Transcription – Daron Shaw Interview

Q:              You mean, Bush people were reluctant because this is the mainstream media (inaudible) —

SHAW:       [01:09:00] I think so.  If you ever see the exit pollsters, they’re identified by these big badges that have the Consortium.  The Consortium is Associated Press, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and CNN.  And so, you know, there’s a FOX label there, but there’s also a CNN, and an ABC and NBC News, and yeah, I think there’s probably a — slightly less enthusiasm on the part of Republicans to respond to the exit poll than Democrats.  And you know, that’s something that’s been fairly consistent over the last few cycles, I think.

Q:              You know, the title of your book and the thrust of your book, Race to 270 might give one the impression that a presidential election is occurring in a void, that all the other elections that are going on that day are of no interest at all to the candidates running for president.  And there is this quote from Bush to Mehlman, [01:10:00] or Bush to somebody that came out after the election, that he had told Ken Mehlman or others early in the campaign, “Don’t give me a lonely victory,” in other words, that he was interested in seeing the Republican Party do well up and down the ballot, especially in the Congressional elections.  What about that?

SHAW:       It’s an interesting point, and it’s a complication.  You know, in a race, as I suggested, that has all these different factors and variables that go in, it is the case that it doesn’t occur in a void, that you have House races and Senate races and gubernatorial elections that are important, and that figure into the calculation of the campaigns.  Now I think in close elections, those things are less consequential than they are in, you know, landslides.  For instance, Ronald Reagan in 1984, Bill Clinton, 1996, has the opportunity to make [01:11:00] more than one trip to help candidates that they think are in tight races, and could be helped by a presidential visit.

In 2000, actually, George W. Bush, I believe two days out took a trip to New Jersey and actually campaigned for Republican candidates there.  And I think that was one of things that Karl Rove identified as a mistake, that they felt comfortable enough to do that, and that they probably needed to have added another trip to Florida.  But even in that race, even in that razor-thin race, the candidate was pulled and felt compelled to appear in a — you know, basically a Congressional election venue.

In 2004, this was a major part of the strategy.  There were a lot of efforts to look for overlap — I believe in that election, there was something like the Dirty Thirty, that is the 30 Congressional seats that were competitive, [01:12:00] that would go a long way towards determining, you know, who was going to control the House, and there are two strategic questions, though.  The first is, does it at all fit within the presidential strategy, or is it an outlier?  Is it that you’re going to have to go far away from a place where that gives you any value in terms of the presidential election?  So that is a factor, and candidates are willing to do that sometimes, but it’s got to be a pretty compelling argument, that it’s going to directly affect an important race, or that there are ancillary benefits, as I said, volunteers, or contributions, or commitments that have been made.

The other question is whether the president’s going to be helpful in that race.  There were races in 2004 where the president’s presence would have been polarizing, might have counter-mobilized, might have brought money into the race, especially from anti-war forces, and so it was best for the president to, you know, kind of quietly step aside and not appear in a race like that.  So these things do complicate the calculations.

[01:13:00] Now, in terms of targeting, and in terms of, say, rank-ordering media markets, or things like that, honestly, these things tend to be scored almost arbitrarily.  In other words, we try to quantify them.  So if I’m deciding between two media markets, and all other things are equal, but media market two has a hot Congressional race, that would be a deciding factor.  And in 2000 we did award some — not quite arbitrary, but certainly subjective weight to states or media markets that had competitive down-ballot races.

Q:              I was thinking too about deciding to take the 75 million from the federal government, instead of going out and raising which really would have been more money than that, but some of the money might have been diverted from other Republican candidates. Any comment on that?

SHAW:       Yeah, I think, this was a criticism, [01:14:00] actually, the Clinton campaign faced in 1996, where Bill Clinton took, you know, public funding, was — ’96 and 2000 are really the last races in which the public financing system was really in play.  But there was a common criticism against Bill Clinton, and that was that he would go into these districts and these states and essentially suck up all the money — and towards a race that really didn’t look to be incredibly competitive, and that you know, rather than turn around and dispense some of those resources in tight Congressional or Senate races, they all went to the Clinton reelection campaign.

We didn’t hear similar complaints in 2000, at least not many, but as I suggested, there was this residual resentment towards, especially the ’92 Bush campaign, George H. W. Bush campaign, that the money had been raised in places, and then those places had been ignored [01:15:00] in the election campaign.  And you know, this was absolutely the California Republicans’ lament, that the national party, Dole, H. W. Bush and then Dole had raised all this money.  And then, now Dole had targeted California, but had pulled out fairly late in the game, but that they were contributing disproportionately, and then their candidates were being left out to dry.

I’m from Texas, and this is the reverse complaint here.  The Democrats — Democratic Party in Texas contributes a ton of money, a ton of money, and you know, Barack Obama and other Democrats have been here to Austin, Houston, and Dallas.  They take that money out, and that money has not been reinvested to build party infrastructure and to help candidates even in competitive races in Texas.  This is a common complaint.  And I think, you know, what you really had is not so much a strategic commitment to building parties in states like New York, California, or Texas that put up a lot of money, but aren’t really competitive states, rather than a commitment to, you know a quid pro quo, which is, we’ll help you raise the money [01:16:00] if you invest in infrastructure, it’s basically been kind of ad hoc, to the extent the candidates have favored candidates, or a personal commitment to people within those states, they may return some of that money.  Otherwise they don’t.  And there’s nothing systematic that sort of facilitates.  I think that’s — it’s an issue.

Alan Abramowitz and I have had this conversation about these large states that used to be battlegrounds that really aren’t anymore, Illinois, Texas, California, New York, and what’s happened to them.  And the minority parties have really withered on the vine in those states, and they still — those parties, the Republican Party of Illinois, or California or New York, or the Democratic Party of Texas still have a lot of money, contribute a lot, but that money goes out of state; it goes to the national party, and it’s not returned.  And so this hyper-strategization that goes on in presidential and Congressional races, has exacerbated that.

Now is that, you know, an awful thing? [01:17:00] You know, I think it’s something we ought to keep our eyes on long-term.  I mean, you would think that robust two-party competition in the major states, all things being equal, is a good thing.  I’m not sure I’ve thought that out well enough to make a comment on it, but on its face, it seems like something that probably is good, and it’s certainly the case that I think there’s some resentment built up over transfer of resources.  You know, the California money, and the Texas money, and New York money, ends up in Florida or Ohio every two to four years.