November 14, 2005
CD28 poll followup

The early poll in CD28 that I mentioned last week has been pikced up as a story in the Express News, with comments from all campaigns. Andre Pineda has the pointer and some further thoughts in response to what his counterparts have to say.

Doing the same for Richard Raymond is The Red State. One item to note:

Ciro Rodriguez will have to try to bring a message out with zero money. If the money loaned from his brother has to be returned and the cost of his campaign manager has been accounted for plus the cost of the poll, then Ciro Rodriguez does not have any money. The reality of politics is that money brings money. Conversely, no money brings no money.

We know that Henry Cuellar is not popular among his colleagues in Washington, while Ciro Rodriguez is still on friendly terms with the Texas delegation. Will they lend a financial hand to him in this primary, or will they stay officially neutral and leave him to his own resources in this three-way race? Eddie's right - if Ciro has no money, he's going to have an awfully hard time making his case. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 14, 2005 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

The article also states that Raymond's money is mostly loans - 70%. There are lots of progressive folks out of state who'd love to give money to a real progressive in a Congressional race, especially in Texas. Ciro will get the money.

Posted by: Marie on November 14, 2005 2:38 PM

South Texas Rapid Response, First Edition
November 12th, 2005 | Posted in Blog, My Clients, Ciro Rodriguez | No Comments »
Rebeca Chapa of the San Antonio Express-News writes a fair and balanced piece about the CD-28 race.

Poll numbers are starting to trickle out in the Congressional District 28 race, and incumbent Henry Cuellar is posting comfortable margins over challengers Ciro Rodriguez and state Rep. Richard Raymond, who trails badly.

Ms. Chapa does a fine job of getting quotes from each campaign and an outside observer. My fellow consultant for the Ciro campaign, Austin-based James Aldrete - a man I have no doubt will be a consulting superstar on the national scene soon, just you wait and see - keeps it factual. “At the moment, Richard’s not well known in the least, but Ciro’s name ID is still there…We’re going to be competitive.”

The other campaigns, meanwhile, are in high spin mode. Let’s look first at the Raymond campaign. As I’ve noted on this blog before, I was surprised that Raymond was barely breaking double-digits in the polls. You readers in South Texas can tell me if I’m wrong, but I bet you were surprised, too. Let’s look at how his campaign explains his current showing:

The Raymond campaign scoffed at both surveys. “Henry’s putting this out early because he’s scared,” said Raymond spokesman Chuy Gonzalez. “It’s a waste of money to run a poll right now. It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

Gonzalez said the camp has not done any polling, but the candidate is “right on schedule with where he needs to be.”

I’m happy to criticize the Cuellar camp whenever they deserve it - in fact, I’ll do so shortly - but why running a poll 5 months before an election is a waste of money is beyond me. Campaigns & Elections, a trade journal for politicos, recently ran an article about the benefits of early polling. Of course, what the author, Michael Cohen, considers early polling is polling more than a year before the election. Still, it might have been a good article for the Raymond team to read. “Early polling is not only preferred,” Cohen writes, “it is essential to making decisions of whether or not to run, how to run against an opponent, what to say to potential donors, and how to shape the early storyline on your campaign.”

Maybe if Raymond had done a poll, he wouldn’t have marred his promising career by jumping into a race against two such well-known politicians who do not share a base. I mean, with Raymond in the race, all Ciro and Cuellar have to do to get in the runoff is consolidate their own base - the counties in which each got 80 percent of the vote in 2004. It’s not like Ciro and Cuellar will be bashing each other and Raymond can run the gap. The one that has a gap here is Ciro, since it is Raymond and Cuellar that need to bash each other in order to deliver the votes in their hometown of Laredo.

Chapa uses a political science professor to put the polling results in context:

“Early polls typically measure name recognition,” said Richard Gambitta, a political scientist at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Raymond has been a state legislator in a much smaller district while the other two have served in a full congressional district. They would naturally have more name penetration.”

Which is true enough as far as it goes, but let’s have a closer look. Who do voters prefer when they not only know Raymond and Cuellar, but have positive feelings about them both? Nineteen percent of the voters in my survey fall into that category - mostly in Webb County - and here’s the scary part for Raymond: of the voters that know and like the two of them, 61 percent would vote for Cuellar if the election were held today and only 19 would vote for Raymond. A similar result holds true for Ciro vs. Raymond, but not enough voters in Bexar County know Raymond to make the finding statistically significant.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing with Dr. Gambitta. As I have mentioned in previous posts and will mention again below, Raymond has the material to use against Cuellar in order to peel away Cuellar’s votes. But a.) it will be an expensive process, b.) Raymond can’t expect to keep all the votes he peels away, and c.) both of the candidates he is running against have big head starts. He really should have done a poll before he got in. Though I suspect he was convinced he would be able to keep Ciro from running. If so, he was convinced wrong.

And now for Cuellar:

“Right now we expect Congressman Cuellar to win without a runoff,” said Cuellar spokesman T.J. Connolly.

Give me a break. The only way Cuellar is avoiding a runoff is if either Ciro or Raymond drops. And even then, Cuellar might not survive the primary. There is no question that Cuellar looks very strong right now, but that’s only because voters have no idea what he’s been voting for since he’s been in Congress. Once these Democratic primary voters find out that he has voted with President Bush more than any other Texas Democrat, they’re not going to be happy. Let’s just look at the example of Medicare.

Seniors make up the lion’s share of voters in this and most any primary election. Fully 81 percent of the district - not just seniors, but Democratic primary voters as a whole - thinks that the federal government is falling short when it comes to dealing with the cost of prescription drugs. So how did Cuellar respond to this critical concern? By supporting the Bush Medicare plan. Is this plan helping seniors? A recent poll by the studiously non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that only 1 in 5 seniors nationwide (20 percent) plans to enroll in a Medicare drug plan. When the seniors of South Texas learn that Cuellar put the big drug companies ahead of them, they will run back to the candidate who has a proven track record of protecting seniors in Congress: Ciro Rodriguez.

As Chapa points out, this is only one of many issues where Cuellar sided with Bush and DeLay. “A common criticism of Cuellar is that he is too cozy with the Republican leadership in Washington, voting with the GOP on issues like the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Social Security.”

How does the nominally Democratic congressman explain his behavior? “Cuellar contends that he reaches across party lines when necessary in order to be an effective representative for the district.”

Chapa quotes me explaining why this rationale won’t fly:

Rodriguez pollster André Pineda of Pasadena, Calif., said it’s noteworthy that according to his research, more people said they prefer a congressman who will fight for South Texans “even if it means losing lots of votes on legislation” over a congressman “who can work with the Bush administration to get legislation passed that will benefit South Texas.”

Democratic primary voters in South Texas don’t care about bipartisanship. They want a real Democrat in Congress. Richard Raymond will spend all the money he has loaned himself arguing that he is the real Democrat, his Prop 2 vote notwithstanding. The problem for Raymond is that his money has not only to tear down Cuellar, but it also has to introduce himself. All Ciro Rodriguez has to do is remind these Democratic primary voters that there is one candidate with a proven record of representing them in Washington DC. Once he does that, the voters will send him back to Congress.

Posted by: andre on November 15, 2005 12:40 AM

I just want to say that Congressman Henry Cuellar is doing an outstanding job. Henry has done more for District 28 than any other Congressman before him. Henry works real hard and he really cares. I voted for him two years ago and I will vote for him again. He is the best man for the District 28.

Posted by: JoAnn Sutherland on November 24, 2005 7:01 AM