Sunday, September 09, 2007

John Carney and Jack Markell: One Year to Go

We're now a year away from the primary, and the campaign for Democratic nomination for governor is fully underway. John Carney let us know he's running on Return Day last year. But it was Jack Markell's announcement in June that really set the wheels in motion on both sides.
John Carney had tried to preempt a primary by portraying himself as the natural successor, and by building an impressive list of supporters within the party. Markell has compiled a pretty good list of his own, which includes former Gov. Russ Peterson. Tom Carper tried to fend off Markell by proposing a deal that never got very far. (Call it the done deal that never got done.)
Markell, who never closed his campaign operation after winning his third term as treasurer, brought in Andrew Roos to manage the campaign as soon as he announced. Roos previously worked on Bill Bradley's campaign and ran Indiana governor Joseph Kernan's election campaign in 2000, in between sporadic graduate studies in philosophy.
Carney recently brought David Hamrick on board as a consultant. Hamrick is a specialist in building field organizations; he ran the party's coordinated campaign in 2000, and has focused on the ground game with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the consulting firm Hildebrand Tewes. Carney has also hired a fundraising consultant and pollster, Jefrey Pollock, who conducted a poll back in June, according to the Carney Website:
Pollock conducted the June 7-June 10 poll with a sample of 405 likely Democratic Primary Voters and a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. The results showed Carney with a 10 point lead over primary opponent Jack Markell. Carney’s lead increased to 20 points when voters were read balanced profiles of each candidate.
How reliable is the poll, which was conducted over the four days immediately after Markell announced? We don't know whether Carney's reported ten point margin is the difference between 15 and 25 percent or 35 and 45 percent. We don't know what the poll found in terms of name recognition. (A Fairleigh Dickinson poll conducted in February found that Carney led Markell in name recognition by 62 to 46 percent.) And we don't know the language used in the poll for the "balanced profiles" of the two. This sort of polling is used by candidates to help them sharpen their message and differentiate themselves from their rivals. It's not a reliable technique for gauging genuine public support this early in a campaign. As far as I know, the Markell campaign has not conducted any polling.
Earlier in the year, I described the two campaigns as a contrast between the inside game and outside game. Carney is trying to make the most of his position within the party and state government; his resume touches all the bases of the Democratic Party establishment in Delaware. Markell wants to capitalize on his individual vote getting prowess; he led the pack last year with 70.5 percent in his election to a third term as treasurer.
A year is a long time in politics, and Delaware isn't used to campaigns that get started this early. I'd be reluctant to offer a prediction or even suggest a narrative for the coming year.
But I do think that one key question will be the extent to which Carney runs as an incumbent. As Lt. Gov., he presides over the Senate, and will effectively function as a member of the current administration, at least through to June 30 when the current General Assembly wraps up its business.
Jack Markell opened his campaign with a mild but unmistakable message: "We can do better." Beyond that, he has avoided any direct criticism of the current administration, instead asking policy oriented questions about issues like management of the Delaware Psychiatric Center and the deal with NRG. Carney has on two occasions allowed himself a small bit of daylight between himself and Gov. Minner on wind power and education. But his comments two weeks ago that cited Minner as a role model has evoked winces across the state:
I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to be Governor watching Tom and Ruth Ann, and one of the most important things is the value of leadership.
As I have said before, I think both are qualified to serve as governor. I for one am not bothered by the prospect of a primary; as Delaware turns bluer the action shifts to within the party when a vacancy opens up at the top. As a citizen and party member, I appreciate the chance to vote. As a blogger and old political hand, I appreciate the chance to observe a fascinating race.
The polls close at eight o'clock a year from tonight. Stay tuned.


Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

I’ve learned a few things about what it takes to be Governor watching Tom and Ruth Ann, and one of the most important things is the value of leadership.

Carney could have meant this in the sense that he learned what not to do from Ruth Ann. I always tell people the campaign I worked on that I learned the most from was also the worst run campaign I worked on: I learned what not to do from the many mistakes that were made.

10:27 PM, September 09, 2007  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

Just as Paul said, I have learned a great deal from the mistakes I and others around me have made. So I notice it when public figures (or their staffs) commit stupid errors that could have been avoided. It's particularly glaring when experienced hands make rookie mistakes.

I don't know if John Carney intended his comment about Ruth Ann Minner as having learned what not to do. If so, the meaning was lost on most observers.

Disclosure: Paul and I worked on opposite sides in Wilmington's 1996 mayoral campaign. Paul's candidate, Brad Zuber, ran a pretty good race.

10:55 AM, September 10, 2007  
Blogger Paul Smith Jr. said...

Just throwing out a hypothetical. When people asked me about the educational, I always told them it was the most educational race I'd ever been on, so that I could say something nice.

Just for the record, that wasn't the Zuber campaign. We ran that one pretty well, although, as with any effort, mistakes were made and things could have been done better.

8:46 PM, September 10, 2007  

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