I was invited to lunch this week (this is a significant first for a pimple-on-the-rump blogger). Jim Dean, who runs DFA (Democracy For America), was in Philly checking on a number a races that are tightening. Among them were the big races in the area: Sestak, Lentz, Murphy. Today's lunchtime menu served Manan Trivedi.
Of the major races around Philly, Trivedi has the toughest assignment. He is taking on an incumbent GOP House Member. Joe Sestak (Senate) and Bryan Lentz (PA-6) are going for open seats and Patrick Murphy (PA-8) is the incumbent.
When you are an incumbent the race is about what you are doing -- currently -- for the community you are serving. In a lot of ways you are running against yourself. Are you taking care of your citizens (read:customers) properly? That means not only answering the phones and cutting red tape for people, but playing the game of politics in a straight manner. Even if you can cut all the red tape in the world and have the President's ear for a beer, you still need to do as you say in the media. As long as you keep your nose clean, you will get re-elected. (That is why I am against term limits; I don't want to remove a person who is doing a good job.) Murphy needs to make his case to the voters. He can run a fully positive campaign on a long list of achievements in the job.
Open races are different because it is more about what kind of person each candidate is. There is actually more vetting going on because there usually no track record of job performance for the office in question. Candidate needs to get out and make the case for themselves. You have more of an option of going negative or positive. Both Sestak and Lentz are both running balanced attacks. Recent days see them as either getting even or starting to pull away.
Challenger races are the toughest. That is why having DFA in the room for Manan Trivedi is an important thing.
Elections are about marketing. Elections are about selling. Part of selling is creating a need. Some campaigns create this need cynically; others actually see the need to replace an incumbent. Trivedi is in a race that needed a challenger. Jim Gerlach, the GOP Congressman, is a pretty standard GOP Member. It appears he only votes against the GOP Leadership when the issue at hand is out of reach.
Trivedi can use the Healthcare issue as a bludgeon against Gerlach as the district has a large number of drug firms located there. Healthcare reform would play very well in this district for Trivedi since Gerlach voted against it. Trivedi can also sell himself as a Doctor and an Iraq War vet. Given the treatment of Veterans' issues by previous administrations, Trivedi has a unique perspective to improve this situation.
The healthcare issue is one in which DFA operates best. Just the fact that DFA has sent its head of operations to this campaign is significant in that resources don't go to campaigns that are losing. Big guns don't come out for non-fundraising events.
I don't know what the polls look like in this race. But I am certain that if DFA is looking at this race, it is a tight one.
Personally, I think that Manan's best bet is to attach to the large veteran population in the district and mobilize them. It is rare when they don't come out and support their own.
This double-barrelled approach (DFA Healthcare, and a Vets' Outreach) should pay dividends as this race winds down.
My next lunch with these guys, I'll actually wear a tie.