IN-07 special election, and why the NRCC's financial woes matter

It's the season of special elections. Three days after the stunning Democratic take-over in IL-14, voters will go to the polls tomorrow in Indiana's 7th district. This is a traditionally Democratic district, centered on Indianapolis. But there are many factors that are very favorable to Republicans.

For Indianapolis turned red in November in the municipal elections, in one of the night's most unexpected upsets. Second, Rep. Carson had been struggling in the district's for a few cycle's already, winning underwhelmingly. While some of that can be explained by the congresswoman's absenteism due to health problems -- she tragically died a few months ago, setting up this special election -- the district is showing a surprising readiness to turn to the GOP.

And then there is the choice of candidates: the Republicans are fielding a strong candidate, state Rep. Jon Elrod, who was already being heavily courted before Carson's death and before it became clear that the seat would be open. Democrats, on the other hand, chose the grandson of the late congresswoman, Andre Carson. Many are criticizing that choice as the weakest choice the Democrats could have made. There have been two polls of the race in the past two months: The first showed Carson leading by only 3%, and the second showed him up by a much more comfortable 18% ahead. A big disparity indeed.

So why is this special election not being talked about more, and are Democrats really in danger of giving back tomorrow what they gained on Saturday? It's hard to say exactly how tight the race will be tomorrow, but an Elrod victory would be even more surprising than Foster's was on Saturday. First, the fundamentals of the district still clearly favor Democrats in a year in which the party has a very clear advantage. And you have to add to that the low turnout factor: Democrats have been turning out in far greater numbers in almost every election since January -- including in red states -- and that probably accounts for a big part of Foster's Illinois Victory as well.

The biggest reason why Elrod is not looking more threatening tomorrow, however, is the NRCC's fundraising woes. The Republican Congressional Committee barely has enough money in the bank and massively trails their Democratic counterpart. In the past two weeks, they spent more than 1/5th of their cash on hand defending IL-14... and they lost. The NRCC has no money whatsoever right now to invest in a long-shot seat like IN-07 -- and they know that whatever they spend the DCCC will easily outspend them by huge amounts. Not only can't they afford to start an ad war, but the fact that they can't keep one up would probably put their candidate in a bigger hole than he started with.

Now, the DCCC did not hesitate to jump in both OH-05 in December and in IL-14 last week. It lost the first and won the second but in both it forced Republicans to play defense, panic and spend a ton of money. It tested GOP strength in both districts, and looked at what stuck. They have raised enough money to be able to afford that. If the positions were inversed right now, you can be sure the DCCC would have invested a significant amount in IN-07, since the conditions of the district are even more favorable than in IL-14 and OH-05.

This funding disparity will continue all the way to November. Expect Republicans to be unable to contest nearly as many Democratic-held seats as they would want (and thus they will let many freshmen representatives strengthen their position) and they will have to face a Democratic onslaught, as the DCCC will not hesitate to test Republicans in districts left and right to see where they might be potential. And the GOP will not be able to defend all those places and will be left hoping that the individual candidates have enough resources to counter the DCCC.

Even if Elrod somehow wins tomorrow, he will have done so mostly by himself. The differences between IL-14 and IN-07 still stand, and they will have a major impact on November.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Senate race made some news today, as Mike Ciresi announced he would renounce his bid for the Democratic primary nod. This makes Al Franken the party's presumptive nominee to take on Senator Norm Coleman. A string of polls over the past
few weeks showed Franken narrowly edging out Coleman in what is shaping up to be one of the top Senates in the country.

Early in the cycle, Ciresi and Franken seemed to be engaged in a very competitive primary, with doubts surrounding Franken's general election strength. But once Franken posted very strong fundraising numbers and tied Coleman in polls, his case was dramatically strengthened; he was opening up a clear edge over Ciresi for the party's nomination (which was going to be decided at a state convention), and Ciresi must have felt that as well. Now, Franken can turn his attention -- and his impressive resources -- to Coleman and avoid spending too much of it in the primary process.

Labels: ,


  • Taniel, the poll you said about Elrond being ahead 3% says that Carson barely wins 41% to 38%. You may want to correct your typo.

    I will say that you right that Andre Carlson is weak enough that Elrond could defeat him, but Carson still has the edge because of the makeup of the district and the GOP's money woes. IN-07 would be the most democratic district represented by a Republican if Elrond wins (Even more than Mike Castle's Delware at large seat) and he would have a tough time holding it in November with a opponent stronger than Carson and improved Democratic turnout.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 March, 2008 21:34  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home