Presenting the Lamest Last Minute Fundraising Pleas

Manan Trivedi

It’s September 30th, the final day of the final fundraising period before election day, and candidates for Congress, U.S. Senate and President are begging their online supporters for a last minute boost.

The 3rd quarter reports, due by Oct. 15, are their last chance to demonstrate strength and avoid a place on the bottom half of PoliticsPA’s Winners and Losers list.

Here’s a look at some of the lamest pleas.

Editor’s note: this list is offered with sympathy from someone who has written more than his share of fundraising emails.

Bob Casey for U.S. Senate:

I wish my record could speak for itself – but the game has changed.

Tom Smith for U.S. Senate:

We’ve raised more than $48,000 online from supporters like you, and we are SO CLOSE to our end of quarter goal of $60,000.

Rep. Jim Gerlach, PA-6

As expected, my opponent has unleashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads that are false, over-the-top and ridiculous.

Manan Trivedi, Dem for PA-6

Back when I played soccer at Fleetwood High School, the mission was very simple: Play as a team and get the ball in the goal. Somebody should write that on a wall in Congress because they never seem to work towards an end goal that truly serves the American people.

George Badey, Dem for PA-7:

But we’ve just found out that a shadowy Republican SuperPAC is going up on TV right here, and targeting our race. Right now, they’re just putting $35,000 in, but there could be much more coming if we don’t stand up right now and fight back.

Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Dem for PA-13:

To end the ideological gridlock in Washington, we must work together to ensure that I am reelected to Congress, that we re-elect President Obama and elect Democrats up and down the ticket.

Larry Maggi, Dem for PA-18:

With only 10 hours left until this final fundraising quarter is over, my finance director Kathleen tells me that we’re only $2,089 away from meeting our goal.

Jindal, Smith Rouse PAGOP

La. Governor Bobby Jindal

Camp Hill — Republicans from around Pa. gathered Friday for a last-minute party pep talk before the sprint to the general election. With little on the agenda, activists and committee people heard familiar criticism of President Obama.

“I really only have two criticism of the President of the United States. The first, is that he is most liberal President we have seen in office since Jimmy Carter was President back in the 1970s. The second criticism I have is that he is the most incompetent President since Jimmy Carter was in the White House,” said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, the evening’s keynote speaker. “And I mean no disrespect to Jimmy Carter by saying that.”

“When the Europeans are telling you you’re spending too much, you know you’ve got a spending problem in Washington, D.C.”

Jindal was elected in 2007 and re-elected in 2011; a rising national star in the GOP, he was discussed as a possible vice presidential pick for Mitt Romney and even in 2008 for John McCain.

For weeks, most polls have shown the presidential race in Pa. slipping away from Romney. His campaign has not aired television ads in Pa. at any point during the general election, and a few weeks ago conservative super PACs left the state.

Over the past few weeks, the Pa. Republican Party has pushed back against that narrative. They were bolstered Friday when Romney visited Pa. for the first time since July. Party leaders sought to energize the regulars to maintain high energy – not just for the top of the ticket, but for local candidates as well.

Indeed, Chairman Rob Gleason boasted of an internal poll commissioned by the party showing the race separated by just 1 point and of the fact that the PAGOP was airing a television ad, the only state party in the nation to do so.

Speakers also gave Tom Smith, the GOP Senate candidate who’s risen in the polls over the last 10 days, hearty praise. The state committee had endorsed his primary opponent in a contentious process during the primary.

“Tom, coming from the private business sector, not only does he pass a budget every year in his company, he balances that budget. He’s been doing that for many, many years. That’s the kind of private sector, practical sense, common sense leadership we need in Washington, D.C.,” Jindal declared. “Let’s elect this man as your next United States Senator.”

“The gap is closing, he’s moving on Senator Casey,” Corbett said.

Smith received a hero’s welcome at the committee – the loudest applause of any speaker – and a sustained standing ovation. He kept his speech basic, thanking party leaders.

“Let’s keep up the fight. This November, what I am hoping for – we will hold down the House – we will have Harry Reid sitting just another voter in the back of the corner, back of the room,” he said to cheers.

The party also played a speech by Rep. Mike Kelly, on video from a U.S. House floor speech in July which was recently named by the Huffington Post (his office boasted) among the 15 Most Passionate Rants and Speeches of the Obama Presidency.

