House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer appears in San Diego to support Scott Peters in Congressional race–UPDATED
Did you hear that Steny Hoyer was in town last week? My guess is probably not since it received very little coverage, if any. But yes, the second most powerful Democrat in the House of Representatives—second behind San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi—was in San Diego last week to drum up support for Scott Peters in his run to unseat Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray. On Friday I had the opportunity to participate in a media availability with the Congressman from Maryland; a chance to get an idea from someone who represents the national Democratic Party just exactly what their plans are for the local races.
“This is a critical race for us,” Hoyer said about the Peters-Bilbray matchup.
“This has been one of the most unproductive, negative, confrontational Congresses in which I’ve served, and we need positive people who have commitment and experience to come to the Congress of the United States. I think Scott Peters can make an extraordinarily positive contribution to the Congress of the United States, so I wanted to come out here and say that, and urge people to work for him, vote for him, send him to Congress, and help turn this Congress from a non-productive, negative body to a productive, positive body,” Hoyer said about why he came to San Diego.
“This seat is critically important to us, which is why I’m here, and why we’re going to dedicate a lot of resources to (Peters’) success.”
This is all very good news if you’re a Scott Peters supporter, and very worrisome if you’re looking for a Brian Bilbray victory in November. Or at least it should be. But when you really look at it, Bilbray, in my estimation, will still have a considerable advantage in the resources available to him in this race. And I’m not just talking about money.
While Hoyer readily acknowledged that the national party was going to be providing Peters with some support, he seemed reluctant to say just exactly how much and in what form that support would arrive. And he seemed to not want to acknowledge the $1.65 million pledged by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, matching the $1.6 million devoted to Bilbray by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
When asked specifically what, if anything, in addition to the $1.65 million the Democrats are willing to contribute to the campaign, there essentially was no answer. “$1.6 million is a lot,” said Peters. He is, of course, correct: $1.65 million for a local Congressional race is a lot of money. But it’s not enough. Or rather, I should say that money alone is not enough. And this is why Democrats tend to struggle so badly in so many races.
Standing alongside Hoyer opposite Scott Peters was longtime San Diego Congressman and current mayoral candidate Bob Filner. It made sense, initially, that Filner was there. Hoyer was in town to support a Democratic candidate for Congress, so it was reasonable to assume that he would also lend the national party’s support—at least in some small measure—to the Democratic candidate for Mayor of San Diego, one whom Hoyer has known well for many years through their service together in Congress.
When we talk about resources, we’re not just talking about money. We’re talking about infrastructure and messaging, and the ability to get that message out. Republicans in the last decade have been far superior in their ability to get their message out; to control the conversation in order to turn the tide of opinion in their favor, resulting in election victories. Their policies are garbage, and have been demonstrably destructive for the middle class and the economy as a whole. Supply side economics—the theory of making the rich richer as a vehicle to enrich the rest of us—does not work, never has worked, and it never will. And yet Republicans are still able to peddle their nonsense and win elections based on nothing more than pure religious faith in junk economic theory. Why?
Because they are more organized. They are more galvanized and more singular of mind—which is not a good thing, in my opinion. There is no room for original thought, and little tolerance for deviation from the official message allowed within the Republican ranks. But they are very efficient and effective in spreading their ideas. Having a lot of money at their disposal helps—and they do have a lot of money and a lot of special interest groups willing to invest in the election of Republicans in the expectation that Republican victories will result in a huge return on that investment. Having an entire cable TV network dedicated exclusively to spreading the official Republican Party talking points certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
But Republicans have also understood that committing resources means more than just committing money to a campaign. It means facilitating the help of outside groups to contribute manpower and expertise. It means directing friendly media production outlets toward the campaign that are willing to provide services at a discounted rate in order to contribute to the cause. It means funneling field resources to help with the ground game (something Republicans are decidedly not very good at).
For Republicans, it means a galvanized and concerted effort to suppress the vote of groups that traditionally vote Democratic. For Democrats, it means voter registration drives and skilled GOTV efforts, for which the demise of ACORN due to Republican sabotage will be devastating.
While Republicans have organizations like the Koch brothers backed Americans for Prosperity and Dick Armey’s Freedom Works to do their dirty work for them. Democrats have………
At least in theory, Democrats have Organizing for America, the grassroots organization founded by the Obama campaign and built during the 2007-2008 campaign to elect Barack Obama President of the United States. It’s an organization with national reach and resources (although limited in comparison to similar Republican groups) that could do exceptional things for down ticket races such as the California 52nd District Congressional race. But as I found out, that’s not what their function is.
Some time ago I got a phone call from someone who was supervising the efforts of a local OFA group. I asked what OFA was going to do to help Democrats in general: For example, are they going to provide resources to Congressional races. “We are focused on the re-election of Barack Obama” was the reply I received. I pointed out that helping with down ticket races would help not only re-elect the president, but it would also help ensure a friendlier Congressional environment to help conduct the nation’s business. “Yes, that’s probably true, but our sole purpose is to make sure that Barack Obama is re-elected. I’m sure there are other organizations that will be helping with those other races,” I was told. It was a completely baffling and shortsighted response, and indicative of why Democrats have been struggling electorally lately.
So why shouldn’t the national Dems help out a little with not only the Congressional race, but the San Diego Mayoral race? After all, Carl DeMaio is likely to get plenty of national Republican assistance, and it’s a sure bet that his mentor from his DC days, Karl Rove and his Crossroads Super PACs, are going to get involved on DeMaio’s behalf. It would only seem logical that even providing a little help to Filner’s cause would boost the prospects of both Peters and Filner, particularly given the electoral overlap of the two races. Hoyer even admitted that Filner’s election would help Democrats overall in the region—it would help turn a San Diego region with a heavy (but mostly moderate) Republican influence a little more blue.
When asked what resources the DCCC would be willing to contribute to Filner’s mayoral campaign, we were told by one of Peters’ handlers that that question would be addressed next. It never was.
It was a reasonable assumption that Filner’s presence at the presser meant that the national Dems would be putting in something, however small, to assist in Filner’s efforts in addition to assisting Peters. So I asked Filner himself what, if anything, Hoyer and his colleagues were willing to do to help. He said that Hoyer did contribute to his campaign, but that there was really nothing the national party could do. The national party’s focus is on national and Congressional elections. They don’t get involved in local races, he said.
It’s great and important that Hoyer was here helping to raise money and promoting the candidacy of Scott Peters. Hoyer himself can only do so much, and his presence in San Diego was significant. But it’s not enough. And the $1.65 million the DCCC is contributing is by itself not enough. It’s critically significant, but it’s still not enough. They need infrastructure. They need manpower. They need the kinds of things that OFA and the pro Obama Super PAC Priorities USA can provide, but aren’t willing to.
Democrats need to once and for all realize that all of these races are intertwined, and that by committing resources to down ticket races you are by default helping the bigger races. Turning out voters for the San Diego Mayoral race turns out voters for the 52nd Congressional District race. Turning out voters for the 52nd Congressional District race turns out voters for Obama. Failure to recognize the importance of this particular mayoral race and the implications it could have on Democrats’ ability to retake control of the Congress could cost them in November.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that the House Majority PAC, heady by Hoyer, has pledged $1.2 million to go toward TV advertising to the Peters campaign. This in addition to the DCCC money. I don’t think Hoyer mentioned it at all during the press avail, but if he did, my sincere apologies for the oversight. That’s a huge step in the right direction that will go a long way toward balancing out the advantage Republicans will likely have.