On Thursday at Open Left, Chris Bowers had this advice for the opposition in his very upbeat presidential forecast:
When it comes to offering concern troll advice to McCain and Republicans, I would recommend shutting down all paid media, and firing all campaign staff. McCain should take his remaining money, and distribute it to the RNC, NRCC and NRSC. Target a few close House and Senate seats to try and limit the damage, but otherwise save money for 2010 and 2012. When you are beaten, it is probably better to withdraw, save what troops and resources you can, but live to fight another day.
Crooked Timber reported yesterday on the latest from the rumor mill:
So I hear (via a prominent member of the sane Republican faction) that the word on the right side of the street is that the Republican National Committee is about to pull the plug on its joint ads with the McCain campaign, and devote its resources instead to trying to save a couple of the senators who are at serious risk of losing their seats.
On one level, this strategy makes the most sense for the RNC. McCain is looking more and more unlikely to win 270 electoral votes, so helping him is probably not the best use of resources. I am told that the Republicans did this in September/October 1996 once it became clear that Bob Dole would lose to Bill Clinton.
Furthermore, Senate Republicans may well be leaning on the RNC to do more for their incumbents. There is real concern now that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell could lose in Kentucky. That would be a terrible blow to the GOP caucus in the Senate (click the link to read why), and McConnell is more popular with his colleagues than McCain.
Sarah Palin’s recent travel schedule also suggests a focus on Congressional races. Last week she was in California (not a battleground state in the presidential race, but a place with several contested House seats) and in Omaha (where Nebraska’s second district is up for grabs). This weekend she is headed to West Virginia, where Shelley Moore Capito could lose in the second Congressional district. Capito is not only the sole Republican in the West Virginia delegation to Congress, she is the most likely Republican to win Robert Byrd’s Senate seat after he leaves the scene.
On the other hand, it would be devastating to Republican morale for the media to start reporting that the RNC had given up on McCain. I suspect that would depress GOP turnout in a lot of states, perhaps putting more House seats in play even as the RNC blankets the airwaves in behalf of a few vulnerable senators.
Here in Iowa, Republican incumbent Tom Latham is running lots of tv and radio ads in the fourth district (D+0), while 10 worst list honoree Steve King is not up on tv or radio and is barely campaigning in the fifth district (R+8). We could pick up both of these seats if expectations of an Obama landslide depress Republican turnout.
However the RNC resolves the competing demands for its resources, Sam Wang, a neurologist and political analyst who writes for the Princeton Election Consortium, thinks activists in both parties should forget about the presidential race. He argues that a “hard look at reality” suggests that Obama is going to win big, and further donations to his campaign will not affect the outcome. According to Wang, it makes more sense for activists to focus their energy and donations on the close Senate races right now.
I mostly agree, except that I think activists in battleground states (which Iowa is not) have to follow through to make sure Obama’s supporters turn out for him.
In all the states, we need to keep directing money and volunteer time to the state legislative races, which are important for many reasons.
What do you think?
UPDATE: A commenter at the Princeton Election Consortium site makes a good point:
I agree that supporting close Senate races should be primary, but continuing to contribute to the Presidential campaign isn’t useless. The margin of electoral-college victory, and even more of the popular vote, is important in defining the national sense of mandate for the victor. Politicians take notice too-as when Democrats voted for Reagan’s tax cuts (unfortunately) because of his victory margin. With a major economic rescue and reform needed, a sense of mandate is essential.