The 100 Day Sprint: Will Doheny’s laid back campaign style get it done in NY-21?

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.

Doheny’s camp, and some national pundits, have described this race as a toss-up.  Yet so far, the only publicly disclosed poll (albeit produced by a Democratic firm) showed Owens leading by 12%.

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?

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12 Comments on “The 100 Day Sprint: Will Doheny’s laid back campaign style get it done in NY-21?”

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  1. Peter Hahn says:

    I havent seen or heard a thing. Maybe they assume that people dont pay attention till after labor day.

  2. Have I have heard has been Doheny’s responses to things Owens has done and those have pretty much all been “I’d do the same”. So, what is the point in changing horses?

  3. That should read “What I have heard”. My fingers are working even worse than usual today.

  4. Pete Klein says:

    193 names, ticked off on his fingers one by one? Does this mean he has 193 fingers?

  5. nelsonhoward says:

    I have heard nothing either robo call or by mail, which i am happy about. I would like to hear his[Doheny] views on green energy especially wind power. I would like to hear what Bill Owens thinks about wind power. I have been a supporter of Mitt Romney, however that picture of him standing in front of all those coal miners [CO2 pollution]. The president is a strong supporter of green energy including wind turbines which give Iowa 20% of its energy, a pretty good start I would say.
    I heard a farmer wanted a wind turbine to defray the energy expense on his farm in the town of Henderson and is running into strong opposition which claims he has not presented the right environmental impact information. The latest strategy is keep prospective wind power developers mired in paper work rather than saying “no” ,you cannot have a wind turbine, and then claiming it is the farmer’s fault. I saw a lot of land over on Pt. Peninsula with nothing on it but hay. It would make a grand location for a wind farm and bring in a few $100,000 for the land owners.

  6. scratchy says:

    “Not a lot of robocalls”

    And, hopefully, there weren’t be any. Robocalls are the most annoying feature of modern political campaign (and that is saying something!). People just want peace and quiet when they’re home, especially people who choose to live somewhere quiet like the North Country.

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Robocalls (which auto correct tries to make “robot allies” interestingly enough) are really inexpensive. You can make scores for the same cost as just printing a lawn sign. And campaigns seem to think they work even though everyone thinks they are annoying. What is the demographic that hears those calls? My guess is that it is older people who are most likely to show up and vote.

  8. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’m not home much and I don’t have TV so those are out. I haven’t seen lawn signs, but I have seen more of Doheny in newspaper stories.

  9. A classic example of what’s wrong in political journalism these days: focus on style and not substance.

  10. Brian Mann says:

    Brian –

    I’d call this a classic example of crowd sourcing. I wanted to know if others around the district are seeing more activity, more intense campaigning, ads, robocalls, etc., than I’m seeing here. This has helped my understanding of what’s happening on the ground in the campaign.

    –Brian, NCPR

  11. oa says:

    I, for one, welcome our new robot allies.

  12. PNElba says:

    I was surprised to get a quick (1 day) Facebook response from Doheny concerning whether he supported the Ryan Budget or not. Of course the answer was no. He wants to get elected.

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