David Trone of Total Wine is thinking about becoming a late entry into the Eighth Congressional District Democratic primary. Trone has never held or run for elective office previously but is wealthy and could self finance a campaign.
Trone is currently conducting a poll that tests general opinions about candidates as well as the impact of messages regarding Kathleen Matthews and Jamie Raskin. So what is Trone’s game?
Messages Tested about Trone
The positive messages tested about Trone include information that he has never been involved in politics, grew up on a farm and then grew a family business, gave millions to liberal causes, and will self-fund rather than take money from special interests.
Trone’s nascent campaign also tested concerns regarding messages that he has been involved in numerous business and private lawsuits, given money to politicians who could affect his business, and failed to vote several times. Kind of Trone to do the opposition research for his potential opponents.
Messages Tested about Matthews and Raskin
The negative messages tested about Kathleen Matthews are that she said she didn’t know anything about business and was just a PR person for Marriott. Additionally, the poll mentioned that she made the maximum allowed contribution to Missouri Sen. Blunt, who is very anti-choice and tried to remove birth control from Obamacare.
The poll looked at the effect of telling voters that Jamie Raskin once represented Ross Perot and defended Ralph Nader’s participation in the 2000 presidential debate. Additionally, Raskin was characterized as an Annapolis insider endorsed by Mike Miller and the Annapolis establishment.
It’s very late to get into the game and build a campaign organization but Trone certainly has the money to conduct a good media campaign. I imagine Trone could also hire a bunch of people to help with the ground campaign but hired door knockers and phone callers are just never nearly as good as volunteers.
Trone appears to want to present himself as a savvy business outsider–the same appeal as Donald Trump only presumably without the outrageous racist baggage. Matthews is currently seen as the candidate with stronger business ties, so his entry might cut more into her potential support.
None of the potential attacks strike me as particularly effective. The attack on Matthews’ business skills strikes me as one that provides her with a major opportunity to come out swinging and plays to her well-honed media skills. I suspect it would rebound on Trone. Why a candidate who has made many campaign donations would want to highlight a single one by Matthews is also a bit of a mystery.
The attack on Raskin for defending debate participation is dated and arcane. Though Mike Miller has been Senate President since the time of James Monroe, I suspect few voters are truly aware of the powers he wields. Among Democrats, the Annapolis establishment hardly inspires terror in any case.
Remember that many Eighth District voters work in Washington and live inside the Beltway, so these attacks may just not resonate here. If this is the worst Trone can conjure up, both Matthews and Raskin have little to fear.
I imagine Trone hopes to be another John Delaney who comes in and sweeps more established candidates aside. The problem is that Matthews is not a long-time politician and Raskin has always run as a progressive change candidate. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutiérrez have ties to voters and their own forms of outsider appeals.
Trone’s money nevertheless gives him the potential to shake up the race. If nothing else, his entry would highlight the issue of liquor control in Montgomery County. Total Wine is based in Montgomery County but cannot open one of its stores here.