A few weeks ago we covered a misstep with the Pittsburg College Republicans by the Jerry Moran campaign, and wondered what lessons might have been learned.
The jury is still out, it seems.
The loudest thing coming out of the Moran camp might not be silence, but it seems muted by comparison. Todd Tiahrt seems like he’s about to move from having momentum to having inertia – defined as the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion. Take a look at the past few weeks. Tiahrt has racked up some fairly major endorsements, such as the Tea Party Express and Rep. Mike Pence (Chairman of the House Republican Conference). He outraised Moran in the last quarter, with one quarter left til the Aug. 3 primary. Initially, many saw the Moran nomination as a lock, due to the sheer size of the Big First, and due to the fact that it has more Republican voters than Tiahrt’s 4th District. Now, some are rethinking their predictions.
By the numbers, Moran still is holding the big cards. He has $2 million more in cash on hand and he’s never trailed in the polls. The money is indisputable. The polls, however, tell an interesting story. The latest poll, done by Survey USA from March 26-28, shows Moran at 42 percent and Tiahrt at 32 percent, with 21 percent still undecided. Is Moran ahead? Yes, obviously. Yet, that 21 percent undecided leaves a lot of ground to cover between now and Aug. 3. Tiahrt doesn’t need all 21 percent to catch up. He just needs 9 or 10 percent to really make Moran sweat. This is still possible.
So, what are the possibilities here? Maybe Moran is letting Tiahrt punch himself out. He’s already up on radio and just started his TV buys. Most of what one hears is that Moran is busy in Washington being a Congressman, while Tiahrt is busy campaigning. It’s not like Moran isn’t making the rounds though. He’s kept busy with speaking engagements, and he’s still careful to let his district know what’s going on. Tiahrt’s current advantage could become a disadvantage, as he needs to keep the energy going just as hard, if not harder, through the summer. That’s why differentiating between momentum and inertia is important. Inertia tends to sustain itself, while momentum can be easily lost. He’s had a few good weeks. Time will tell if it translates to a few good months, then a very good August.
Tiahrt has done an outstanding job of defining himself and his positions. However, he doesn’t own the right wing yet. The same poll has Moran leading among self-identified conservative voters by 42 percent to Tiahrt’s 34 percent. Among Republicans, Moran has the edge at 44 percent to Tiahrt’s 32 percent. Again, however, Tiahrt has lots of room to improve with undecideds. In the Republican category, there’s 18 percent up for grabs. Looking at ideology, 19 percent that identify as conservative still haven’t made up their minds. If Tiahrt keeps running to the right, he might still get a good chunk of those voters. The middle still looks like its going to play for Moran, though. Undecideds among moderates is at 21 percent.
A Tiahrt victory is far from a lock, but he is making it pretty competitive. If Moran is playing rope-a-dope with Tiahrt, he can’t keep it up forever. Good will has a very short half-life in campaigns, and, as Yogi Berra once said, “Yesterday’s heroes are tomorrow’s bums.” Moran is going to have to start swinging soon, and not just tit-for-tat on stuff like earmarks. Tiahrt has defined himself, and is well on his way to defining Moran for him.
It’s going to be a long summer.