Monday, December 12, 2005

Hackett/Brown Goes National

I'm blogging this cold -- without checking my thoughts against what' on other blogs. I'm sure this is the hot topic of the day.

First off, we have an article in today's PD about the national interest in the Hackett/Brown race. Most of the usual suspects are represented. In Hackett's corner, Bob Brigham of Swing State Project:

Brigham, who followed Hackett around southwest Ohio during the last week of Hackett's congressional campaign, said he repeatedly saw Republicans come up to Hackett with a two-part message. The first part, he said, was, "I don't agree with you." The second part was, "But I'm going to vote for you."

"They respected him as somebody who was going to tell it the way it is even if it ruffled feathers. He's not your typical cautious, poll-driven, finger-in-the wind politician," said Brigham, who lives in San Francisco. "That sense of conviction is something voters can smell."
Across the ring, Brown's cut man, David Sirota:

"Members of Congress and elected officials everywhere are going to look at this race as proof of whether there are political rewards for taking risks for the progressive cause," said Sirota.

Sirota concedes that Hackett is charismatic, but he rejects flatly the idea that a Hackett-Brown matchup pits a bold, refreshing leader against a conventional establishment politician. He said Hackett strikes him as erratic, "extraordinarily impulsive and out of control." Brown, he said, is no wimp.

"Sherrod Brown is not a typical weak-kneed, [finger]-in-the-wind Democrat," said Sirota. He cited a sharp exchange at a congressional hearing in 2004 between Brown and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, during which Brown infuriated Powell by suggesting that Bush "may have been AWOL" when he served in the Air National Guard.
That's pretty much the debate. I've wondered out loud before about Hackett's attraction to the same liberal bloggers who fulminate against the "Move to the center" conventional wisdom in Democratic circles. To the extent we know what Hackett's politics are, they look pretty centrist. In fact, I can't help but wonder if that's why he has kept his policy positions under a bushel this time around.

The answer, I think, is his directness. Liberals -- well this one anyway -- remember the pain of trying to justify Bill Clinton's waffles legalisms and spin. We are hungry for what the Republicans have -- someone who means what he says and says what he means. (Of course it turns out that Bush just means for us to believe what he says despite the extant evidence, but that's another post.)

Sirota's point is a good one and is the reason I started sleeping better after Brown entered the race. Hackett isn't merely direct, he's reckless. A few more "Bush the coke-snorting president" blasts and the Hackett mystique will start to unravel. We want at least to have a backstop should that happen.

Meanwhile, Sherrod apparently discussed an in-house poll at a conference and saw it in a blog a few hours later. Phil de Vellis sent Ohio bloggers an email detailing the poll results:
Representative Sherrod Brown currently wins a majority of the vote in the
Ohio Democratic primary for United States Senate, besting Paul Hackett by a
better than two-to-one margin. Including those who lean towards a
candidate, 51 percent of Democratic primary voters support Brown, 22
percent prefer Hackett, and 26 percent are undecided. Excluding leaning
voters, 47 percent of voters support Brown and 20 percent prefer Hackett,
while one-third (33 percent) are undecided.
...Methodological note: This
poll of 600 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted December 6th
and 7th, 2005, by professional interviewers. Respondents indicated they are
likely to participate in the May 2006 Democratic primary election. The
margin of error is plus or minus 4.0 percent.
Phil spends a fair amount of time justifying the bona fides of the poll, which is a bit behind the point. The problem with internal poll results isn't that they are slanted toward the candidate by a pollster he pays -- the candidate, after all, wants accurate information. The issue is that we generally only see the happy results from a campaign. So if, for example, a internal Brown campaign poll shows Hackett kicking DeWine's ass and Brown even, we'll never hear about it.

Finally, a little closer to home, de Vellis called the House of Pho this weekend and we had a wide-ranging chat for about 45 minutes. He gave me a couple interesting tidbits that I need to check the blogability on.

I am less scandalized by this contact than some of the bloggers to the north. It strikes me as analogous to Editorial Board meetings candidates have with newspapers. Brown is thinking -- accurately, I think -- that political blogs are important opinion makers and need to be tended much like traditional media. How true that is for a wiggly worm like me remains to be seen, but the cost is relatively low, so it's simply smart campaign strategy.


Kagro X said...

Two comments:

1. Bob Brigham is no longer with Swing State Project. Site founder and editor DavidNYC says he has, "moved on."

2. That explanation of the Brown poll's methodology wasn't from Phil, it was from the pollster. Phil just forwarded the executive summary memo.