Sunday Morning Coming Down

The Cook Political Report, a fairly well-respected political analysis service, has its first set of rankings out since redistricting. The new NY-25 is in the “leans Democratic” category, which is the second most competitive category. Cook calculates the PVI of NY-25 as D+5, which makes it fairly Democratic, but also indicates that Obama’s 18-point win in 2008 (11 points over the national results) was a Democratic high-water mark in NY-25. NY-28, Slaughter’s current district, was a D+15 “safe” district by Cook’s reckoning.

Cook rates NY-24, the new Syracuse district, as another “leans Democratic” race. There, Ann-Marie Buerkle will face Dan Maffei, who she beat in 2010. Since that district is now D+4 (it was D+3), and since Buerkle hasn’t moderated any of her Tea Party stances, even a weak campaigner like Maffei will probably win, despite the well-demonstrated fact that he’s a guy who could probably fuck up a ham sandwich. Rochester will probably see a lot of NY-24 ads because its bedroom communities in Wayne County are still part of the new district.

The new NY-27, which Kathy Hochul won after Chris Lee resigned, is R+6 instead of R+7 but will still be tough for her to win. It’s currently rated “Leans Republican” by Cook, but with former Erie County Executive Chris Collins announcing this weekend, that may change for the worse. Collins, who lost his re-election bid last year, is in no way as strong a challenger as Brooks, and he’s also widely considered to be at fault for the incompetent campaign run by Jane Corwin, Hochul’s challenger in the special election. NY-27 includes a few towns in Monroe County so we’ll see plenty of advertising for this race, which is the most likely Republican pick-up in New York this year.

NY-23, the new Southern Tier district, is in the “likely Republican” category, though it is a R+3 district now instead of the safer R+5 district it was. Cook has this as a “likely Republican” district mainly because Tom Reed doesn’t have strong opposition for that seat. NY-23 won’t much of a factor in Rochester politics any longer, since no Monroe County towns, or even any bordering counties, are part of the district.

Speaking of Reed, he brought House Minority Leader Eric Cantor to Henrietta on Friday. Cantor also met in private with Brooks to discuss her campaign.

Somebody Loan Me Your Lonsberry Decoder Ring

Bob Lonsberry thinks Maggie should run to as the real American in the race:

The best service she can offer her country, is to step into the bully pulpit and make the case for Americanism.

Here’s some more:

This isn’t about partisanship, this is about patriotism. And if sending Maggie Brooks to Congress didn’t serve a patriotic end, there would be no reason to do it.

But there is a patriotic rationale. There is a legitimate good. There is a national need.

A vote for Maggie Brooks is a vote for America. And even if the politicians don’t realize that, the people must.

I guess voting for Louise Slaughter is a vote for, what, Canada? Guatemala? Sometimes it appears as if Bob talks in some kind of code originated in the hills around Mt. Morris and passed on via ancient clan rituals of the elusive FUBO tribe.

Bob also gives Maggie some bad political advice, which revolves around selling a vote to Maggie as a vote against a second Pelosi speakership. In a district where Democrats voted for Obama by an 18 point margin in a year when the devil herself was the speaker, one has to assume that Pelosi’s satanic nature wasn’t relevant then, and it won’t be now.  Bob needs to pick a different bogeywoman for this district.

Louise Does It Her Way

Over on the Twitter, Sean Carroll was complaining about Louise Slaughter’s refusal to take campaign questions at her press availability this afternoon.  Since the event was in the Federal Building, she said she couldn’t talk about the campaign.  Chapter 4 of the House Ethics manual [pdf] does say you can’t conduct a campaign out of a House office, but answering questions isn’t campaigning, so I think Louise just didn’t want to talk to the press and she came up with a plausible excuse. So, on the part of the 13-WHAM newscast I saw, Sean got to tell us all that Louise looked good and said she was feeling fine.

For more than twenty years, Louise has lived in a world where Louise talks about what Louise wants to talk about.  Today, Louise wanted to talk about the bill she sponsored, the STOCK act, which just passed Congress, so that’s what she did.  Like Maggie, Louise  has been in front of the press for a good part of her adult life, and she’s not going to get caught saying anything unless she’s prepared to say it.

Poll Mentions Morelle

Rachel Barnhart has been hearing about a poll comparing Maggie Brooks with Louise Slaughter (no surprise) and Monroe County Democratic Chair Assemblyman Joe Morelle (big surprise).

In addition to Rachel’s guesses (centered around Louise’s health), this could just be a simple “what if” comparing a lesser-known Democrat to a well-known one to gauge the bottom of Democratic support in the district. I was polled a few times by someone interested in the 2010 Jim Alesi race in my district, and they compared him to a couple of well-known Republicans and Democrats.

Welcome to Twitter, Hope Your Resume Is Up-to-Date

Consider this my official welcome of D&C Publisher Mike Kane to Twitter. File it under “never too late”, which is apparently the D&C management’s attitude about the Internet in general.

Mike, when you kill your newspaper by instituting a paywall, perhaps that will give you time to reflect on why nobody wants to advertise in the D&C in the first place. Let’s start with the basics. Do you realize the utter commercial failure embodied in splitting up stories so I have to page 3 times to read a few hundred words, while burying your ads at the bottom of the page? Here’s an example from today’s D&C. There are 12 ad positions and four sponsored links below the place where I click “next page” to see the next page of the story.  In other words, most of the ads are in places I’ll never look, by design. You make readers click three times to expose them to ads they’ll never see.  Do you think they’ll be lining up to pay to click 3 times to read that story?

