Rooting for Raleigh vs. McNulty

There’s a primary coming up in about 4 weeks between Tom Raleigh and Mike McNulty for the Democratic nomination for this district. Raleigh came almost out of nowhere about a month ago. I’m very impressed with him personally and am rooting for him (for many reasons, some selfish) in the primary.

While I strongly disagree with Raleigh on a number of policy issues, he’s better than McNulty. He appears to be deeply principled. That makes me hopeful that if elected he would not fall into the Washington establishment the way McNulty has. The selfish reason is that my chances in the general election would be much stronger if Raleigh won the primary.

With all of that said, Raleigh does not have much of a chance. I’ve talked with him a little about the campaign, and I see what they’re doing in their campaign. It’s as if he has no grasp of the scope of this race. Today I was driving home on Western Ave (Route 20) and saw him standing at a defunct gas station near Crossgates with a big sign. This is a race for Congress, not Village Trustee. There are 7 counties in the district and he’s aware of two of them (Albany and Schenectady).

I give him credit for getting some press coverage, but it’s not much. He has picked up a fan on a nationwide liberal blog, but two posts on that isn’t much. Haven’t seen him much at all on Democracy in Albany or any other local blogs (except mine). His website looks reasonably good, but it’s incomplete — the “Speeches and News” link is marked “coming soon.” There’s only 4 weeks left!

I also give him a lot of credit for getting enough signatures to get on the ballot. He must have worked 60 hours a week on that.

But like many good people who are not sophisticated in politics, he just doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of what he’s trying to accomplish. 660,000 people in the district. 450,000 registered voters. 175,000 registered Democrats. How do you get a message out to so many people? Sending one postcard to 100,000 people costs $25K. And that’s just one postcard. If you campaign in person and meet 100 people a day for 500 days, that’s only 50,000. If he manages 500 people a day (impossible) for 8 weeks, that’s less than 30,000.

And as for issues, there are some where he has developed enough understanding to sound credible to the media. But is he ready to answer questions about farm policy? Does he have positions on minimum wage, foreign trade, immigration, net neutrality, etc.? The nice thing about being a libertarian is that a lot of these questions are easy to answer because of the simple small-government philosophy.

On local problems, does he even know where Schoharie County is? Does he have a position on the Gilboa dam? Does he even know there’s a problem with the dam? Could he drive from West Fulton to Fulton County by way of Fultonville without a map? (West Fulton is in Schoharie County and Fultonville is in Montgomery County, for those who don’t know). How about getting from Tribes Hill to Meco Flats? Does he know the difference between the City of Johnstown and the Town of Johnstown (or the City of Amsterdam and the Town of Amsterdam)? What is Tom Raleigh’s proposal for improving the economies of the three western counties? I don’t think McNulty can answer half these questions either, but he doesn’t have to impress anyone. One advantage of being a lawyer who handles traffic and criminal matters is you go to a lot of local courts so you learn your way around. I also worked for a judge in Fulton and Montgomery counties, and campaigned in Schoharie both for myself in 2004 and for the previous Republican candidate in 2002.

A more fundamental problem is that Raleigh has not developed a clear message. I’m watching his campaign closer than anyone, and I can’t find a soundbite. When you’re having trouble getting the voter’s attention, you have to make your message as short and simple as possible (hence my “Stop Wasting Money” theme). Perhaps one of the readers will post a comment and explain Raleigh’s message in 20 words or less?

The Daily Kos compares Raleigh to Ned Lamont, who just beat Joe Lieberman in a primary. But there’s a huge, huge difference between them. Ned Lamont’s campaign spent something like $10 million on the primary, with roughly $2M coming out of Lamont’s own pocket. Lamont also had a number of leftist bloggers supporting him and attacking Lieberman. Also, a big contrast between McNulty and Lieberman — Lieberman continues to support the war in Iraq, while McNulty has done a John Kerry flip-flop. And of course, Lamont got massive press coverage. With all of that in his favor, Lamont just barely won, 52-48.

So while I am rooting for Raleigh, I sadly predict he will do worse in the primary than I did in 2004 (I got 30% of the vote). Lee Wasserman got almost 40% of the vote in a 1996 primary, but he spent $400K and had hundreds of volunteers.

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