My kids love the Where’s Waldo? books. In case you are unfamiliar with them, the books contain a series of pictures of a large scale scene. For instance, you might see hundreds of tiny figures in a bustling shopping mall or a busy museum. Somewhere in all the hubbub is Waldo, a bespectacled man wearing a red and white striped shirt. The job of the reader is to locate Waldo on each page.
It is a similar challenge to locate Georgia senatorial candidate Mike Thurmond. Thurmond, who is currently in his third term as Georgia’s State Labor Commissioner, cruised to an easy victory in the Democratic primary with 84% of the vote. Since then he has been virtually unseen.
Much of the problem stems from the fact that this will be a Republican year. Opposition parties typically gain seats in an off year election, but this year’s election is turning into a rout for the Democrats. Republicans are widely projected to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well. This is a very difficult year for a Democratic challenger to unseat any Republican due to the unpopularity of the policies of President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi.
This leads to a problem of fundraising. According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, Thurmond had raised a mere $122,369 through the end of June. Compare this to incumbent Johnny Isakson who ended June with receipts of $4.7 million. While Thurmond has undoubtedly been trying to raise money in the intervening months, the long-shot status of his candidacy and the voter anger at the Democrats will combine to make fundraising difficult for him.
It is likely both a cause and result of his fundraising problems that Thurmond is having problems getting his message out. With just over $100,000 cash on hand at the end of June, Thurmond would not be able to afford many television commercials. A possible strategy would be to conserve his money for an ad blitz in the last days of the campaign. In the meantime, he could spend money on cheaper methods of advertising such as yard signs and direct mail. While I have seen numerous signs and commercials touting Johnny Isakson, I have not seen either for Thurmond.
Compounding the problem is Thurmond’s inefficient use of his campaign website. The centerpiece of the site is an ABC News report on his Georgia Works unemployment program. While this is impressive and highlights his positive impact as Labor Commissioner, it says nothing about what he wants to accomplish as a senator. The issues page of his website contains his speech announcing his candidacy and little else. What are his positions on Obamacare? Extending the Bush tax cuts? We are left to guess.
Given his absence from the campaign scene, Thurmond is polling remarkably well. This too may be a factor of an anti-incumbent as well an anti-Democrat mood among the electorate. It is unlikely, however, that it will be enough to close the gap.