As has been the case for the last decade, most of those ads they’re not seeing are the usual Internet junk, at best fake-localized:
That’s not an ad about Fairport, its an ad that figured out that my Internet connection is near Fairport (I’m actually in Pittsford, but good try) to try to sell me some scam.  Why would any Rochester advertiser want to put their brand next to this kind of crap?

Speaking of our home town, let’s look at the Pittsford page of the D&C. There are five ads on this page. Two of them are from MacDonald’s. One’s from a city charter school, one’s a sponsorship link from, and one’s a house ad for Careerbuilder.  There’s a new bakery in downtown Pittsford, and there are lots of new businesses opening and closing in Pittsford Plaza, yet not a single one of these businesses has chosen to advertise on your local landing page or on the Pittsford blog.  They’re spreading the word via social media, they’re posting their new business on RocWiki, Yelp and Google, and they’re advertising in the Brighton-Pittsford Post and the Penny Saver.  What they’re not doing is spending any money with you.

Howard Owens, who publishes The Batavian and sells a lot of ads, is right about your paywall — it’s going to open up opportunities for your competitors.  You should read his stuff carefully, because he’s making money where you aren’t.  But even without a paywall, your competition is already beating you, because your company is apparently unable to do what newspapers have done to support themselves for a couple hundred years:  sell ads to local advertisers.

So, Mike, welcome to Twitter, and good luck with your paywall.  One piece of advice:  fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Update:  Apparently Karen doesn’t like criticism.

It’s No Fun In Romney’s Shadow

Christine Fein at City asks Maggie a good question and gets a bob and weave:

Brooks also hasn’t yet addressed the social issues, like contraception, that are getting so much attention in the excruciating Republican presidential primaries. In our conversation, Brooks said she will be “fully vetted” on those issues, but they’re not what she’s running on. But Brooks and her competitor, incumbent representative Louise Slaughter, are two women running for Congress in a year when women’s issues are getting star billing. People will want to know and deserve to know where Brooks stands. If she’s the last vote standing between President Mitt Romney and the elimination of Planned Parenthood, what would she do?

“I want to establish a campaign that shows people what my priorities will be and what I think is important,” she said, in response to the Romney question. “And I want to hear from them what they think is important. All the other stuff needs to be answered, certainly. But it shouldn’t be a distraction right out of the gate.”

If we take that metaphor literally, apparently Maggie would prefer to have her distraction in the home stretch. The way you know when a politician doesn’t have a good answer to a question is when they call it a “distraction”.

Issue One: Slaughter’s Age

When a 57 year-old challenger takes on an 82 year-old incumbent, one of the issues is the health, vitality and intellect of the incumbent. So, let’s rip the band-aid off of this one right away and ask whether Louise Slaughter is still on her game.

I’ve been looking for video of Slaughter at an unscripted event where she’s under some stress, and this was the best I could find. It’s a news conference in Buffalo in September, 2011. She’s quick on the draw, doesn’t reach for words, responds to a wide variety of questions with a fair amount of humor, and doesn’t get snippy. If Slaughter demonstrates this level of energy and ability in September, 2012, I doubt that age will be an issue in this race.

Why This Time?

Steve Zodiac at Mustard Street makes this observation:

Maggie Brooks will run for Congress because there’s no reason for her not to.

Run and she has a decent shot at winning.   Lose and she’s exactly where she’d be, and no worse off, than if she didn’t run:  finishing out her term as Monroe County Executive.

Term limits make this term her last.   So a loss in a congressional race can’t tarnish chances for re-election, since there isn’t going to be a re-election.

This is all true, but my question is why she chose a Presidential year to challenge an 82 year-old incumbent. Maggie’s term is up at the end of 2015. If she ran in 2014, Slaughter’s age would be even more of an issue, or, more likely, she will have retired, and a lot fewer Democrats would be heading to the polls because Democratic turnout is lower in non-Presidential elections.

Give Me Land, Lots of Land and a Sunny Sky Above

Maggie Brooks doesn’t want to be “pinned down” on issues quite yet.

“To me, that’s always been the same: jobs and the economy,” she continued. “You know, the social things don’t get people back to work, the social issues don’t lower taxes, don’t relieve regulation from business. Those are the things I want to focus on initially, and we’ll take our time with the other things.

“We’ll be fully vetted on those, you better believe it.”

Brooks was asked specifically about whether she would vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, known to critics as Obamacare, and her views on the federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives.

The notion that she’ll be fully vetted mainly on non-social issues, and concentrating on those, is a fond wish that won’t come true. Brooks is running to join a House caucus that spends a good deal of its time on social issues. Repealing Obamacare, to name one example, is vitally important to a lot of Republicans, and her supporters will want to know how she stands on that. On the Democratic side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is prepping reporters with 10 questions, three of which are about women’s health care, and those questions are all fair ones. That’s just a taste of what’s to come from the media and her opponent.

Finally–and this will be a theme repeated for the rest of this campaign–Maggie’s not the top of the ticket in 2012. That honor probably belongs to Mitt Romney, who instructs women to “vote for the other guy” if women want “free stuff” like contraception. That quote is one of many reasons that Romney’s likely nomination is a double-edged sword for Brooks. He’s theoretically a Northeastern moderate Republican, which is what Brooks will run as in a Democratic district. But he’s also an example of how moderation in today’s Republican party isn’t durable. As recently as 2002, Mitt supported Medicaid-funded abortions. Romneycare funds contraception, now Mitt’s against it.

If the 2012 standard-bearer can change his positions that radically, it’s fair to ask how Representative Maggie will differ from County Executive Maggie, once she’s under pressure to be a loyal vote for her party in Washington. Whatever phrase you choose–“pinned down”, “fenced in”, or “held accountable”–Maggie’s positions on the social issues that are dominating the Presidential race are going to be fully vetted before this election is over.