Friday, January 29, 2010

BASIN "SWAG": GOP PRIMARY, 8TH CIRCUIT JUDGE

Picking a winner in this three-way race over eight counties is quite an undertaking. The nominee will face Chris Scholz in the November general. This is a non-presidential, almost certainly low turnout primary. It is difficult to detect that any of the candidates have any particularly highly developed expertise in election day efforts.  Making a SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) about this is doubly difficult because, to various degrees, everybody here is a valued colleague.

One of the difficulties in examining this race is making sense of the volume of turnout between the population center, Adams County, and the other seven counties. As nearly as I can determine, none of the three candidates has any particular base in Menard County, which can be expected to have the second largest GOP voter turnout. There is a noticeable lack of palpable excitement in the local GOP for any particular statewide candidate. When one of these statewide candidates comes to town, all the usual suspects seem to show up. Then there is the primary date. We have never had an off year, gubernatorial primary in February before. The spontaneous, nonregular primary voter is those more unpredictable. My assumption, based on not much, is that any clear winner in Adams County is likely to win circuit wide.


If all that were not ambiguous enough, we have the relatively low bar ratings for each of the candidates. My own view of the ratings for all three GOP candidates is that they were a little stingy. I cannot explain those ratings but from my own observations and experience. I can say, without doubt, that there was no democrat lawyer plot to downgrade any of these candidates. Finally, I have never had the vaguest idea how bar ratings impact the electorate. In other words, "do actual human beings really care what lawyers think about other lawyers?"

Adding the ultimate layer of confusion are the three very different and distinct campaign paths of these three men have taken. Downey has waged an aggressive television and yard sign campaign. It is probably the nature of his job that it has been difficult for him to get to a lot of events in the outlying counties. Television in a low turnout primary is usually a losing proposition. Moreover, Downey (a really nice, warm man) is not displayed to best advantage on television. His stiff and stern presentation likely scares small children. While I am always the last to know about direct mailings to GOP primary voters (there are none of those in my house) I suspect his resource allocation has kept him from doing a lot of direct mail. This is a mere guess on my part, based on the finite nature of campaign money. On the other hand, Ed is a competent lawyer and makes a very nice personal impression. He is a veteran politician, having run for judge in a Southern Illinois circuit a few years ago (an interesting trick for someone who was full-time employed by Adams County.  He must have worn himself and his car competely out). Essential questions here are "what is the impact of television in a low turnout primary?" And "can a relatively poorly produced TV ad and only marginally camera -- friendly subject still move voters?"


Any discussion of Brenner has to begin with his undeniably appealing personality. He is just an awfully nice guy. He has a great many satisfied clients who are largely Republicans. His campaign has been a bit unconventional. I understand he is embracing a direct mail strategy. His campaign souvenir is a shotgun shell. This is true "to type" because he is a gun enthusiast but sort of presumes that all Republican primary voters are gun-huggers and that may or may not be true. By all accounts he has gotten around. His talking points are his family's deep roots in the community and the general nature of his practice. The second argument is fairly made.  He is an able generalist.  The second argument is a double-edged sword. Generally speaking, the tighter the regional candidate ties him or herself to Quincy, the more resentment or resistance the candidate runs into in the outlying counties and townships. Those votes count too. Brenner was also a little bit late to the party in having an Internet presence.  Downey was there first and Brenner's timing sort of made his presence look like "me, too." Not knowing enough about Brenner's direct mail, I have to say his only winning scenario is to pile up big numbers among old-line, habitual Republicans in Quincy and hold on for dear life as the other counties come in.

Adrian's principal advantage is that he is a known commodity in Adams County politics. I have not noted any particular Internet advertising presence on his part. His yard sign presence has been good but not great. Of the three candidates he probably stands the best chance of mounting some kind of relatively effective primary election day effort. He has family connections in rural Adams and Brown County. Brown is a small county but winning it would certainly not be a bad thing. He has some recent publicity from a relatively high-profile case and has conducted himself admirably in that context. Even people who opposed him politically are unlikely to quibble about his ethics and values. He has run countywide in Adams County before (although that was in a presidential year, a relatively high turnout election) and knows the mechanics of getting to events and tightening direct mail lists. It is likely he has the most experienced political help. His approach is the opposite of Ed Downey's. He is pitching his campaign to known, presumably Republican primary voters, on the apparent assumption that not a lot of independents will be requesting GOP ballots (or maybe any ballots -- this election being pretty much a major snooze for non-insiders.). Adrian has a couple of other marginal advantages. As nearly as I can tell his wife is  well-known and well-liked. His daughter is an athlete of some note. It is not a stretch to think that he has an advantage in name recognition, region-wide. On the other hand, it is fair to say that he has his detractors among GOP courthouse insiders.

The curious thing about this campaign is that I have seen no evidence of any of the three candidates campaigning on their relative ability or their opponents' relative inability to win the general election in the fall. Given that there are some ethical boundaries to what judicial candidates can and cannot promise or advertise, that argument might have to be a bit muted but I've seen no sign of it.

