Monday, December 07, 2009

Hoffman, Quinn and Seals were the big winners on the North Shore yesterday afternoon: what do the endorsements, the trends and the tea leaves mean?

My operatives tell me that the New Trier Democratic Organization endorsed yesterday afternoon Gov. Pat Quinn (71%), David Hoffman (about 80%) and Dan Seals (about 70% on the second ballot). 60% is required for the endorsement and Seals almost had it on the first ballot and easily got it on the second.

Quinn, the right history for a New Trier Endorsement

The Quinn endorsement isn’t surprising. Notwithstanding his current incumbency, Quinn is remembered by many on the North Shore for his history as an insurgent, maverick—which is kind of preferred in these parts. Hynes did very poorly in the Evanston, New Trier and Northfield endorsement sessions in the 2004 Senate Primary (losing along with the other Dems by landslide margins to Barack Obama, so Dan didn’t have much to build on).

Hoffman, the preferred match-up over Giannoulias on public corruption to Kirk

Hoffman’s win isn’t much of a surprise here, but a little bit more so than Quinn’s. Alexi is a polished campaigner and he gives a good stomp speech. In other parts that like to go with a winner, the youthful Giannoulias' long list of endorsements and large pile of money is enough to get by. In New Trier, the activists are a bit more cerebral. They like independence and Hoffman oozes that. Further, they know the Democrat Party’s culture of corruption label in Illinois in 2010 could be a major problem. Remember, Blago is scheduled to go to trial in Summer, 2010. And, that follows the pounding the Dems have taken over Rezko, Sorich and maybe even Stu Levine, notwithstanding that Stu is technically a Republocrat.

The folks in the New Trier Democratic Organization (“NTDO”) may not like the Republican’s likely Senate nominee, 10th Cong. Dist. Congressman Mark Kirk, much, but they know him as a tenacious campaigner and untainted by public corruption. They apparently think David Hoffman, a former Ass’t U. S. Attorney and Chicago Inspector General who held Mayor Daley’s feet to the fire often, is a much better match against Kirk than Giannoulias, who will have to explain, during the general election, loans to alleged mobsters by Giannoulias’ family bank and poor, risky investments by Treasurer Giannoulias for the college fund. Advantage, at least in the independent and sophisticated New Trier, for Hoffman. [Watch Hoffman discuss Giannoulias tonight and watch Hoffman here].

Seals win in New Trier, another data point in a long-term trend: an upset in the making?

The win by Seals over Hamos is consistent with how the10th CD campaign has trended. At first, the smart money said the early polls showing Seals with a big lead didn’t mean much as they simply reflected his big name recognition advantage from having run two close general election campaigns against Kirk and two not so close, but contested, Democratic primaries. It was said that Hamos’ fund raising prowess, extensive support among local pols and officials and ability as a campaigner mastered in five prior elections as a state rep. would kick in and she would easily pass Seals.

Indeed, it was thought by many that Seals would see the error of his ways and go quickly and quietly into the night. Indeed, early on, Team Hamos pulled its punches as it didn’t want to offend Seals supporters, who they thought would gravitate toward Hamos without much coaxing. As Donald Rumsfeld argued, “weakness is provocative, “ and that applies even in a Democratic Primary. After all, it is no less a Democrat than Rahm Emanuel who says, “In politics, we reward our friends and we punish our enemies.” Team Hamos forgot that part about punishing its enemies.

Seals out-performs Hamos on the campaign trail.

Although out fundraised two to one, Seals seems unconcerned by that disadvantage. It has become apparent that Seal’s support among activists, much of which is from his two prior campaigns, is broad and deep. At gatherings of Democratic activists, e.g. a month ago at the Tenth Dems annual funder with Howard Dean and the candidates, Seals turns them on and Hamos often falls flat. It turns out that Hamos will need a lot of work to become a polished campaigner.

Nobody can remember if Hamos ever had a competitive race. Maybe when she first ran for the State Rep. Democratic nomination she had a race, although nobody remembers that. And since the 18th CD was re-districted in 2001, it has been a 75% Democratic District and as you might expect, that District has not drawn strong Republican challengers, and sometimes no one at all. So, with that background and experience, Seals appears “Fired up and ready to go,” and Hamos “not so much.”

Hamos needs a new campaign focus

The smart money now says Hamos is either getting bad campaign advice or she is getting good campaign advice and not taking it. Either way, if Rep. Hamos is going to make a race of the 10th CD Democratic Primary, she better start changing her strategic focus, and fast. State Rep. Julie Hamos seems to think she can beat Seals by reminding voters she is a Jewish female who knows how to deal with domestic violence. It might be an advantage in the 10th CD to be a Jewish female who opposes domestic violence. But, it is not what a campaign for Congress should be built around. Lauren Beth Gash was all of those things and a more effective campaigner than Julie and she still lost the general election in 2000 by two points to then novice candidate Mark Steven Kirk.

The Gash-Hamos comparison: Will History repeat itself? .

One criticism of Lauren Beth Gash in 2000 was that she seemed to be running for State Rep., not Congresswoman. It is not just old generals who often fight the last war. Hamos, an eleven-year veteran of the State House, might want to think about the Gash campaign and learn from it.

Yes, it might be different running in a 10th CD Democratic Primary than in a 10th CD general election, but Hamos still does not have a winning strategy to beat Seals. The smart money says Hamos should reach out for new ideas and a new issue focus. And, she had better become a more effective campaigner fast, or the Tenth Cong. District Democrats will be hoping the third time is the charm for their 2010 nominee, Dan Seals.
More than 116 of our shows from the last two years are posted on the Public Affairs YouTube page . Our most recent shows w/ Democratic Primary U. S. Senate Candidate David Hoffman, 7th CD candidate Chicago Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon [24th Ward]and State Comptroller candidate Clint Krislov are now streaming.
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