Morning Call: Campaign Staffers Not Allowed to Do Anything On Own Time

According to The Allentown Morning Call what paid campaign staffers do on their own time is grist for the political smear machine.  Theirs.  The newspaper did a smear job today on Bennett Communications Director Gary Ritterstein implying he did something wrong for writing a press release for someone else ON HIS OWN TIME.  I thought what people did on their own time was their own business?

I wonder what Mornign Call reporters like Josh Drobnyk and Darryl Isherwood would think if bloggers began following them off work and wrote about their activites?  Gary Ritterstein is free to do or work for whoever he pleases on his own time.

The fact The Morning Call thinks this is newsworthy is troubling.  I sure hope no one who works there ever visits a tavern, takes a drink, goes into a strip club or…gasp…does some work for a non profit.  Maybe a few bloggers should follow them and see.

Schnecksville Family Dines With Dent, Bennett

A Schecksville family had dinner with each of the 15th CD candidates for PBS 39.  Kevin and Krista along with their three children broke bread with incumbent Charlie Dent and his challenger Sam Bennett on separate days.  Kevin, a family physician, is a Republican and Krista is a medical education professor.  Both voted in their Party’s primaries and are undecided.

PBS 39 taped the dinners for broadcast and Kevin and Krista will announce their votes on the telecast.  Being able to sit down at their dinner table with each Congressional candidate is a unique opportunity.  Obviously health care questions are important to this family.

“Pasta and Politics” will air on PBS 39 Thursday October 30th at 7:30 pm.

My bet is they vote for Sam Bennett.

“I wish I could sit down with every family over dinner and talk about the issues,” said Bennett.  “Krista and Kevin’s family share some of the same concerns as many hardworking families I’ve met on the campaign trail.  They asked about important issues like education, the economy, energy, Iraq, and health care.  I’d be honored to earn their vote.”

In CD -15 The Electoral Dynamic Is Shifting

This is a guest column by William Tighe:

In CD-15, The electoral Dynamic is shifting……

But whether or not it is enough to unseat Charlie Dent, I don’t know.

Those of us who like to crunch numbers and trends have been puzzled by the viciousness of incumbent Congressman Charlie Dent’s attacks on his challenger Sam Bennett. All things being equal, there was a back channel consensus that Sam Bennett really had an uphill battle to unseat him, and he wouldn’t have to put up much of an effort to keep his seat.

So when Charlie’s team went “nuclear” (Properties of Merit, Anyone?) early and often, and continued the onslaught, there were those observers among us who thought it a tad bit of overkill. I am one of them. I follow the polls, but I have as much faith in their reliability as I do the guy forecasting the weather, which is none. However, like my blogging buddy John Morgan over at PA Progressive, I observe the trends. What we are seeing explains quite a bit about why Charlie Dent is acting like his political life is on the line. Because if the trends hold their course, it is.

There’s never a guarantee that just because a person is registered as a member of a certain political party, that they will vote along party lines. But History shows that party loyalty is stronger among Republicans than it is Democrats, by about 5 to 10 %. It’s around 90 to 95% or better for Republicans, and 85 to 90% for Democrats. If you followed party line thinking, Charles Dertinger would have been our Congressman 2 years ago. But that didn’t happen, because when theory and reality meet, you never know what you will get.

In the 15th Congressional District, in 2006, there were approximately 175,000 registered Democrats, and 140,000 registered Republicans. Those numbers are based on a total of people who had either voted once or registered to vote in that time. When it comes to Independents/Third parties, according to labels and lists, there were about 48,000, with 50.9%  of those folks actually voting in 2006. That was the highest turnout of Independents in the last 4 general elections, surpassing the 44% of 2004.

This year the Voter rolls have grown with new registrants. Morning Call reporter/uber Blogger John Micek posted the county totals over at his Capitol Ideas blog, and he shows the following Breakdown: The Democrats have 109,502 in Lehigh, and 100,158 in Northampton, for a total of 209,660.

The Republicans have 77,209 in Lehigh, and 69,292 in Northampton, for a total of 146,501.

