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In Senate race: 7 is a crowd

The political strategist behind Kweisi Mfume's campaign for U.S. Senate said this week he believes the increasingly crowded field in the Democratic primary could put the squeeze on Ben Cardin, who is leading the field in fundraising and endorsements.
Last week, former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen joined the race. And this week, Montgomery County businessman Josh Rales is expected to formally jump in. That would leave Mfume, a former congressman and NAACP president, as the only African American candidate in a growing field that also includes forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren, American University professor Allan J. Lichtman, and A. Robert Kaufman.
"Any traction they get comes at Cardin's expense," said Joe Trippi, who is advising the Mfume campaign. I'd love to hear how they say that any of this is good for them."
Cardin, a 10-term congressman from Baltimore County who is viewed as the early front-runner, says he finds that viewpoint offensive, in that it assumes African American voters will gravitate to the only black candidate.
"To suggest that a voter is going to vote for one of us because of race, I think is really demeaning," Cardin said. "I have strong credentials among African American voters. I have represented large populations of black voters, and I have championed issues critical to African American communities. I think that's going to help me."

The idea has currency among Mfume supporters, who believe both Rasmussen and Rales will chase voters in Cardin's base, said Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore).
"I think [the additional candidates] could do nothing but help Kweisi," Oaks said.
Allies of Cardin say, not so fast.
"None of these other candidates has any name recognition," said Del. Samuel Rosenberg (D-Baltimore), who noted that Rasmussen has not been on a ballot in 16 years. "I don't think those people have much credibility in a statewide race."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he thinks it ill advised to speculate about how the growing field of candidates will change the dynamics of the race.
"The Democrats have a candidate for everyone," Miller laughed. "Hopefully the cream will rise to the top."

Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  January 14, 2006; 8:25 AM ET
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There is more than one African American in the Senate race. Be more specific if you are talking about the Democratic Primary.

Posted by: Two Party System in Maryland | January 14, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Looks like the article has been corrected. Thanks.

Posted by: Two Party System in Maryland | January 14, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Supporters of Kweisi Mfume are mistaken to suggest that the possible vote dilution resulting from a multiple candidate U. S. Senate race necessarily favors Mfume.

African American voters are not, nor have they ever been, a racial bloc vote in Maryland politics. As Ben Cardin correctly points out in his remarks, he has long and deep roots in the Baltimore City African American community including a substantial record of accomplishments as a civil rights activist. Even as his former State legislative district was transforming itself from a majority white to a majority African American district, Cardin repeatedly garnered high margins of African American votes when he ran for Delegate in the General Assembly. Those margins are not likely to change, and Cardin's base of support in the African American community is not likely to diminish, merely because Mfume happens to be in the race.

Mfume has not run for political office since 1994. The last election for the seat vacated by Paul Sarbanes was six years ago. Thus, there will be several generations of young, new and sophisticated voters, including African American voters, who will be voting for a candiadte to fill that seat for the first time. Should a hotly contested race for Governor bring those new voters out to the polls in force, they will hold the balance of power in the Democratic primary. Polls suggest that their votes will be influenced by the front burner issues of these times, not political rhetoric, and that they will be attracted to candidates of substance who will be able to deliver on their promises irrespective of race. On the issues and in light of his long, continuous and outstanding record in Congress, Cardin has the edge over all the current contenders, including Mfume, to win those votes.

Vote dilution is an elusive concept that has no scientific contours or predictability. Students of politics must remember that there have been several instances across the country in which white political candidates have won by landslides with large African American voter margins even in newly created majority-minority Congressional districts created specfically to overcome the effects of vote dilution and elect minorities.

We need to direct our attention and the debate to issues, not race, because race will not matter in this election.

Posted by: Marc Jan | January 14, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

On the "front burner issues" of bloody war and imperialism Cardin "has the edge" to crash and burn because of his refusal to oppose the indefinite occupation of Iraq.

"Young, new and sophisticated voters" (Black, White, Asian, Latino, former Deaniacs, and now DFAers) can easily see past Cardin's empty rhetoric.

Young people are the ones fighting and dying in Bush's guerrilla war every day in Iraq. Young people are the ones organizing on high school and college campuses to tell the truth about military recruiters' lies.

Young people are the ones who will be paying the costs in the future of the ongoing war that nobel-prize winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates at over 2 TRILLION dollars. Young people are the ones paying the costs of the war today with increased college tuition and fees (over 40% increase over the past 2/3 years at the University Maryland).

Race will not matter. We're sick of spineless Democrats of all race.

