It's Just Politics
2:32 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

With 38 days until Election Day, interest groups try to bet on winning candidates

We are now a little more than 925 hours from when the polls open in Michigan on Election Day. But, for some voting has already started. Absentee ballots have been available for a week now. Soon, they’ll go in the mail to households that have requested them and people will begin mailing them back and dropping them off. Which means, it’s getting close to the end game: people are making their final decisions before November 6th. But, we’re not just talking about voters here, lobbyists and interest groups are making decisions about candidates, as well.

These are the interest groups that swirl around elections – we’ve seen a lot of attention paid to 527 groups and so-called educational committees that are not actually part of a campaign – but still put out ads and mailers in support of a particular candidate. And, here in Michigan, these interests are keeping a close eye on the state House - where all 110 seats are up for re-election.

Recently, there have been some polls that should give a modicum of hope to Democrats. They’re in the minority in Lansing, and they need to turn 10 seats to take control of the state House. The Detroit News published a poll last week that suggests Democrats have the advantage in a generic matchup against  Republicans; meaning these people who were polled expressed a preference for a no-name Democrat in a match-up with a no-name Republican in legislative races.

And, there’s nationwide public opinion polling that suggests the same general direction. We should mention however, there’s been some pushback on these polls’ results – some conservatives say the pollsters are over-sampling Democrats. But, if these results are to be believed, they suggest good news for the Democratic brand.

There were briefings this week in Lansing by both Republicans and Democrats outlining where the races are at – how specific candidates are doing. These briefings were for the Lansing “players” – lobbyists, people from associations, business groups, unions – who not only make donations, but offer advice to clients, members, associates, other groups on who to put their money on a winning candidate.

These funders want to know things like how hard each candidate is working – are they meeting targets set for voter contacts – such as phone calls, knocking on doors, hitting local events – as well as fundraising. These are the metrics by which professionals judge how these local campaigns are doing and how likely they are to succeed. Their decisions are essentially bets on who will win; who will be serving in Lansing for the coming two years.

But it’s not just about money. A good Lansing lobbyist identifies up-and-comers and head out to their districts to volunteer, go door-knocking with them, help organize and offer advice on campaigning, and how things work in Lansing. It’s relationship-building; relationships that will help determine how things are going to operate in Lansing for the next couple of years… who has the political power and influence.

So, as voters begin to focus on actually casting their ballots, lobbying firms have people assigned to candidates and campaigns to build relationships, friendships, to have entrée and trust, once these people are elected and serving.  But, of course, they have to choose wisely, make smart bets, on where to spend their time, their money, and their influence over others who are making the same decisions.

These are friendships - professional friendships - based on practical political considerations.