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House Candidates Feel the Glow of the National Spotlight

October 17,2017 17:19

Two months ago, Amy McGrath succeeded in making a national splash with a video introducing her candidacy for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. Now we know the result: She raised more than $750,000 in the third quarter. That's probably going to ...and more »



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Two months ago, Amy McGrath succeeded in making a national splash with a video introducing her candidacy for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District. Now we know the result: She raised more than $750,000 in the third quarter. That's probably going to make her the Democratic nominee for House in her Republican-leaning district. It might even give her a chance to defeat Republican incumbent Andy Barr, though the Cook Political Report still lists the seat as likely to stay Republican. 
Which could mean a misfire for Democrats.
That's Chrissy Houlahan, who is running in the much more competitive 6th District of Pennsylvania, currently rated as "leans Republican" by Cook. 
This is all part of the growing nationalization of the parties. McGrath's video was deliberately aimed at the national, small-donor market, something that barely existed at the presidential level 25 years ago and is almost brand-new at the House primary level. In fact, whether she wins or not, it seems very likely that what she's raised will at least secure the once-obscure candidate a nomination that was hardly assured with only district support. 
That nationalization is something we have yet to fully understand. In one sense, it may be a problem, since these nationalized parties are also composed more of loosely structured networks than of top-down formal organizations, which means it is extremely difficult to coordinate actions. It's also easy to imagine some real duds breaking out from this kind of attention-gathering process, which doesn't necessarily incorporate any careful vetting (although McGrath, for example, did have to show enough strength to win the support of national Democratic campaign operatives).
On the other hand, national formal party organizations have shown a perhaps damaging tendency to play it safe and target only the most obvious districts; it's not necessarily a bad thing for Democrats to expand the districts they fund in a cycle that should be good for them, even if it produces the occasional mistake. And I've argued that nationalization is a good counterforce to the various ways that the U.S. political system empowers some locations and not others; for example, Californians who are underrepresented in the U.S. Senate, or any voters who live in a safely partisan district, can have a significant effect by participating in local elections elsewhere through their national party networks. 
1. Must-read Elizabeth Saunders item at the Monkey Cage assessing Donald Trump's actions on the Iran deal and how same-party and internal administration dissent may (and may not) matter. 
2. Sara Sadhwani at Mischiefs of Faction on differences among Asian-American voters. 
3. Paige Winfield Cunningham at the Washington Post makes the case that the administration has been performing well in tough circumstances in Puerto Rico -- except for the public voice of the president. Plausible. My view continues to be that the president is clearly not handling it well, but that it's very difficult so far to know how much that's mattered on the ground and how to assess the overall government effort. 
4. Paul Krugman on Republican factual errors (he uses a stronger term) on taxes.
5. And Ezra Klein may or may not be correct on the larger theory that the out-party always benefits from making the nation worse -- but he's almost certainly correct that the in-party can't help itself by making the nation worse.
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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.netBefore it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
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