Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "Rope-A-Dope" Approach To Fundraising

I have been heavy on the boxing analogies lately, so I apologize for resorting to another one – “Rope-A-Dope” – when discussing Team Ehrlich’s impressive, and unexpected, fundraising performance.

The Ehrlich campaign reported raising $2.8 million during the past seven weeks, and reported having $1.77 million in cash on hand going in to the campaign’s final two weeks.

Several signs – the campaign’s absence from radio, the infrequency with which it has unveiled new campaign ads compared to Team O’Malley, and the fact that Ehrlich’s TV ad buys seemed more conservative than O’Malley’s purchases – created the impression that their money might be drying up.

But, in true Rope-A-Dope fashion, Team Ehrlich surprised us by shattering expectations. Strategically speaking, it was an impressive play – probably their best move of the campaign.

I’m interested to see how much O’Malley reports. And, I can’t wait to see how Team Ehrlich spends these resources. As I have stated elsewhere on this blog, while I am skeptical as to their ability to pull off a win, the nature of the year and the volatility of the electorate might still make this a race with a photo finish.  First, Team Ehrlich needs to refine their message, and run with it.

This is why I love politics…every time I reach a point where I think I have seen everything, something comes along to surprise me.


  1. Ehrlich campaign has yet to purchase airtime for the last week, and as you know the later one purchases the more they pay. O'Malley campaign has paid for their ads, don't know what they have on hand but with that purchase already made, they won't need much other than gotv dollars.

    Not sure I understand the strategy of sitting on that money, allowing O'Malley to pound away at his poll ratings. That is enough money for plenty of tv and radio for three week. We have 13 days left and votes are hardening. Suspect the number is inflated, bills have been deferred or this is truly the most mismanaged race in MD history.

  2. How much in unpaid bills and accounts due is there? Doesn't matter how much is in the bank if it's been spent. No one knows this more than Bob "phony surplus' Ehrlich.

  3. Don't you risk the stations not having any available ad space left if you buy late?

  4. Will team Ehrlich bring in homeless people to hand out $20 bills to those who vote for Ehrlich?

  5. This is a bizarre turnabout, though it is either:

    a) This campaign is completely mismanaged. The money if it was on hand does nothing in the bank, one needs to get his message out and around Maryland. A late push becomes saturated with all the other candidates who will be on tv, statewide races are won with consistent messaging; or

    b) some creative accounting is being utilized to hold assets without paying bill in order to report a bigger number. Actually having that cash on hand without spending has added to the momentum of the O'Malley camp, it has given the appearacne to potential donors that the race is all but over.

    There is also a backlash if the story is completely accurate, now there is no need for donors to give, 1.8 over 13 days is plenty of money to burn.

    Who knows, I look forward to Friday's full disclosure.

  6. If the money is for the purpose of funding an early voting outreach program, wouldn't much of it have already been spent on renting buses, hiring drivers, etc.? The more I think about, the less sense it means to have that much cash on hand. Maybe they have a clever closing strategy in mind? I've been quite critical of some of their strategic calls, so I'm trying to be fair here.

  7. RJC,

    I suspect they bought this weeks time on Monday to show more cash on hand. NO way that kind of money is used for voter outreach, it would be a waste of cash. The only thing on a campaign that costs this much is ad time. Clever closing strategies should be a part of a bigger scheme which wouldn't include giving your opponent unrebutted whacks at you and spotting them a 5 to 9 point lead in the polls. If that was the case, it was stupid. I don't think they are stupid enough to sit on resources that badly need to be deployed. Bet dollars to Massoni's morning dozen donuts that this is very creative accounting.

  8. O'Malley will not report much cash on hand, as they are running a solid campaign. There are 13 days left for ads, O'Malley has purchased his spots in both jurisdictions, all their expenses are paid. Posting a big number this late is bizarre and show a lack of understanding about the fundamentals of campaigns. A lot of weird things happen in races! This lat report is one of the weirdest considering the beating Ehrlich has taken on the airwaves. Who let's the other side frame the debate? Never seen a race wgere the winner explained their way to a win. ehrlich has spent the last month explaining.

  9. Anon @ 10/19 @18:14:

    "Posting a big number this late is bizarre and show a lack of understanding about the fundamentals of campaigns."

    It sounds like you have some inside knowledge here. Are you dampening expectations for the number O'Malley is about to announce?

  10. This isn't July. Campaign money is good to have on hand to show viability early. Having a ton this late is nonsensical. If O'Malley has anywhere close to this it is mismanagement. Money is raised to push message, not to show fundraising prowess. What one has on hand this late if tv is bought doesn't matter, what can it be used for?

    Don't need to lower expectations, anyone who understands campaigns gets that to candidates don't win elections or votes based on your ability to save cash for a rainy day. The expectations of donors is money given is deployed to win the race at hand.