But over at labels and, they have the numbers of registered voters as of September 17th, 2008, and they show almost 400,000 registered total voters in the 15th CD. That’s 146,000 R’s, approximately 200,000 D’s, and 56,000 Everything else.

Now all things being equal, if everybody voted along party lines, and even if every Independent Third party participant voted for the Republican, you would say that Sam Bennett is a shoo in.

That’s Theory. But we live in reality.

In 2006, more than 52%, and in some precincts, close to 60% of the Democrats voted. You would think, if you were a Dem, that you were doing great, and you were. But the Republicans were better. In Some of Lehigh Counties Western Districts, out in the Macungies, Republican turnout exceeded 75 %, and in two districts I monitored, was over 80%.

Charles Dertinger received 86,000 votes, so if you stick with my 85 to 90% loyalty theory,

(175,000 X .52) = 87,500. 8750 X .85 = 74,375 then take into consideration a 45-55 ( in Favor of Dent) split of unaffiliated/third party registered voters (Approx 24,000) and you add 10,800 to that total,you get 84,175, which is pretty close to Charles Dertinger’s actual total of 86,186. The approximate 2000 vote difference could be accounted for as people registered as R’s who voted for Dertinger, which would give Charlie Dent an astounding party loyalty rate of almost 98%.

In 2006 Charles Dent received 106,261 votes. It breaks down this way: Approximately 13,200 ind/3rd parties, plus 13, 215 Dems who split their ticket, and that’s 26,415 votes, meaning 80,246 Republicans voted for him. Playing the numbers, out of 140,000 registered Republicans in the 15th CD, 58,7 % of them voted. Compare that to 52% actual turnout for Democrats, and you see why numerical registration superiority doesn’t mean squat, if they don’t actually cast a ballot.  Republicans do two things well in the 15th CD. They turn out to vote, and they are extremely loyal to their Republican Party candidate. Democrats are not, and those are the two biggest variables in calculating the formula of why the hell the Republicans keep winning seats where they are at a numerical disadvantage registration wise. The overall Conservatism of the Valley does play a role, but that’s not the end all answer.

In 2004, Dent received 170,000 votes, No there was not 100 % Republican turn out either, but 110,000 of the 136,000 registered R’s did. What defeated Joe Driscoll (Who received 114,000 votes by the way) was the perception he was a carpet bagger. It didn’t help that the 21,000 Independents who voted in 2004 went for Dent by almost a 90% margin, and at least 40,000 Democrats split their ticket to vote for Dent.

Now take a minute to process this, In 2004, Democrats turned out in the 15th CD and nearly a third voted against their congressional candidate. That could happen again.

In 2006 Charlie Dent executed one of the best voter turnout operations I had ever seen. He had carpools bringing people to the polls. In the SUBURBS.

I admire the Republican Voter outreach operation. They have taken data mining and voter targeting to a technological level that is astonishing. Democrats are catching up, but the R’s are still ahead. The supposed problem this year is that the Republican base is disheartened. They are not all that enthusiastic for their candidates. They are not motivated, and experts say the polling trends show it.

  I’m not sold completely on that idea. I’ve got my doubts. Where I think things are most unpredictable is the awesome surge in first time voters, the newly registered.

And that’s where the dynamic has shifted, enter all the new, young, first time voters. The Boys at CNN and the Washington Post have a word that sums them up very well: CYNICAL.

These people are not jaded by attack ads. Not from McCain, Not from Charlie Dent. In fact, there is a great deal of evidence that they are IGNORING THEM.

All these new voters know, is that things are fouled up, and the guys presently in charge are responsible. They want a new direction, and Charlie Dent and John McCain aren’t it.

This is the key to victory for Sam Bennett. A few weeks ago, I had my doubts Obama could win, and it is still not set in stone, but the trends in recent years have been right on. McCain surged, but has now faltered. The Domino onset of repeated economic crisis have been his achilles heel.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say Senator Obama carries the Lehigh Valley, much as Senator Kerry did in 2004. (But only by a couple of hundred votes)

     Okay, now what has to change for Senator Obama to carry Sam Bennett to DC with him? Well, if you follow the results of the Dertinger race in 2006, Sam Bennett, to defeat Charlie Dent, will need to get a minimum 120,000 votes.

