), the inestimable Jim Cook has further analyzed the party affiliations of all 210 candidates who have taken the Mayday pledge, the vast majority of these before the July 29-Aug 5 period analyzed here. Because man does not live by ultimatums alone. The executive summary: 96% Democratic, 1% Republican.