Kelly later praised Smith, specifically his family’s decision to adopt a family of 4 disadvantaged children, and dismissed recent polls showing him at a disadvantage.

He went on to compare Smith and Romney to the Oakland Raiders, who, despite trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers for most of their recent matchup, ended up winning the game.

“So when people tell you we’re down, and we’re not running a very good race and we’re not able to come out of the huddle and we’re fumbling the ball and we’re doing all these crazy things, I say, you know what? See me at the end of the game,” he said.

DePasquale Rides Union Contributions to Auditor Fundraising Lead

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York)

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale (D-York) is working those phones. The Democratic Auditor General hopeful raised about $244,000 over the past 5 months, including over $150,000 from labor groups. Republican hopeful John Maher (R-Allegheny) brought in about $153,000 in the same time period.

The position of Auditor General, which essentially serves as a watchdog for Pennsylvania taxpayers, ensures that all money is deposited into the Pennsylvania state treasury, all the while being handled legally and properly.

DePasquale received a total of $243,975 in campaign donations from May 15 through September 17 and has $182,705 cash on hand.  His top two donors are the political action committee of SEIU ($25,000) and the Pa. State Education Association ($16,000).

During this period, John Maher received a total of $152,952.64 in campaign donations, and has $86,383.67 on hand. His top two contributions came from the PA Future Fund, a pro-business political action committee ($25,000) and Pa. Sen. Jake Corman’s campaign ($10,000). He also loaned $50,000 to his campaign.

Both candidates received numerous contributions from their Pa. House colleagues.

However Maher, who founded an auditing firm and is independently wealthy, has a practically unlimited ability to boost his own campaign and catch up with DePasquale down the stretch. So far, Maher has loaned his campaign $303,263.

Maher wouldn’t say that he would refuse to be outspent, but told PoliticsPA that he would have enough to get his message out.

Romney Visits Valley Forge; Obama Surrogates Sound Off

Mitt Romney arrived in the Keystone State today, hoping to increase two important resources vital for his Presidential hopes: money and votes.

Romney held a fundraiser at the Union League in Philadelphia this morning. Joined by Senator Pat Toomey, Congressman Charlie Dent and Senate hopeful Tom Smith, Romney stressed the importance of “shocking” everybody and winning Pennsylvania.

“We really would shock people if early in the evening on Nov. 6 it looked like Pennsylvania was going to come our way,” said Romney, according to a pool report from Colby Itkowitz of the Allentown Morning Call.

However, Romney’s message to his donors and those in attendance at the Valley Forge Military Academy Rally was different. Romney boasted confidently to the crowd that he would win Pennsylvania.

“You know, I’ve got a little secret here,” said Romney, “That the Obama campaign thinks Pennsylvania is in their pocket. They don’t need to worry about it. And you’re right, and they’re wrong. We’re going to win Pennsylvania. We are going to take the White House.”

It was the first visit by either presidential candidate to Pa. since July.

On the opposite side, Obama surrogates were ready and waiting. Former Governor Ed Rendell blasted Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comments.

“The Florida Fundraiser was an incredible birds-eye view of what Governor Romney feels about the American people, said Rendell. “He basically cast away 47 percent of our country.”

Schwartz added to Rendell’s sentiment, calling Romney ignorant toward most Americans.

“Mitt Romney has made a certain choice, which is to really ignore and express disdain for most Americans,” said Schwartz.

Rendell also challenged the Republicans and Romney to compete for Pennsylvania, saying writing off the state is a mistake. Rendell said that Pennsylvania’s poll numbers are congruent with other swing states around the country, but that if Romney starts campaigning in PA, “we’re ready if they do.”

Politically Uncorrected: The Great Debate Show

Here it comes.

Beginning on October 3 and continuing through October 22, the rapidly closing 2012 presidential campaign will host of series of fall debates. The first is likely to be the most heavily watched event of the long presidential campaign. The second and third will follow on October 16, and October 22, respectively. The vice presidential debate occurs on October 11.

Not surprisingly, both campaigns approach the debates at fever pitch. In a highly polarized, emotionally charged, hard fought race, the Obama camp believes that a solid mistake free performance will give them four more years. The Romney team believes they can still sell its candidate to the American people as a viable alternative to incumbent Obama.

As the challenger, Romney has the higher hill to climb, but Obama, as incumbent, the most to lose. With the election itself on the line, the debates are the defining moment of the campaign.

Or maybe not!

Make that definitely not.

Indeed, everything we know about presidential campaigns and debates suggest that:

  • the debates will not be the defining moment of the campaign,
  • will not determine who wins and who loses and,
  • will not  even significantly impact the margin of winning or losing.

The conventional wisdom that debates can be decisive forms the core of a widely believed mythology about presidential debates – one full of drama, climactic moments, unforgettable punch lines and riveting history.

According to the myths, Kennedy came from behind to beat Nixon in 1960 because of his charismatic use of TV; Ford hurt his campaign in 1976 with Jimmy Carter by flubbing an answer about Soviet domination of Eastern Europe; Reagan beat Carter in 1980 after reassuring viewers he wasn’t a wild man; Dukakis lost to H. W. Bush in 1988 by failing to be properly emotive when a moderator asked him a hypothetical question about rape and the death penalty; then the same H. W. Bush lost a debate to Clinton in 1992 because he cavalierly glanced at his wristwatch during the debate expressing what some interpreted as uncaring arrogance; finally in 2000 Al Gore famously damaged his campaign with his audible sighs at G. W. Bush’s debate answers, insuring voters would reject the tedious Gore for the more likable Bush.

The trouble with all this “history” is that there is precious little evidence that any of it actually happened. In the most celebrated debate myth, Kennedy – Nixon, Kennedy was almost surely gaining rapidly with Nixon going into the debate and that trend simply continued after the debate. In the only slightly less famous myth, Ford’s gaffe on Eastern Europe certainly didn’t cost him the race. In fact, he went from 15 points down before the debates to only 5 down afterward. And to use just one more example, Gallup has estimated that the famous Dukakis goof in 1988 had no effect at all on the polls done in that race.

With few exceptions, most scholars agree that the conventional wisdom about debates as game changers is hokum. One respected political scientist, James Stimson, surveying the debates from 1960 to 2000 has concluded: “there is no case where we can trace a substantial shift to the debates.” In the same vein, two other political scientists, Robert Erikson and Christopher Wlezian have written that “the best prediction from the debates is the initial verdict before the debates.” In short, if a candidate is ahead or behind going into the debates, that candidate will be ahead or behind after the debates.

But arguing that debates are rarely if ever decisive is not arguing they are also unimportant. On the contrary, debates are important and do matter. But they matter much differently than conventional wisdom teaches. While debates rarely change opinions, they often do act powerfully to mobilize voters pre-existing opinions. They make those voters comfortable doing what they have already decided to do before the debate.

Contemporary political myths, however, are seldom confused by facts. Despite all the evidence  that debates are not decisive, the 2012 debates, nevertheless, will  be staged  as dramatic spectacles, vivid life and death struggles between the warring candidates, with the future of the republic resting on the outcome.  Maybe that’s the way it should be. In show business as in politics, the show must go on. And in 2012 the debate show is the only show we have left.

Madonna is Professor of Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Young is a former Professor of Politics and Public Affairs at Penn State University and Managing Partner of Michael Young Strategic Research. Madonna and Young encourage responses to the column and can be reached, respectively, at and

For Rob Teplitz, All Signs Point to Obama

Rob Teplitz, the Democrat running for state Senate in central Pa., isn’t winning points for subtlety with his latest campaign tactic. Harrisburgers were treated Thursday to a bumper crop of “Obama Teplitz” yard signs.

“Barack Obama won this district 55 percent in 2008. I am proud to be on that ticket. It doesn’t mean that everyone who votes for him is gonna vote for me or vice versa, but I’m proud to be on that ticket,” Teplitz said.

Teplitz is running against Republican John McNally for the seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin). It’s one of the four most competitive state Senate races in Pa. this cycle. Teplitz is the Chief Counsel in Jack Wagner’s Auditor General office. McNally, the former Chair of the Dauphin Co. GOP, is a local attorney.

The district includes Harrisburg and its suburbs along with most of Dauphin County, as well as communities in northern York County.

“It’s no wonder Teplitz and Obama share a sign,” said Ray Zaborney, a consultant working for McNally. “They share a philosophy – reckless spending, reckless borrowing, and higher taxes to pay for it.”

He teased Teplitz for concentrating the signs in Harrisburg, where Obama’s performance will be boosted by large support among African Americans, and offered to purchase more for areas like Hershey and York. He also suggested that their legal status is questionable.

“I’ll be happy to pay for more signs for areas outside the City. But I’ll actually make sure it’s paid for through a federal PAC so I don’t violate election law like Teplitz. Some reformer huh?”

The thousands of signs, including the one pictured above, are paid for directly by Teplitz’s campaign committee.

PoliticsPA checked with several campaign finance pros and the Federal Election Commission, and it looks like Teplitz is OK.

State level candidates’ committees are permitted to contribute up to $1,000 to a federal candidate like President Obama, either through a direct contribution or an in-kind contribution in the form of goods or services. Any spending beyond $1,000, and he would have had to form a distinct federal committee.

The Teplitz camp says it’s well below that limit.

Obama’s name is on the plastic part of the sign. The metal wickets – the most expensive part of yard signs – were purchased separately. Additionally, one expert we spoke to said he’d be able to prorate his contribution based on the proportion of the plastic part of the sign that bears Obama’s name. So, if the sign above cost $2 and was split 50/50 Obama/Teplitz, he’d only have to report $1 as a contribution to Obama.

In any case, he said he plans to list the expense as an in-kind contribution when the next campaign finance report is due in October.

“It’s all perfectly legal. It’s an in-kind contribution to the Democratic State Committee and it’s all going to reported along with everything else at the next deadline,” Teplitz said.

MCall Poll: Kane Leads AG Race by 6

Freed, left, and Kane

The race for Pa. Attorney General is wide open, according to a new poll from the Allentown Morning Call and Muhlenberg College. Kathleen Kane, the Democrat, leads Republican Dave Freed 33 percent to 27.

38 percent were still undecided in today’s poll.

That’s narrower than the most recent public polling of the race from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which showed Kane with a 40 percent to 29 lead one month ago. A Public Policy Polling survey in late July showed Kane ahead 41 percent to 34. In internal poll that was conducted in mid-September and released by the Pa. Republican Party showed Kane leading Freed 40 percent to 35.

However, Kane’s lead expands to 9 points, 44 to 35 percent, when voters who said they lean toward one candidate or the other are included in the totals.

She won a high profile primary in April and, at least in part because of her resulting name ID advantage, has held a consistent polling lead since

Kane is looking to make history on two fronts. Republicans have held the AG’s office since it became an elected position in 1980, and neither party has ever nominated a woman.

The pollster surveyed 427 likely voters from Sept. 22-26. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

9/28 Ups & Downs

It’s here. Campaign season is fully on us now, and the ads and polls and press releases are coming at us a mile a minute. Here’s who stood out this week, just 5 and a half weeks before election day.

Kathleen Kane. The past week has been a credit to her campaign. When a GOP group out of DC started the first part of its $1M effort against Kane with a gritty ad, her staff vigorously and effectively debunked its claims (it was called “nonsense” today by Add that to a strong fundraising period (she raised $1.47M from May to Sept., plus $300K in the past week). However, the fact remains that most people who saw that anti-Kane ad won’t hear about the rebuttal. It’ll be expensive trying to counteract half a million dollars of attack ads in the Philly market. Oh, and she needs to rein in an overeager intern.

Tom Smith. The Senate hopeful is in for a warm welcome at GOP State Committee this weekend. Poll after poll this week showed him catching up with Sen. Bob Casey. The Washington Post changed its prediction of the race from “solid Democrat” to “lean Democrat” this week, and Smith Thursday appeared on the nationally syndicated Mark Levin show. He’s starting to feel the love. Friday, former Governor Tom Ridge endorsed him, and Sen. Pat Toomey also chimed in with a fundraising email to supporters on Smith’s behalf.

Keith Rothfus. In 2010, the GOP congressional challenger didn’t catch the attention of the national guys until too late – he lost to Jason Altmire by 1.4 points. This year couldn’t be more different; he has lots of support. A GOP internal poll showed him tied with Rep. Mark Critz, and the DCCC is scaling back its TV presence (Lest Republicans dare to dream, a DCCC rebuttal poll showed Critz ahead by 11 and Critz has the backing of numerous other 3rd parties). And we liked his new bobblehead TV ad this week.

Rob McCord. The incumbent Pa. Treasurer had a decent fundraising report – he brought in $200K. So did his opponent, Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, who raised over $100K. The difference? McCord has over $2 million on hand, while Irey Vaughan reported just over $22K. In a race that voters don’t care much about where earned media is nearly impossible, it’s a big advantage.

Democrats. They just don’t get western Pa! That’s according to two television ads from Democratic congressional candidates Rep. Mark Critz (from earlier in Sept.) and just this week from Larry Maggi. Both criticize their own party over energy policy. “Democrats want to kill natural gas jobs,” says Maggi. “We had to fight President Obama’s EPA to get it done,” Critz says of his effort to save a coal mine. Critz is facing a tough challenge from Keith Rothfus (see above), while Maggi, a Washington County Commissioner, hopes to unseat Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Allegheny).

Tweet of the Week

This week it goes to WITF’s Mary Wilson, who dutifully covered the Auditor General debate on Friday night.

“Thank goodness Mary Wilson is tweeting from the PA Auditor General debate; I’ll retweet this right away.” — No one.

— Marywilson (@Marywilson) September 22, 2012


MCall Poll: Senate Race Narrowing

Smith, left, and Casey

Tom Smith will arrive at Republican State Committee Friday with a head of steam. Another poll has shown the U.S. Senate hopeful closing the gap with Bob Casey.

A poll from the Allentown Morning Call and Muhlenberg College has Casey ahead of Smith by 8 points, 44 percent to 36 percent. That’s 4 points closer than their survey from 10 days ago, which had Smith trailing 45 percent to 33 percent.

It’s the latest of four polls released within the past week that show the race in single digits (Casey had lead Smith by margins in the mid to high teens for months). Casey now leads Smith by 9.8 percent according to the Real Clear Politics polling average - which doesn’t yet include this survey.

Casey, a freshman Democrat, is still better known and better liked than Smith, a former coal company owner. Both have been on television for weeks.

Realistically, with both candidates on the air, it was inevitable that the race would close. However, that he is showing nearly universal improvement means Smith is getting noticed.

The Washington Post changed its prediction of the race from “solid Democrat” to “lean Democrat” this week, and Smith Thursday appeared on the nationally syndicated Mark Levin show. You can listen to that interview here.

Today, Smith picked up the endorsement of former Governor Tom Ridge. Ridge, a moderate, was himself talked about as a possible challenger to Casey.

“Tom Smith’s detailed plan to ‘Restore the American Dream’ offers the common sense solutions necessary to grow our economy, as he believes that hard-working Americans will pave our road to prosperity,” Ridge said in a release. “I am pleased to endorse Tom Smith as our next United States Senator and invite all Pennsylvanians to join me.”

“I’m humbled to have the support of one of our state’s most steadfast, results-oriented leaders, Governor Ridge,” said Tom Smith. “Gov. Ridge’s experience in the private and public sectors are inspiring.”

Sen. Pat Toomey also chimed in with a fundraising email to supporters on Smith’s behalf.


The Morning Call/Muhlenberg poll’s sample size and methodology have not yet been announced; the paper will do so in its print edition over the weekend. PoliticsPA will update this post when that information becomes available.


The pollster surveyed 427 likely voters from Sept. 22-26. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

MCall Poll: Obama 49, Romney 42

The latest poll from the Allentown Morning Call and Muhlenberg College shows a presidential race that’s 2 points closer than their survey from 2 days ago.

President Obama leads Mitt Romney 49 percent to 42 among likely voters.

47 percent of Pa. voters approve Obama’s job performance, and 49 percent like him personally. 39 percent like Romney.


The poll’s sample size and methodology have not yet been announced; the paper will do so in its print edition over the weekend. PoliticsPA will update this post when that information becomes available.


The pollster surveyed 427 likely voters from Sept. 22-26. The margin of error is plus or minus 5 percent.

Obama leads Romney by an average of 8.3 percent according to Real Clear Politics.

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