 (Warning: this hypothesis is based on a 60% voter turnout, I personally won’t be surprised if it approaches 70%, and predict it hits at least 66% among registered voters).

   Charlie Dent won with 106,000 votes in 2006 to Dertinger’s 86,000, and Green Party candidate Greta Browne’s 5800. (All totals approximate)

Where does Sam Bennett get 120,000 votes? It is actually pretty easy. Now easier said than done, but still…

There are now approximately 200,000 registered Democrats in the 25th CD. That’s up from around 175,000 in 2006 She needs a 70% turn out of 140,000 (Comparable to 2004) and she needs to retain 85 % loyalty (119,000). Joe Driscoll’s party loyalty index was tragically low, under 65%, so what Charles Dertinger did in 2006 retaining the base was actually pretty commendable.

The math in 2008 adds up this way for Charlie Dent. There are approximately 146,000 registered Republicans. That’s only up from 140,000 in 2006. 70% Republican turnout for Dent translates into around 98,000. Give him at minimum 98% loyalty, and you have 96,040. So lets say he picks up all 21,000 that peeled off of Bennett, (Remember, this is for the sake of argument, not cold stone facts) That gives him 117,040. that’s a margin of 1960 votes so far for Sam Bennett.

Now I haven’t forgotten about our 3rd party/non affiliated voters. What will they do? Lets take a look at their registration. Since November 2006, there have been at least 7800 new registered Independent/third party voters, raising the total to just over 56,000 from 48,000 in 2006, and data shows 50.9 % of those voted in 2006. So if we stay conservative, and guess that 50 % of the 56,000 Unaffiliated vote, that’s 28,000 votes in play.

National trends say they are 70-30 for Obama. If it is 50-50 locally for Dent/Bennett, we could be in for recount city. Trends say they are leaning in an anti-incumbent mood, due to the economic upheaval. That is really bad news for Charlie Dent. If Bennett gets anything over 50%, from the unaffiliated, the Lehigh Valley gets a new Congresswoman. In 2006 they went 55-45 for Dent over Dertinger. In today’s economic climate, It’s tough to see them going overwhelmingly either way.

My post today is neither an endorsement or disparagement for either candidate, it is a hypothetical assessment of the numbers I have in front of me. we should all remember that a late United States Supreme Court Justice once referred to there being “lies, damn lies, and Statistics.” When it comes to accuracy, I think you can easily add polls to that list, because I’ll be damned if I can say for sure I know what will happen. What I will say is that the trends are eye opening, and explain why Team Dent is so worried.

My bottom line here is that to defeat Charlie Dent, Sam Bennett needs 85%+ party, or brand loyalty. She needs a get out the vote effort like she’s never had to execute before. If the Dems can break the 60% turnout barrier, she wins outright, but anything less leaves it all in doubt.

If for any reason, (bad weather, Apocalypse, Martial Law) the turnout in the 15th CD only hovers around 50-55% overall, Dent will win reelection easily. Conversely, if it gets up over 60%, or even into the 70% range for the Democrats, their chances get better for taking the Congressional seat.

Politics 101. Get more of the people who will vote for you to the polls than your opponent gets people who vote for him there. In Real Estate, it’s Location, Location, Location.

In The 15th CD, It’s Turnout, Turnout, Turnout.

As for Charlie Dent, he has to, at the very least, match what he did in 2006, and that’s going to be tough. The ground is shifting out from under him, his base is still there, it didn’t shrink, but the opposition got much bigger, and the effort that knocked it off last time won’t suffice this go around.

I made my hypothetical analyses (And it is a Crap shoot, to say the least) after analyzing data found at Labels & Lists and published in national media. I also reviewed previous election results and did my own statistical analysis. You are free to disagree. These are my thoughts, you don’t like them? oh well.

With McCain or Not? Bennett Wants to Know

John McCain is coming to the Lehigh Valley this afternoon and Sam Bennett is asking Charlie Dent if he is embracing the smear campaign of the Senator from Arizona.