Posted by: Phil | January 14, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a bad piece of journalism. Race never came up in my interview with this reporter. In fact I was asked how all these candidates getting into the race was going to impact our money -- I said "We are not raising much money from wealthy donors so any traction they get comes at Cardin's expense."

I also said that all these candidates getting in -- shows how weak Cardin's candidacy is. He set out to raise all this money and get all these endorsements so he could clear the field -- well the field just keeps getting bigger.

Almost none of what I said in the interview appears in the story and what I did say in the story was in the context of money -- not of race. I expected this of the Washington Times -- but I guess even the Post is into this story line.

Posted by: Joe Trippi | January 14, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

good blog

Posted by: Bob | January 15, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

With all respect to Joe Trippi, the reporter never indicated that he said anything about race.

As a political strategist, Trippi certainly understands that others would read his remarks at different levels, and make their responsive comments accordingly. That is the nature of political commentery, no more, no less.
The post by the reporter is fair, and the comments contained in the post are proper and relevant to the discussion.

Let us now talk about, as Trippi asserts, the "context of money." According to data in the recent money report on the website of, a total of $2.8 Million has been raised by the Demorcratic candidates. Ben Cardin has raised 74%, or $2.8 Million. Allan Lichtman and Lise Van Susteren have raised about 9% each, or $262,553 and $250,713, respectively. Kweisi Mfume trails the group at 8%, or $221,370.

What data does Trippi rely upon for his assertion that expansion of the field of candidates ". . . comes at Cardin's expense . . ." with respect to fundraising? First, every dollar that goes to another candidate is one less dollar for both Cardin and Mfume. Second, assuming that there will be another $2.8 Million pot of money to be raised by the Democratic candidates, what will be Mfume's strategy to close the fundraising gap between his campaign, that is currently raising money at the rate of $8.00 per $100.00 raised by all Democratic candidates, and Cardin's campaign, that is raising money at the rate of $74.00 per $100.00 raised? There are not that many wealthy donors, as Trippi describes them, in Maryland. So what will Mfume do to reach grassroots donors?

Mfume's fundraising is remarkably below that of every Democrat in the Maryland Congressional Delegation seeking reelection to office in his respective district. Chris Van Hollen, $800,629; Steny Hoyer, $755,342; Dutch Ruppersberger, $339,828; Elijah Cummings, $305,672; and, Albert Wynn, $261,682.

Assuming that Mfume's fundraising strength is more likely to be among voters in the five Congressional districts in which Democratic incumbents seek reelection, than it would be among voters in two other Congressional districts in which Republican incumbents seek reelection, what will Mfume's strategy be to close the actual dollar and per capita dollar fundraising gaps he obviously has in his statewide campaign for U. S. Senate per those Congressional districts, compared to what the Democratic incumbents themselves have done and will do with respect to fundraising in their districts? Oddly, Mfume, a former four term member of Congress, has raised less money in his statewide race than Dr. Peter Beilenson, a political novice, who is running for Cardin's Congressional seat. Beilenson has raised $234,980.

So Mr. Trippi, talk about money!

Posted by: Marc Jan | January 15, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Marc -- No -- I expect my response to a question to be reported in the context that it was asked. I was asked about money and I responded about money. It was a piece of bad journalism.

All these candidates getting into the race despite Cardin's money advantage and his spree of endorsements demonstrates how weak Cardin's candidacy really is. Don't have to believe me -- just watch how this all plays out.

Posted by: Joe Trippi | January 17, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Joe Trippi's political argument, "All these candidates getting into the race despite [Ben] Cardin's money advantage and his spree of endorsements demonstrates how weak Cardin's candidacy really is," is based on what- principles of political science, rigorous analysis of data, comparison of comparable races for political offices or his wishful thinking?

Mr. Trippi is a paid political strategist. Since he is speaking for Kweisi Mfume's campaign he carries the burden, not me, not a reporter, not anyone else, to support his arguments. Without some discussion of science, data or comparable races, his argument makes no sense.

Cardin has been an elected official for nearly 30 years. He was elected five times to the Maryland House of Delegates, 10 times to the U. S. Congress, served as Speaker of the Maryland House for nine years, has strong bi-racial support, an outstanding and unblemished record of public service and raises $74.00 out of every $100.00 contributed to Democratic candidates for the U. S. Senate. When has any candidate for the U. S. Senate, with Cardin's background, experience and election prospects, ever lost a primary election merely because there were other candidates in the race none of whom have made a serious run for any political office in the past 10 years?

Mr. Trippi, please give us some data, analysis or comparable races to help us better understand your argument!

Posted by: Marc Jan | January 19, 2006 6:58 AM | Report abuse

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