The latest campaign analysis from our anonymous super hack, PubliCola's ElectionNerd.—Eds.
What. A.Week! Wow. A lot has happened. Yes, it’s likely only 20 percent of the city even knows there's an election happening on August 6 (ballots went out this week), but still—this is getting fun.
A lot of money has been poured into the race and we have a new poll. So let’s dive into the data.
One note, to attempt to keep fundraising totals on an understandable level, today’s reports are based on all reported deposits since July 8.
Bruce Harrell: C / Primary Odds 10:1
Harrell’s fundraising is slowing down—he's posted just under $8,000 since July 8. That said, his expenditure reports show a good-sized cable ad buy and mail; clearly, he's planning to spend everything in the bank.
His performances at debates, particularly the televised KCTS event last night, are still very strong. But are these moves enough? Possibly not. Time is short and you don’t get the feeling there is a lot of momentum for Harrell. One wild card is that Harrell likely has some personal money he could put towards his candidacy, and if done soon, it could change his trajectory.
Harrell gets a “C” this week to reflect the continued fundraising decline, and his fourth-place showing in the KING 5 poll. We're lowering his odds of getting through the primary election to 10:1 due to the fact that time is short and there are no signs of major efforts to correct his current place in the race.
Ed Murray: A /Primary Odds 3:1
Ed Murray had a great week. His fundraising is coming in at a furious clip, his independent expenditure finally started drawing in real money,and the KING 5 poll put him at the top of the race. (Yes McGinnies, I know, it’s within the MOE!)
Let’s start with Murray bringing in $48,944 since July 8. Wow. Leaving aside kickoff fundraisers, that might be a Seattle record. His total is north of $310,000.
Meanwhile, Murray is spending big on TV and mail, plus he also appears to have a robust field effort. Given that his leap in the poll from 15 to 22 came purely from earned media (previous big endorsements) and only the early stages of his paid media efforts, his team should be encouraged about room.
Murray filled the void of folks not voting for McGinn before Harrell or Steinbrueck could.
The Seattle Chamber dropped $25,000 of anger cash against the mayor, bringing the Murray independent expenditure to just under $83,000. The IE has reported spending $20,000 on consultants. It's too early to say whether their inevitable mail will be pro-Murray or anti-McGinn, but it's likely that there is more money out there, especially after Murray's leap in the polls (which may freeze money for the other challengers.)
The KING 5 poll, which PubliCola wrote about extensively, put "Undecided" at 25 percent, Murray at 22 percent, McGinn at 21 percent, Steinbrueck at 14 percent, and Harrell at 11 percent. There are a lot of questions around the poll sample—it skewed young and connected primarily with land lines (82 percent!). That said, it does capture the current state of the race. Murray has moved up after a week of big endorsements—the first major news in the race in since Tim Burgess dropped out. He filled the void of folks not voting for McGinn before Harrell or Steinbrueck could.
To ensure Murray consultant Sandeep Kaushik attacks this column again (after the KING 5 poll hit, he was quoted saying I needed to find a new line of work for predicting a McGinn/Steinbrueck showdown), there is a long way to go in this race. Undecideds are still leading in the poll, no negative messages have gone out against Murray yet to test that (soft?) support, his debate performances are weak, and Murray is increasingly looking like the establishment candidate in the race.
That said, with the KING 5 poll also showing job disapproval for anti-establishment hero McGinn at 50 percent (ouch), being the establishment candidate might not be such a bad thing for Murray in 2013.
Murray gets an “A” for the week: good fundraising, earned media, and his first mail piece is very strong (it's succinct and he looks good). His primary election odds are moving 3:1 as he has become the de facto challenger to McGinn.
Mike McGinn: B /Primary Odds 3:1
McGinn raised around $19,000 since July 8, which is a strong showing. It also looks like he has bought cable spots through the primary, his mail is starting to land, and he again has a strong field effort. He is hitting his marks and running a competent campaign that could hold off a late push from Steinbrueck or Harrell.
Also, the Hotel and Restaurant Union (UNITE HERE) opened their own IE this week, which supports McGinn with $50,000. They are likely to buy mail, and we don’t know yet if it's pro-McGinn or attacking another candidate (the group would be smart to attack Steinbreuck instead Murray, to defend their second-place position and ensure that McGinn goes through the primary).
Union IEs can be tricky. They typically have lower consultant costs (unlike Murray’s) but sometimes do not have the most effective messages.
After the mayor baked the grocery union's fight against Whole Foods in West Seattle—a fight that's reminiscent of McGinn's political salad days fighting Fred Meyer in Greenwood as a rising neighborhood activist—you might see more union money moving into this IE soon. (McGinn's fight against Whole Foods is also an excellent earned media opportunity that could play well in Seattle.)
In another (albeit long-expected and predictable) win for McGinn, the Stranger endorsed the mayor. And McGinn also won the Candidate Survivor event, which dovetails nicely with the Stranger support and reinforces his support among younger voters. Unfortunately for McGinn, young voters aren't expected to have a big impact on the August 6 primary (and the paper has enthusiastically supported McGinn for so long, it isn't likely to change the dynamic of the race.)
The KING 5 poll should make McGinn happy on a lot of levels. Huh? Yes. I suspect he isn’t happy, but a year ago today, most would have bet he would be somewhere around last place. Today, he looks like he is going to the general, barring a 2009 Nickels-level collapse. His job performance numbers are very bad, but if he survives the primary, the focus on the race gives him a chance to reframe himself.
McGinn gets an B for the week. Good fundraising, mail dropping, TV up, and field efforts seem widespread. His odds remain at 3:1 to get through the primary, but we are watching Steinbrueck closely.
Peter Steinbrueck: C / Primary Odds 8:1
Steinbrueck looked stronger last week than he does today, though he has deposited just over $17,000 since July 8, which is a good showing. However, he is not getting much in the way of earned media, not doing much of a field campaign, and what he does raise, he's spending on things like airfare to an architecture conference in Denver (true). Currently, we see some robocalls on his expenditure records, along with some direct mail, but his budget for actual voter contact is likely to come in around $70,000, and that's being generous.
McGinn’s lack of widespread popularity has left a hole in the electorate, but Murray has moved himself into that spot—and Steinbrueck does not likely have the resources to evict him.But there's still a chance to knock out McGinn. Steinbrueck’s best hope is that voters, who are just becoming slightly aware of the August 6 election, see his mail, break against the mayor in droves. In that scenario, Steinbrueck pulls a McGinn ’09 surge to face Murray in the General. Stranger things have happened. His problems, as I noted above, are resources and odd campaign choices.
Given that it seems that Murray has supplanted Steinbrueck, and McGinn for that matter, Steinbrueck gets a “C” for the week. Also, with a lack of resources for voter contact to change this position easily, his odds have dropped to 8:1 of getting through the primary.
What a week! If you think the race is going to be Murray/McGinn (there is an Irish joke in there somewhere) you are not alone. That said, we still have a ways to go in this primary and KING 5 had an ominous note at the end of their poll—stating that the two leaders in mid-July 2009 were Nickels and Drago.
There are a few questions hanging out there to be answered before we call this ballot:
Are McGinn’s negatives going to lead to him shedding support as more voters tune in to the race?
Is Murray’s bump really weak support than can be peeled off by other candidates as the race heats up?
Are Steinbrueck and Harrell really that far behind or did the KING 5 poll find the only thirty-somethings in Seattle who distrust mobile phones?
Buckle up, this ride is only going to get bumpier.