The Democrat faces three well-funded Republicans for the state’s top offices, Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle. In the most recent fundraising period, he raised much less than these GOP adversaries, and at around a million bucks has one-fifth Vitter’s total banked, about half of Dardenne’s, and is even with Angelle, who did outraise him by a factor of seven in the latest period. Add in affiliated political action committee funds, and his disparity with all becomes even greater.
That’s not necessarily the end of the world. As the only Democrat in the contest and with his base disproportionately of the yellow dog variety, just having that singular “D” by his name on the ballot means he doesn’t need to spend a penny to get a quarter of the votes cast. The problem is having that “D” also repels at least a quarter of the vote and as for the other half makes them skeptical, and only vigorous campaigning that requires lots of cash can hope to flip a majority of that half open enough to voting for a Democrat in a statewide contest to do exactly that.
Understand also that donations to a campaign signal votes by proxy. While some donors give out of ideological conviction no matter the perceived chances of a candidate to win, most treat it as an investment: they give to those they think share their agenda (or at least are thought open to considering it) that they see has having a decent chance to prevailing. It makes no sense to them to do anything but back what they see as the winning horse; any other behavior to them simply throws money away that constitutes unwise, wasteful spending.
Realizing this, an evaluation of Edwards’ fundraising reflects generally a pessimistic outlook on his candidacy. One other point drives this home: Vitter is the leading money-raiser in the three largest cities in the state, whose population total about 808,000, while the largest city in which Edwards outranks all other of his competitors is his hometown of Amite, the 64th largest metropolis in Louisiana weighing in at 4,275.
Seeing expectations diminished by what trickles in monetarily may have spurred the Edwards campaign to seize upon some private polling information that reputedly gave Edwards the lead in the contest so far. It was leaked to a publication that would just as soon share his bed to show off the presumed result to the world, and now he and his campaign cite it at the drop of a hat.
The only problem in the conclusion that Edwards leads the race from that poll is that it’s a lie. The pollster himself publicly refuted the allegation, where his data showed Vitter with a clear lead and in a matchup with Edwards defeating him decisively. He speculated that Edwards contrived the claim by reviewing a series of “push” questions either praising or denigrating by way of issue preferences and cherry-picking one that showed Edwards out in front. These questions tell much about possible tactics a campaign can use to congratulate its candidate and to denigrate others, but little about voting behavior because few people are one-issue voters but instead, if they vote on the basis of issues, consider a mixture of these of varying weights.
Besides showing the intellectual dishonesty of the Edwards camp, its trumpeting of the false conclusion demonstrates its nervousness. Knowing the fundraising totals reflected tepidness about the candidate, it must be willing to seize on anything in order to make Edwards seem more competitive than he actually is. It’s not an entirely academic point: even if Edwards has little chance to win, his showing will have an impact on down-ballot Democrats, and the more competitive he appears, the more enthusiasm that will develop that will seep down to assist these candidates.
Democrats will not win any statewide contests this fall. But they want to prevent Republicans from winning as many other state and local races as possible. Making Edwards seem more of an electoral force serves that purpose, even if increasingly that impression appears to be built upon fiction.