The Thinker: Rich Galen


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82 Days and Counting

Rich Galen

Thursday August 16, 2018

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  • Eighty-two days from today Americans in every state, every Congressional District, every city and town will be going to the polls to decide which party will control the U.S. Senate (35 seats are being contested) and the U.S. House (435 seats of voting Members are up).

  • While the cable nets are obsessing over Omerosa's book & tapes, Brennan's security clearance, Manafort's jury deliberations, Giuliani's spewing random words and calling them sentences, and Erdagon's collapsing economy; there are two groups of people who either have, or soon will look at every single Congressional District and make tough decisions.

  • Members of the House and Senate have campaign committees whose sole focus is electing more of them. Republicans in the Senate have the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC); the Dems have the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

  • In the House, the Rs have the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC); the Ds have the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC - usually referred to as the Dee-Triple-Cee)

  • I am a House guy by nature and history. I worked at or with the NRCC for years starting with the 1982 cycle. The 1982 cycle was the mid-term election of the first term of the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

  • We (Republicans) lost 26 seats that year but the class of 1982 was the Congressional equivalent of the class of 1915 at West Point: The Class the Stars Fell on.

  • Among those elected to the House were Democrats Harry Reid - future Senate Majority Leader; Dick Durbin - current Democratic Senate Whip, and Barbara Boxer - then, and still Barbara Boxer.

  • On the Republican side three of incoming freshmen members of the U.S. House after the 1982 election were John McCain - former Presidential candidate and current chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee; Tom Ridge former Governor of Pennsylvania and first Secretary of Homeland Security; and, John Kasich - former House Budget Chairman, former Presidential candidate, and current Governor of Ohio.

  • Because there are so relatively few Senate races, they all - or almost all - are fully funded by the NRSC and the DSCC. Occasionally, a race is so lop-sided and/or the candidate is so bad the appropriate national committee will take a pass.

  • On the House side, however, because that pesky Constitution in Article I, Section 2:
    "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States "

  • Thus the entire House stands for election every even-numbered year.

  • No matter how flush one of the two House campaign committees might be, there is never enough money to support 435 races. In some cases, the incumbent is running unopposed. In others, through gerrymandering or otherwise a district is untouchable by the opposition.

  • In years like this, however, there are a lot of seats in play - most of them held by Republicans - meaning the NRCC has to decide how many to fully defend and the DCCC has to decide how many to try and win.

  • Both committees have political divisions - split into regions. Each region had an RPD - regional political director - whose job it was to work with individual campaigns to make sure they were raising money, holding events, sending press releases (now emails and Tweets), and so on.

  • At just about this point in the election cycle those RPDs and their bosses in Washington, along with the fundraisers and communications people would gather in a large room with a map of the county and go through the races one by one.

  • The point of this exercise was to decide which races to throw overboard - they had such a low probability of victory that the NRCC would not devote any further resources.

  • If you've never participated in a political campaign this will sound odd to you but even as a consultant I have fallen in love with certain campaigns. Intellectually, I knew they might be toast, but because the staff worked so hard and/or the candidate was such a great person it was like breaking up with a girlfriend to have to tell them they were being cut loose.

  • Incumbent campaigns are different. The committees are creatures of the R and D caucuses and it is a rare occurrence for Members to allow one of their own to go down without a fight.

  • Earlier I noted that in Reagan's first mid-term the GOP lost 26 seats. The over/under on Republican losses in 82 days appears to be settling at about minus-35. That would flip control of the House to the Democrats with room to spare.

  • I'm not rooting for that. Just reporting.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Wikipedia entries for the election of 1982 and to the Class the Stars Fell on.

    The Mullfoto is a befuddling sign in front of a restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, VA.

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