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The Fine Art of Timing a Money Bomb

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, November 3 2009

(Updated to include DFA's actual remarks. They somehow got lost in editing. Sorry for the bother.)

Yesterday we covered how the progressive blogosphere was afire with activity around Florida Democrat Alan Grayson's "money bomb," which has thus far raised, according to a campaign tally, more than $505,000 through the efforts of several progressive blogs (Open Left, Daily Kos, Crooks & Liars, Digby) and the hitting of email lists of high-profile progressive groups, including MoveOn, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America. Discussing the tactic with some smart folks, a question came up. Why launch an all-out online fundraising offensive on behalf of a candidate whose own election isn't for another year (and who happens to be personally wealthy) one day before voters go to the polls in hotly contested elections in New Jersey and Virginia and major gay-related ballot measure votes in Maine and Washington State? Is it an unnecessary distraction, or can the netroots handle doing two or three or four things at once?

It's a worthwhile, if provocative, question that becomes even more interesting when you consider it in the context of an online left made up of blogs big and small as well as network-based organizations whose mailing lists constitute their major -- if not only -- point of political leverage. Here's what Democracy for America's political director Charles Chamberlain had to say:

First let me say that DFA has contributed over $15k directly to No on 1 [Maine's marraige-equality ballot measure]. We have five paid staff on the ground and two of them have been there for over three weeks. We sent a fund raising email, a call Mainers email, and a drive to Maine email all for No on 1. In NJ, VA, PA, WA, and IN, we have endorsed races, we've contributed and mobilized our members both to volunteer and for GOTV. We're going all out working for victory.

We believe it is possible to hit on more than one cylinder at a time.

Grayson's campaign chose the timing, but clearly they chose the day because it's one year before the election. That seems like a great time to create momentum for his candidacy. With CQ Politics and the Cook Report recently downgrading his district from "toss up" to "leans Republican" because of his aggressive stands and fiery rhetoric put together with the fact that several Republicans are considering running against him because he might be vulnerable -- but none have yet jumped in -- this is the perfect time for it. Raise enough in one day to scare a Republican opponent out of running.

It's also perfect timing, because with some election news likely to be bad for Democrats tomorrow (like Deeds and NY and tight races elsewhere), this money bomb creates a guaranteed success story for progressives. We hit our goal of 400k. We're likely to hit half a million. Pretty powerful statement for the Congressman the NYTimes calls a "wingnut." And it is a great contrast to the likely loss of a Deeds who ran as a Republican-lite.

Finally, huge sections of the country don't have any elections tomorrow. If you're a progressive who's too busy helping another campaign today, then you didn't need to participate.

I think a better question should be why would DFA not participate? Grayson has guts. He's a fighter for healthcare. And Progressives across the country could deliver for him today whether they were focused on an election tomorrow or not. After all a contribution only take a minute, winning elections whether your Corzine, No on 1, or Alan Grayson months of hard work. Sometimes it even takes more than a year. We were proud to participate.

The Grayson campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment.