Friday, September 26, 2008

Kentucky 2: DCCC to the Rescue

By Nathan L. Gonzales

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is exercising its financial muscle with television ads on behalf of a cash-strapped candidate in Kentucky’s 2nd district.

State Sen. David Boswell (D) has a similar political profile to southern Reps. Don Cazayoux (D-La.) and Travis Childers (D-Miss.), who were elected earlier this year in special elections. The main problem is that Boswell’s initial fundraising was startlingly low.

Two public polls showed Boswell leading the race, including a June 27-28 SurveyUSA poll that had the Democrat up 47 percent to 44 percent and Boswell’s own poll, conducted Aug. 23-25 by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, which had him ahead 41 percent to 33 percent.

But Boswell’s lead was considered soft by race observers because he is running for an open seat in a district that President Bush won by 31 points in 2004 and because he faced a significant cash disadvantage to his opponent, state Sen. Brett Guthrie (R).

The Republican raised $766,000 through June 30 with $661,000 in the bank through the second quarter. In comparison, Boswell had a mere $45,000 on hand after taking in $238,000 through the first six months of the year.

Although he was not prohibited from raising money during his legislative session, Boswell self-imposed a fundraising ban in coordination with the law for state races. Even still, he didn’t raise a lot of money for a supposed top-tier takeover opportunity. GOP Rep. Ron Lewis is vacating the seat.

Now, the Democrat has been added to the DCCC’s exploding “Red to Blue” list and estimates he’s taken in another quarter of a million dollars since the May 20 primary. But the best news may be the DCCC reservation of $840,000 worth of ads in the district, with the ads slated to begin at the end of the week.

The DCCC’s ads could be in critical in the expensive Louisville media market, where about three-fifths of the voters reside and where neither Boswell nor Guthrie is particularly well-known. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not reserved time in the district.

Boswell was significantly outspent in his unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1987. His media consultant back then, David Axelrod (now chief strategist for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama), told him he would need more money to get out of the primary against wealthier candidates.

Now, with the DCCC’s help, it looks like Boswell could win despite a cash disadvantage to Guthrie. But Boswell’s road is still tough, considering he will have to run well ahead of Obama at the top of the ticket because Kentucky was one of the Illinois Senator’s worst-performing states in the Democratic primaries.

This story first appeared on on September 23, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.