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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Of David and the G-man

One of the most popular images used in politics for candidates who are under-funded or over-matched is David and Goliath.

The comparison can get invoked when poll numbers are down, when the opponent’s campaign coffers are many times greater or when a challenger faces a long-term incumbent. It’s probably a comforting image for the person on the lesser side of things. But setting aside the biblical implications of God being on David’s side – something political reporters avoid because we’re bad at divining Divine favor – who would you really rather be, most days?

The D v. G image could conceivably be invoked soon in next year’s U.S. Senate race which currently features four-term incumbent Democrat Patty Murray against former state GOP Chairman Chris Vance. Murray might be an unlikely choice for Goliath status in most respects, considering she stands maybe a shade over 5 feet (there are those who would say that figure is inflated, but it’s considered impertinent to pull out a tape measure around a senior member of Congess, so Spin Control can neither confirm nor deny.) But then there’s the relative size of campaign coffers.

On Friday her campaign released the total collection from the third quarter of 2015, which was $1.7 million. Added to what she’d raised previously, she had $4.7 million in cash on hand. And that doesn’t count the take from the Oct. 9 event featuring President Obama, which is expected to be about $500,000, but the campaign apparently is still waiting for some checks to clear before confirming an exact total.

Vance announced a total of $18,000 in the third quarter of 2015, which was actually his first quarter for campaigning. And to be fair, he didn’t start until around Labor Day, so that amount was raised in a couple weeks, not the full three months. He had time for one small fund-raiser and one e-mail seeking contributions before the Sept. 30 reporting deadline.

He has time to catch up, although if she stops raising money – a more unlikely prospect than David hitting the G-man square in the sweet spot with a rock – Vance would have to raise about $13,000 a day, every day between now and Election Day 2016 to pull even.

He does not expect to match Murray, who six years ago raised about $14 million, Vance said Friday. He has a target, which he wouldn’t disclose. “We have to raise enough,” he said.

While he wouldn’t define what enough was, he did describe what it was not. Republican Mike Baumgartner raised a shade more than $1 million in his 2012 race against incumbent Sen. Maria Cantwell; that clearly was not enough, he said. So something north of that.

But he also mentioned fellow Republican Rob McKenna raised more than $13.8 million for the governor’s race that same year, and lost, so that also wasn’t enough, even though Democrat Jay Inslee raised slightly less. Vance doesn’t expect to come close to McKenna’s totals, but believes a candidate can do more with less money thanks to Internet advertising and social media.

But Murray seems to have an early leg up on Internet use. A campaign source said she raised $18,000 from e-mail donors in the four days after Vance announced from a campaign message that she actually had an opponent. The campaign sent out another e-mail a week later, and took in $69,000. 

A final riff on D v. G

In a conversation last week with Stuart Halsan, head of the group opposing Initiative 1401,the David and Goliath image came up, but Halsan quickly changed it as inadequate. The pro I-1401 campaign, Save Animals Facing Extinction, has raised more than $2.7 million, much of it from tech billionaire Paul Allen. The anti group, Legal Ivory Rights Coalition Committee, has raised less than $1,000. So he had to amend it and say it’s really more like “Goliath versus a flea”.

Which got us thinking at Spin Control. Maybe there should be a minimum size requirement to claim David status vis-a-vis an opponent. Goliath was six cubits and a span (1 Samuel), which would make him about 9-foot-9. David’s height isn’t mentioned, but he at least tried on King Saul’s armor and the king was a pretty tall guy, so let’s say David was at least 5-foot-5, which would be a decent height for those days. In any case, Goliath wouldn’t have been even twice as tall as David.

So maybe those down by more than half can’t lay claim to David status and will need another image.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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