Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pittsburgh Mayoral Race: More Ado About Little

City Paperer Chris Potter reviews the Acklin-Harris signature challenge to gauge what "these petitions say about the candidates," and concludes that (1) Kevin Acklin has the more sophisticated campaign and (2) Dok Harris' "real problem" is that he lacks a strong grassroots campaign.

In other words, the guy who lost won, and the guy who won lost. Or something like that.

Here's Harris' real problem, and it is Acklin's real problem, too: Neither Acklin nor Harris is going to win unless . . . well, I was going to write 'unless Ravenstahl gets indicted before the election' (a 12-1 shot, as the Propositions Board indicates at the far right column), but I suspect Ravenstahl could beat these two even if indicted.

The only chance Acklin or Harris has to win this election involves a debilitating scandal afflicting the incumbent, one so severe it can penetrate the yinzer cortex. Acklin would have been much smarter, in my judgment, to direct his resources toward identifying Ravenstahl wrongdoing, but instead he chose to hire lawyers to scrutinize the penmanship of voters who signed Harris' petitions. That does not strike me as the work of a sophisticated political operation.


Chris Potter said...

I agree Acklin's resources would be better spent taking on Ravenstahl. I argued as much a while back. We could argue whether challenging the petitions was a good move or not. But since your argument is that there's no chance of either of these guys winning, then ANYTHING they do is a waste of time. (So is blogging about it, for that matter.) Why fault either candidate for a tactical error when the whole campaign is a big mistake?

I thought it would be interesting to compare how the two candidates handle the groundwork of a campaign. The courtroom outcome is part of the story. But to me, so is what actually happened out in the field. But obviously, that's only of interest if you think it matters how these campaigns are run.

Anonymous said...

Chris, if you cared about what happened in the courtroom, you would have taken the time to understand that just because a party stipulates arguendo to something doesn't automatically make it factually true (i.e., perhaps the Harris campaign did have 1500 faulty signatures, perhaps they didn't, but in the end he stayed on the ballot no matter what so why argue about it?)

I agree entirely with the zen koan-like interpretation infinonymous has given to your article here -- you twisted a result to come up with something good to say about the person on the absolute wrong side of that result.

Further, I'd be interested what evidence other than the petitions (which are already months old) and anecdotal support (most of which, no doubt, comes from the Acklin campaign's self-promotion) supports your assertion that Acklin is beating the streets and Harris is not. Based on their personal schedules I'm simply not sure that's the case.

Look, does Acklin's campaign have more experienced operatives involved (including the candidate himself?) Sure. But you simply haven't demonstrated that such experience, plus the fact that Acklin lost a lawsuit (one that, as has been pointed out in this space, was doomed ab initio), adds up to a exponentially more sophisticated campaign. Indeed, a more sophisticated campaign never would have gotten to that point to begin with, realizing it was fruitless and arrogant. But really, that's beside the point, because I've seen Harris in the South Hills and East End as much if not more than Acklin, and you've provided me no hard evidence
to counter the more than reasonable assumption that they're both running pretty active ground games.

This piece would have been much improved with a visit to both campaign's offices, for example, and a discussion of their actual strategy. What is the candidate's daily schedule? How many volunteers do you see on a day-to-day basis? Which neighborhoods are you targeting? Granted, you won't get answers to all of those questions, but it's better than making a guess from irrelevant facts (i.e., that an old news reporter and someone that worked on an upset campaign work for acklin) and inappropriate assumptions (i.e., that Harris did indeed have 1500 bad signatures, and that these signatures collected over the summer accurately represent his ground game in the fall).