Will Dent Embrace Republican Ticket?

ALLENTOWN – With more Pennsylvania voters turning off to Republican John McCain when it comes to handling the economy, will Republican Charles Dent join McCain-Palin as their smear campaign runs through the Lehigh Valley?

A top strategist for the McCain-Palin is quoted as saying, “If we keep talking about the economic crisis, we’re going to lose,” according to a NY Daily News article this past Sunday.  This is just the latest acknowledgement from the Republican campaign itself that people want a change from the failed Bush-Dent economic policies that have lead to America’s credit crisis.

“Dent has also been running a smear campaign to avoid talking about the economy,” says Gary Ritterstein, Bennett Communications Director.  “If they do talk about the economy, maybe Dent can explain why he takes $640,000 from Wall Street, and then waits for banks to go under, markets to crash, and $150 billion in pork-filled earmarks before standing up for Lehigh Valley families.”

Amid speculation that his campaign may soon be pulling out of Pennsylvania, McCain will be visiting his office in Bethlehem, right next door to Dent’s campaign headquarters.  With failed Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani last week, McCain-Palin this week, Lehigh Valley voters may be wondering if they’ll soon see Charles W. Dent with George W. Bush.  No word yet on any plans to make that happen.


Browne Endorses Bennett

Green Party stalwart Greta Browne endorsed Sam Bennett for Congress.  She has run for Congress in her own right and is an influential voice for liberals and progressives in the Lehigh Valley.

“If you have supported me in the past I’d like you to support Sam in this election,” said Browne.  “We won’t always agree on every issue, but I know that we can count on her commitment to the well being of the common people and the health and prosperity of our communities. She is definitely the candidate to vote for this year to represent the Lehigh Valley in Congress.”

Bennett responded to the endorsement:

“I am so honored to have Greta’s support.  Our district can’t afford another two years of Congressman Dent,” said Bennett.  “With Greta’s help, we can bring change to the Lehigh Valley – an economic policy that helps middle and working class families, an energy policy that focuses on renewable energy, and an environmental policy that reverses the impact of global climate change.”

Charlie Dent’s Hypocrisy

Charlie Dent is running ads and now a website attacking Sam Bennett.  The commercials about her non profit Homes of Merit are effective because they not so subtly remind voters about a mistake Bennett made.

Sam Bennett needs to address the issue and turn in back on Charlie Dent before more damage is wrought by his commercials.  These are very effective and they’re hurting Sam because she isn’t responding.

How to respond?  Sam Bennett took NO compensation from running her non profit for seven years.  None, zilch, nada.  All that while Charlie Dent was taking money from Big Oil.  $75,000 worth of your hard earned money went to Dent so he could keep giving the likes of ExxonMobil more tax breaks.

Guess where that $75,000 came from?  The four bucks a gallon you’re paying at the pump.  Every time you fill up your tank and empty your bank account remember it is Charlie Dent’s compensation which is the issue, not Sam’s.

Sam has to address this issue in the upcoming debates because Dent is getting traction.  He’s cleverly simply reminding voters of the non profit organization because they’ll instantly recall the mini scandal over Bennett’s compensation.  She needs to defuse his line of attack because then he’s left with just his lousy voting record to campaign on until November.

Properies of Merit or Big Oil, which is hurting you more?

Bennett Assails Dent on Debates

Sam Bennett is again attacking Charlie Dent on the issue of debates.  Incumbents rarely want to elevate their challengers status by engaging in debates so we go through this every election season.  Bennett, however, has issued a neat line of attack on Dent:  reasons why he’s ducking debates.  It is a way to assemble an entire array of attack lines on Dent’s record and posits him as a Bush lapdog, something every Republican is shying away from being labeled.  Unfortunately they cannot shield their voting records from public scrutiny.

From Sam Bennett:

Top Ten: Why Dent Dodges District’s Biggest Debates

And now we know the real reasons why:

  1. Our country needs change.  Dent has had it his way in Washington for four years and four out of five times Charles W. Dent with George W. Bush.

