Harrington’s campaign against Wasserman Schultz fleeced small donors

Rank-and-file Republicans from all over the country wanted to get rid of Debbie Wasserman Schultz so badly, they were ripe for manipulation. And manipulated they were.

The Karen Harrington campaign released the results of an Oct. 1-2 poll that reportedly showed Harrington only 4.5 percentage points behind Wasserman Schultz. It was breathlessly headlined, “Karen Harrington Releases Poll Results, Wasserman Schultz In Jeopardy of Losing.”

Thirty-three days after the poll’s release, Harrington received just 36 percent of the vote, getting crushed by Wasserman Schultz’s 63 percent total. That’s a 27-point loss. A laugher for the Democrats. Custer at Little Big Horn. A massacre.

It’s not like there was some cataclysmic event between Oct. 2 and Nov. 6 that caused Harrington’s support to collapse.  Harrington – who did not return my calls for comment – was not caught on video kicking a puppy or burning the American flag. The ensuing campaign was largely uneventful and predictable. Harrington ran as a conservative, and Wasserman Schultz ran as herself. The incumbent probably spent more time working for other candidates and performing her duties as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee than she did running against Harrington.

So what happened?

Basic math, that’s what.

This isn’t a case of a slightly inaccurate turnout model ala Rasmussen or Gallup, where a miscalculation of a few points meant an inaccurate overall prediction.

Only 25 percent of the voters in U.S. House District 23 are Republicans. Democrats account for 47 percent and independents 28 percent.

Harrington and her supporters often said that Republicans and independents together outnumbered Democrats, as if that was some sort of profound insight outlining a clear path to victory. But to anyone with experience in politics, it was a meaningless and deceptive observation.

Most independents are not truly independent voters. They strongly lean either Democratic or Republican and tend to reflect the partisan makeup of the district in which they live. Persuadable independents actually account for a small but important percentage of the vote.

This is not some secret gleaned from illegally wiretapping the backrooms of Chicago or by stealing Karl Rove’s cellphone. It’s Politics 101.

Lady Gaga had a better chance of becoming pope than Harrington had of beating Wasserman Schultz. That didn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile to try to tie down the DNC chair by making her defend her turf, because it was. Harrington mounted as vigorous a challenge as any Republican could have, given the overwhelming partisan advantage enjoyed by the Democrats in that district.

But the end does not always justify the means.

The poll released by Harrington was not credible to major Republican donors or experienced politicos.

As one local blogger with close ties to the Republican challenger wrote at the time, “Harrington is turning these results into a money bomb of sorts, so supporters are encourage [sic] to visit the campaign website and contribute.”

Money bombs from both parties go out by email to large lists of true believers all over the country. They’re designed for the small donor, often from a different state – the working-class donor who wants to do his or her part to help the cause and who can only afford to donate 25 or 50 bucks.

Maybe the working people who donated to Harrington knew the race was unwinnable and gave money to her anyway just to annoy Wasserman Schultz. I’ve done that myself in plenty of races.

But I’m guessing most of Harrington’s small donors, being unfamiliar with the district’s partisan makeup, actually believed there was a chance to win when there wasn’t.

All political campaigns try to spin the truth, but spinning the truth is a lot different than making up a falsehood to raise money.

Had a financial firm used numbers like that to sell securities, there would have been an uproar – and a few indictments.

But because this is politics, and Harrington ran against Wasserman Schultz, we’re all supposed to be loyal, little Republican robots and close our eyes to this sham of a campaign.

Not me. I don’t play the robot game.

Treating our working-class base like a bunch of chumps, like sheep, to be sheared of their hard-earned money by any means necessary, may not be illegal, but it is a crime.

It’s a crime against the conservative cause, a crime against our own people, and a crime against future conservative candidates whose job in convincing donors they have a chance to win has been made all the harder by the unscrupulous tactics of those who came before them.

Jack Furnari

Jack Furnari

President at BizPac Review
Jack Furnari is a founding partner, writer and CEO of BizPac Review.
Jack Furnari


32 thoughts on “Harrington’s campaign against Wasserman Schultz fleeced small donors

  1. rosanne howard says:

    Surely, you aren't going to tell us that Democrats are any better.

  2. rosanne howard says:

    Why are we sending money to our enemies while we have people in our own contry doing withouthomes, jobs, food and trivial little things such as these. NOthing is done about housing, jobs, the economy, the raging deficit, but we can send money to China, Egypt, countries in the middle east , money to Hamas. We haer talk about bipartisanship, but it never happens. Yes, speaking of "fullof it", it appears that the ones in Washington in power are the ones "full of it." Why should the rich pay for the fact that they worked hard, earned a lot of money by the sweat of their brow and then are supposed to give it to the have-nots that were too lazy to work?

  3. Rey Reign says:

    If Karen manipluated the poll then that was wrong and she should be called for it. The problem with District 23 & 24 is,a lack of a second party presence. Anyone, with any sense can see that both districts are hurting, crime ridden, and high umeployment. The lack of leadership is apparent. New BREC leadership doesnt mean anything unless they plan to do outreach to change percentages in the district. If not then it is a joke to run candidates. It is not about conservatives or liberals. It is about being a force of good and change in these districts and lifting people up through training and education. Good luck Rico!

  4. Drawing the lines says:

    @Rey Reign. Karen clearly manipulated numbers with the poll she commissioned from Gravis to deceive voters into thinking she had a chance. CD23 is drawn specifically to get a Democrat in office. By sticking all the Dems in CD23, it allows a Republican to win in the neighboring districts like Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros Lehtinen. Focusing time, energy and money on CD23 is a complete waste of resources. BREC should focus on winnable seats, like nonpartisan city races, the Moraitis State house Seat (which will be targeted), and School Board seats (which Republicans won two of this year alone – the first time since the year 2000 that a Republican even won a single school board seat). All the other seats are drawn to elect Dems. The State Senate Seat that Bogdanoff lost and the CD22 seat that Hasner lost could be won in a very very Republican year also with the right candidate. But remember, even Allen West left the CD22 seat because he knew it was not winnable.

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