Bram Reichbaum asks a very good question:
Louis “Hop” Kendrick’s assertion poses a difficult question. How are we to determine base size? The number of people attending campaign events? Social media likes and follows? Fund raising? 2005 elections results?
One thing is clear: Lamb is aggressively and as conspicuously-as-you-please courting the African-American vote. That is good. That is crucial, despite the inherent difficulties. I’ll be particularly interested to hear how Lamb (and Peduto both) respond to Councilman Ricky Burgess’s blunt assertion that if you’re a black Pittsburgher, “you would have to be insane” not to vote for Luke Ravenstahl.
It seems to me that in politics, your base is the coalition of benefit seekers, donors, and activists whose interests you have promised to represent. That could be specific sectors, specific ideological interests, specific groups with whom a candidate shares some kind of cultural affinity, etc. It’s not just “people who have voted for me in the past” it’s the people who are going to do politics to get you elected – contribute money, knock doors, make calls, attend campaign events, and actually do the hard work of organizing.
To have a base, the first thing you need to do is take some issue positions. It’s the issue positions that determine your coalition, and so far Michael Lamb doesn’t have any. That’s why it’s looking like Lamb is coming up short in the money race. Despite the big talk, he doesn’t have a real coalition behind him. By contrast, it’s much easier to imagine the rough shape of the Luke Ravenstahl and Bill Peduto coalitions, in terms of interest groups and geographic regions.
My one comment on the Ravenstahl fundraising numbers is that you should ignore Ravenstahl’s take and watch the challengers. The incumbent has near-universal name recognition and is going to be able to raise as much money as he needs to. We know this. The way you’ll be able to tell if the race is competitive is if the challengers are able to raise enough money to make a real race of it.
The way the donations game works, donations are more of a bet on who’s going to win, rather than some cartoonish effort to “buy” a politician. Don’t be surprised to see the same interest groups donating to both Ravenstahl and Peduto. They’re trying to hedge, and get in the good graces with whoever will end up being the next Mayor. If challengers end up being able to raise a lot of money, that’s a sign that donors think Ravenstahl is vulnerable. If people won’t open their wallets for the challengers, it’s a sign people think Ravenstahl is safe. You can change the media narrative on this by giving money to Bill Peduto.
The more money he gets, especially from small donors, the more journalists will write stories about a close race, and then more people will be willing to give Bill money, and so on.