A guest blog by Adam Pagnucco.
Congressional District 8 has three strong Democratic candidates with a chance to win. One of them is Total Wine co-founder David Trone.
Let’s start with the obvious: Trone has accounted for two-thirds of all funding in the race and three-quarters of broadcast TV spending. He leads the field in mail and digital ads too. As David Lublin has written, his campaign has been well run and professional. Trone’s rags-to-riches life story is compelling and will appeal to many. He is running as the outsider candidate in a year in which outsiders have seen success at the presidential level in both parties. He is running against PACs and lobbyists more than he is against his opponents. (Only PACs and lobbyists could rival the current Congress in unpopularity!) And Trone has been an active campaigner at the retail level, appearing at Metro stations and many events.
Trone had a bad start, openly saying “I sign my checks to buy access” when questioned about why he contributed to Republicans and having to apologize when his campaign sent a spy to the Matthews and Raskin offices. He is pilloried by Raskin loyalists and some of his opponents for his self-funding. He is not a natural politician and has had to learn the ropes quickly. He was unknown in the district in the beginning (boy, has that changed!) and has no local political history. And he is not as good a fit for the district’s electorate as a liberal state senator or a telegenic, professional woman. But Trone’s financing as well as the competent campaign operation he has built virtually overnight make him a big factor in this race.
What Our Sources Say
Source: “Trone is not a naturally attractive candidate, but he seems to be the rare self-funding first-timer who has allocated his resources wisely and widely across the spectrum of voter contact methods and has mostly avoided unforced errors, some early missteps notwithstanding. He has hired competent professionals to produce television ads and direct mail pieces of workmanlike quality while also using paid canvassers, online ads, etc. If he loses it will not be because he failed to touch all of the bases or because he failed to heed the advice of people who know how to run political campaigns.”
Source: “If there’s anything Montgomery County politics could use, it’s someone to shake things up. Our politics are boring and our politicians are all the same. I love the fact that Trone’s not part of the small insiders club, and rather than being shy about it, he’s proud of it. With the Republican Party shifting hard to the far right nationally, the Democratic Party should be seizing the hole left for the business community – and with his business background and progressive politics, David Trone is the kind of guy who can help make that happen.”
Source: “Running a terrific outsider gubernatorial campaign, but he’s running it for a House seat. Good ads, good mail, and showing up everywhere he needs to, just not getting traction because the legislative job doesn’t match his executive credentials.”
Source: “David’s candidacy will test the political theory about whether the Delaney model for victory was a fluke or is a viable way to reach Congress in Maryland. In terms of policy, demeanor, desire and political acumen, he is the best choice. He has the potential to actually change Congress for the better. So, did his late entry hurt him? Do enough people know him? Is money the ultimate decider in our local Congressional races? He’s never held political office, does that matter? If he is elected, does that mean that most MoCo voters are actually more moderate and business friendly than we think they are? David’s candidacy is the most intriguing because it tests all of these questions. If he wins, the party establishment loses two congressional seats in a row – CD6 and CD8.”
How He Could Win
Because of his resource advantage, Trone doesn’t have to run a targeted race – he can communicate with everybody. His television and digital ads go out to regular voters, casual voters, non-voters, members of other parties and non-residents alike. His mail program can reach out to all registered Democrats. Raskin’s base will never abandon him and many women will go for Matthews, but there are thousands of Democrats in the district who know only one candidate: David Trone. If turnout is high and is not based just in the Downcounty areas that are the home of the district’s liberal, high-information voters, there will be lots of people who will vote for President, know nothing of Congress, and vote for U.S. House candidates based on little more than name recognition. This is the antithesis of the scenario most favorable to Jamie Raskin – a large, casual, mixed-ideology electorate who come from Carroll, Frederick and Upcounty nearly as much as they do from the Beltway region. If that happens and turnout approaches 2008 levels, David Trone could be going to Congress.