March 25, 2013

Two new political initiatives have been launched in the past two months by high-profile personalities Karl Rove and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  Both initiatives seek to impact the outcome of the 2014 elections, but both have become controversial in their efforts to do so.  Most recently, Bloomberg made an announcement that he will spend an initial $12 million to run ads in select cities pressuring specific senators to adopt stricter gun control measures. He has also said he will commit millions of dollars to his Mayors Against Illegal Guns group.

Outside groups can make a difference in campaigns.  But Rove and Bloomberg appear to have handled the roll-out and announcement of their respective political operations in a way that may have harmed their causes in states where they had hoped to make more of a difference.

I could see how an incumbent senator could easily deflect a lot of the firepower directed at them by Mayor Bloomberg just by letting voters know that the billionaire mayor of New York City has come to their home state to run ads telling them not only what kind of guns they can have, but how much more paperwork they need to fill out and send to Washington in order to own a gun.  The opponents of these targeted senators would then have to answer the question of whether or not they agree with the billionaire mayor of New York City imposing his personal view of gun ownership on their state.  Bloomberg is making himself an easy target, and that could prove detrimental to his effectiveness on the issue of gun control.

Rove made a bold announcement that he and his Conservative Victory Project group were going to get involved in GOP primary races, instantly leading to a rallying cry by the anti-establishment crowd that Washington consultants were getting involved in GOP primaries. Obviously, it is a real negative to be seen as the Washington establishment candidate in a GOP primary just about anywhere in the country.

Without question, the Senate would have five more Republican members if we had had better candidates in some of the 2010 and 2012 senate races.  And to me it’s undeniable that in 2014, there are between two and five races where there is the potential for Republicans to elect an almost certain loser in the primaries. It’s good if groups want to get in early and try to impact the outcome of the 2014 races, but to do so under the banner of a Washington-sponsored campaign is an instant liability for the desired candidate.  As soon as a candidate is recognized as a beneficiary of the Conservative Victory Project, he or she will face a lot of criticism and have to answer a lot of pointed political questions.  Undoubtedly, the candidate will have to distance themselves from the Conservative Victory Project.  By my reckoning, the Conservative Victory Project will be involved in probably 3 and no more than 5 primaries. Rove could have approached his involvement much more subtly — if not with total anonymity — to make sure he didn’t become a burden for some of the best nominees.

Sometimes in politics you have to decide if you want to be loud or if you want to be effective. Occasionally, being loud helps you be effective. But in these two cases, I think the promoters got carried away and have diminished the impact they could have had on the 2014 elections.