Because I do not see the inside baseball GOP direct-mail, I can only go on general impressions of the thrust of the various campaigns. Of course there is going to be a very small population base deciding this election. As between Adrian and Downey, Adrian's concept seems more sound to me. Downey is paying to broadcast a message to a population, about perhaps 2% of whom will actually vote in the eighth circuit GOP primary. (Note that a lot of the digital images Ed is paying to send are a) going into Missouri; b) being seen by people in the 9th Ciruit; c) Beamed into Sunny Iowa and d) being viewed by democrats and independents who have no intention of voting in a GOP primary.  On the other hand, if Adrian's strategy can simply get out most of the people who voted for him in the 2004 Adams County primary, that may be enough to win circuit wide.  On the other, other, other hand, Adrian has to worry about any turnout effort he undertakes having the misbegotten effect of turning out Brenner voters.

If the race were simply Adrian against Downey, I would handicap Adrian as the favorite. But it isn't. Brenner is a serious presence. He has satisfied clients. He has lifelong family friends. He has a decent collection of folks who have been in civic and community organizations with him. The question for him is not so much a question of Adams County politics. The question for him is "can enough people be exposed to his appealing personality, a circuit wide, to win a dull, bleak winter primary."

At the end of the day, your friendly Basin's hunch is that Adrian's organizational assets, local electoral history and campaign Assets in place., pull him through in a tight race.  Do not, however, bet the ranch, or even the North Forty, on this outcome. For all the reasons noted above, nobody really knows who's going to show up to vote on this thing, let alone in which counties.

The real fun will be in deconstructing the stats after the race is over.

In the meantime, we could have some more fun by your sharing your guess at the winner here and why.

15 Comments:

At 3:02 PM, January 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an uninvolved observer I wonder if you think there will be any collateral damage or collateral benefit for Adrian from his school board client. I get that he's doing his job in representing and defending the rights of his client (and good on him for that), and I'm certainly NOT saying anything about that mess one way or the other. It just seems like a high-profile situation in at least the Quincy area that could influence the less politically savvy among us. How that plays out in a republican primary I don't know at all.

 
At 5:48 PM, January 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were Chuck Scholz' brother, who would you like to face?

 
At 5:58 PM, January 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to quit lying. That, or you need better sources.

 
At 6:20 PM, January 29, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ZZZ

 
At 8:39 PM, January 29, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1502,

I think Bob benefits from him. Bud's true believers are reliable GOP primary voters.

TYFCB

 
At 8:40 PM, January 29, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1748,

I'll answer that, honestly, Middle of next week.

TYFCB

 
At 8:42 PM, January 29, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1758,

If you address the topic about you which you think I'm "lying," I'll reconsider my position. But disagreeing with your beliefs is not "lying."

TYFCB

 
At 8:42 PM, January 29, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

1820,

We'll refund your daily for today.

TYFCB

 
At 12:15 PM, January 30, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'll answer that, honestly, Middle of next week."

Unless you are cpapble of time travel, that's not really possible. It's also pretty gutless.

 
At 4:12 PM, January 30, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Of course it's possible.

My answer will be the same next week as it would have been today. If I answer today and say "Candidate X" (given the general knowledge that Christopher and I are good friends) it will be taken as the official position of the campaign and could actually influence the GOP primary.

The Blogger program lets you prepare you entry for a given day and have it post automatically to that day. Be looking next Thursday.

Has nothing to do with time travel.

TYFCB

 
At 12:52 PM, January 31, 2010, Anonymous QC Examiner said...

You people in the 8th JC just aren't as organized as we are here in the 14th JC.

Here, every candidate for judge is a winner, because even if they lose the election, they are like planes lined up on a runway waiting for the signal to take off.

Any candidate for judge who "loses" an election only has to return to his/her day job and wait for his/her turn because sooner or later, it will come.

How quaint that you believe elections really matter. ;-)

 
At 1:07 PM, January 31, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

QCE,

Many years ago, I heard the same discussion on back-to-back days about whose "turn" it was to be judge. The first day was in St. Clair County, the second in RICO.

You may have a point, we are quaint here. In the presidential year, Our Circuit is definitely Red. In "off" years it may not be blue, but it's purple.

TYFCB

 
At 7:25 AM, February 01, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Adrian certainly has interesting sign spots. However, I'd have to give the edge to Brenner, based on advertising on Limbaugh and Beck. Most of those will be primary voters and they will vote on name recognition only.

 
At 10:52 AM, February 01, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

An observation on the Quincy Tea Party. They have a list on their website of "conditional endorsements." All of the candidates they endorse have signed some type of a pledge. However, they have not made any judge candidates sign the pledge.

On this website, they have endorsed Brenner for Judge, but why not endorse Downey and Adrian also? After all, what specifically does Brenner represent that Downey and Adrian do not? They do not say. Kind of odd to me, since I can't find much difference on the issues between the three.

 
At 11:31 AM, February 01, 2010, Blogger UMRBlog said...

Brenner won the race to kiss the ring. He was there first.

TYFCB

 

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