Analysis of the Congressional District 1 Race
I wanted to go a little more in depth of an analysis of the 1st Congressional District race as I spent much of the night going over poll numbers of the different precincts. I knew by about 11:30 that the race was over and Harris won, but now I have had some time to reflect on it and really grasp what I saw as the reasons for the Harris victory. Please keep in mind, I do not live in the district and didn’t have to be bombarded by robocalls, television advertising or the mailings, these are more from observations and ears to the ground.
Harris’ victory wasn’t about money as EJ Pipkin’s deep pockets proved (although money was vital) it was more about excitement, organization, and a sophisticated media team.
The Harris talking points against Gilchrest and EJ Pipkin were well designed and effective. The mailers and television ads, especially the final one featuring Governor Bob Ehrlich were able to both turn people off of the incumbent early, and then drive home who they need to pick. Pipkin attempted to come in after folks were turned off of the incumbent and become a shore option, but if anything that just split the shore vote.
As I mentioned on my O’MalleyWatch post:
The election came out pretty close to the polls except the late deciders went
for Harris, and Gilchrest kept his base of 32%. Harris won major victories in
Baltimore and Harford Counties and to a much lesser degree Anne Arundel County,
while still doing very well on the shore. He came so close to Gilchrest in
Cecil, Queene Anne’s and Wicomico County that it eliminated any benefit of other
Pipkin had attempted to splinter Harris Senate Support (all of the Senators who represent CD 1 except for Pipkin supported Harris’ campaign) by hosting ads in Senator Nancy Jacobs and Rich Colburn’s local newspapers attacking them for supporting O’Malley’s budget. The attempt, I can only guess, was to divert attention away from Pipkin’s vote and to scare Harris’ “big name” supporters away. The result was that it actually made those Senators work harder for Harris out of anger at Pipkin.
Gilchrest made a huge mistake in the campaign with his media buys. As the incumbent taking constant fire from the Harris campaign, Gilchrest chose to go on the offensive back. Having a good offense is the best defense, but Gilchrest spent no money (or very little) defending his own record and trying to instill faith in him as their Congressman. Early in the campaign he used his Congressional franking privelidge to send out mailers, but those were too early. His tactice should have been more on saying, “I am the Congressman, and this is what I am doing for you.” But instead it was centered around the notion “Harris is bad because XXX and Pipkin is bad because XXX.”
The big argument I heard for Gilchrest was that if we elect Harris we could lose CD1 to Frank Kratovil. After Kratovil’s abysmal performance yesterday I am less worried about that, but that is not a reason to elect a person. Folks don’t want to vote for someone because they would win (look at Rudy Giuliani) they vote for someone because they believe in them and their ideas (see Obama). The Gilchrest campaign never gave us a reason to believe.
Rob Banks (who actually came in fifth despite getting the 4 most amount of press) kept saying throughout the campaign that he was the adult in the race while constantly bashing Harris obviously didn’t change anybody’s minds.
This race is a big victory for Bob Ehrlich as well, whose support played a huge role in the campaign. Ehrlich now has an ally in Congress that could help him raise money and whip up support on the Eastern Shore for a future statewide campaign. The investment was risky, had Harris lost Ehrlich would have an aggressive Congressman and would face the brunt of media saying that he wasn’t able to rally the Republican base. Ehrlich proved he could and that he is very relevant in the Republican Party and future elections.