  2. Folks want to bring that change home.  Dent attacks Sam’s work to help clean up Lehigh Valley communities as “money wasted” while his only two legislative accomplishments in four years are renaming post-offices.

  3. Pennsylvania has suffered 1400 casualties in Iraq.  Dent went to Washington, knowing there were no WMD’s and still votes to use trillions of dollars in Iraq.

  4. When our troops are gone, Dent votes to tax military families, and when they come home, he says NO to their healthcare and job training.

  5. Wages are falling and the wealth gap is growing while Dent makes three times the income of the average Lehigh Valley voter.  Then he votes NO for fully raising the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for equal work.

  6. 212,000 Pennsylvania kids are uninsured as Dent accepts taxpayer-funded healthcare. Then he votes NO for expanding it for kids and military reservists.

  7. Companies like Mack Trucks cut jobs in the Lehigh Valley and their mega millionaire CEO’s still cut checks to Dent for thousands of dollars.  Then he votes NO to stopping CAFTA deals that trade Pennsylvania jobs for corporate profits and NO to the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a fair shake.

  8. Special interests are trying to take over Washington, and Dent accepts more than $90,000 from lobbyists.  Then he refuses to give it back.

  9. Gas prices are soaring and so are Dent’s campaign contributions from Big Oil.  Dent accepts more than $75,000 from Big Oil and gives Big Oil $14 billion in tax breaks instead of investing in renewable energy, says NO to renewable energy, and says NO to efficiency and conservation.

 10. Prescription drug costs are skyrocketing while Dent accepts tens of thousands of dollars from Big Pharma.  And he votes NO for negotiating drug prices for Medicare patients and NO to allowing seniors to import FDA approved prescriptions from Canada.

Bennett Campaign Has New Manager

Sam Bennett made another change at the top of her campaign replacing Kathryn Seck with Josh Levin.  Hannah Miller left the campaign for a job with SEIU.  When I asked her why she mentioned “personality conflicts.”  Seck and the campaign cite differing opinions on the direction of the campaign.

Differences are quite normal on staffs and between staffs and candidates, especially candidates who have never run for federal office before.  I’ve been in the midst of such fundamental differences of opinion and all you can do as a staffer is move on.  There’s no way to criticize what’s going on with the Bennett campaign without knowing what went on so anyone dumping criticism ought to discover facts first.

Sometimes campaigns simply don’t gel and sometimes there are serious differences about developing campaign plans and strategies.  The bottom line is the candidate is in charge and if the staffer, even if they are the campaign manager, fundamentally disagrees they usually leave.  That’s a fact of life on campaigns.

Sam Bennett Slams Dent on Negative Ads

Sam Bennett held a press conference yesterday to slam Charlie Dent on his negative ads.  The 15th Congressional District race is close and Bennett has Dent running scared.  Now that the race has been chosen as a “Red to Blue” possible pickup by the DCCC and a fresh endorsement from EMILY’s List, Bennett is on a roll.

More video after the bump…

The text of her comments:

“At the beginning of this campaign, I challenged Republican Congressman Charles Dent to a clean campaign pledge and he refused.  Now, we know why.  Yesterday, my opponent launched multiple negative, dishonest, and personal attack ads against me.  Charles Dent has, once again, stooped to the same old George Bush-Karl Rove smear tactics of the past,” says Sam Bennett.  “So I am calling on Congressman Dent to accept our clean campaign pledge, debate the issues, and pull down the negative, dishonest, personal attack ads immediately.”

As wages fall and companies cut jobs in Lehigh Valley, Dent takes hundreds of thousands of dollars from mega wealthy executives, Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Washington Lobbyists.  Now, he’s using these contributions to run a smear campaign ad, saying that helping communities is “money wasted.”

Bennett adds, “If you’re listening Congressman, sorry Charlie!  You can run on your rhetoric, but you can’t hide from your record.”

“Dent makes three times the income of the average voter, while he opposes fully raising the minimum wage.  And he takes taxpayer-funded health care, while he opposes expanding health care for kids, veterans, reservists, and our National Guard,” says Bennett.  “To change the way Washington works, we’ll have to change the people that work in Washington.”