Matt Doheny, the Republican challenger to Democratic incumbent Bill Owens, released a fun, folksy video today where he reels off the names of every town in the newly formed 21st congressional district. 193 names, ticked off on his fingers one by one.
It’s charming and for voters in the sprawling region who have never heard of Matt Doheny, it might be a warm, good-natured way to connect a face with a name.
But I’m wondering if Doheny’s quiet, grassroots campaign this summer is drawing enough attention to build the kind of momentum that you generally need to unseat a sitting congressman. (One, I might add, who is not crippled by controversy, scandal or some other disqualifier.)
It’s not a question of money.
As of mid-July, Doheny had half a million dollars in the bank (Owens had nearly twice that much). The Republican has clearly made a decision not to go big — at least not yet — with a full court press advertising blitz.
The result, especially when contrasted with the hot-blooded campaigns of 2009 and 2010 has been remarkably sleepy. My suspicion is that very few people indeed know there is even a race on.
Which begs the question: If this is really a district that the national GOP — and their Super PAC allies — hope to reclaim, where are the wall-to-wall TV and radio spots? Where are the yard signs?
One problem here is pure optics and perception: Even in the doldrums of summer, a challenger has to convince people that the challenge is real, that there is momentum, that desire for change exists.
To counter that narrative, I suspect that Doheny will eventually need to make some noise, and fairly soon. There are just 83 days left until people walk into the voting booth.
It helped that House Speaker John Boehner visited the district recently to campaign with Doheny, a sign that national House leaders on the Republican side have the challenger’s back.
It’s worth pointing out that Bill Owens, too, has been running a pretty sleepy campaign.
Not a lot of theatrics. Not a lot of robocalls or wall-to-wall ads.
But I suspect that Owens would be perfectly content with a contest that remains in slumber land through November 6th.
So here’s my question to In Boxers: What are you seeing out there? Are you getting mailers? Are you seeing or hearing political ads? Getting robocalls at home? Are you and your neighbors talking about this contest?