Sanford is running

Welcome to the new world: we have a third Republican primary candidate challenging the sitting president. Former South Carolina Governor slash former South Carolina Congressman Mark Sanford has officially decided he is running. He joins a field with former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld and former Representative Joe Walsh.

I last got into detail on Sanford back on August 19th, when he told the press—specifically the TV program Meet the Press—that he was considering a run and would announce his decision by Labor Day, depending on whether his four sons approved. Well, he missed that deadline, but still, he did join the race last night on Fox News Sunday, which apparently is among the programs the sitting president enjoys watching on Sunday evenings. This was proved out when said president tweeted some stuff in response.

Okay, so following the pattern with other recent announcement, let’s hear the audio from the candidate’s launch video. I should warn you, this one, like several of Sanford’s previous videos, has a fair amount of noise in it—like road noise, and rumbling, and stuff—and so that’s been covered up by a rather loud music track. So, I did try to reduce some of the worst noise and think you can hear what he’s saying in this, which is the important part. Listen in:

[CLIP-SANFORD-WHY-IM-RUNNING]

Sanford also followed with another video on his official website, right below that one. It’s titled “Two Other Things,” and in it, Sanford discusses the need for what he calls a “conservative political culture” and humility. It’s worth going to the site and watching that, because it gets at the points that Sanford—and frankly, many of his fellow Republicans challenging Trump—are presenting when they make their arguments for why they’re in the primary at all. The top issue for Sanford is fiscal conservatism. But right behind that, he has other key concerns, which can summed up by saying: leaders need to have integrity. They need to demonstrate values and commitment to service. Sanford’s pitch is that there is a real responsibility in being a public servant, and it’s clear that he feels the current trend in the Republican party as expressed by Trump is not meeting his standards. And obviously he wouldn’t be running if he didn’t think there were still people in the Republican party who still have a conservative set of values—whether those are economic, or social, or both—and want to express those.

One of the the biggest problems Sanford will face, aside from the obviously good poll numbers that Trump has, is that over this past weekend, South Carolina Republican party members voted to cancel the South Carolina primary. Sanford is the former Governor of South Carolina. He also served for many years as a Congressional Representative for South Carolina. So THE SINGLE STATE he would have the best shot at winning, or at least doing well in a primary, won’t have a primary at all. That’s real bad, and to be honest, I have no idea how Sanford will be able to overcome that.

According to a report by The Post and Courier, Sanford has $1.35 million dollars in cash on hand from his failed 2018 reelection bid for Congress, and that will the starting point for his presidential race. So. Here we are. We’re five months out from the very first primary voting, there are four people now—if you include Trump—in the Republican primary. I wonder. Will there be debates? Oh, I doubt it, but never say never.

Steyer makes the October debate

Well, let’s make it official. Activist, former hedge fund manager, and current billionaire Tom Steyer has qualified for the October DNC debate. This news came from a CBS News/YouGov poll released yesterday, in a poll of Nevada voters specifically. Steyer picked up precisely 2% in that one, which gives him his fourth qualifying result and means he has met both criteria to appear in October. Not this Thursday—October.

There have actually been FIVE new qualifying polls published since I last examined that list on Friday. There is a mix of news there, and these polls cover everything from nationwide voter pools down to specific tracking in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. There are a few items that jump out to me.

First, this notion of a three-way race between Biden, Sanders, and Warren really does have a lot of data to back it up. Within these polls, you see those three candidates often playing within the margin of one another. And overall, at least from the polls coming out of CBS, you can start to do some electoral math and see that Warren continues to rise, while Biden is still the frontrunner, Sanders is still viable, and everybody else is kind of in the “other” category.

Another notable item here is that Biden is absolutely the Godzilla of South Carolina. In that poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent, Biden got 43% of overall support in South Carolina. Sanders got 18%, Warren got 14%, and nobody else broke out of the single digits. Those numbers are DRASTICALLY different if you look at the national picture, but these early voting states tend to set the tone for media coverage around that early voting, so a good showing in one or more of them can affect things later. And, by the way, so can a particularly POOR showing.

In other words, we’re approaching the phase now where actual voting in a caucus or primary is not THAT far away—yeah, the voting is in February, but still, we’re within a five-month window now for the very earliest voting, and six months until Super Tuesday. So these state-level polls are going to draw potentially MORE attention in the coming months than the national ones. That’s because the race to get delegates is decided state by state in primaries and caucuses.

Okay, next little thing. Given the Steyer factor in October, we know right now that we’re facing a two-night debate on October 15th AND 16th. The field will likely be split into 5 on one night and 6 on the other. The only way that would cut back to 10 and thus one night would be if some already-qualified candidate were to drop out, which seems quite unlikely to me.

The last item these polls tell us is that Representative Tulsi Gabbard is still on the hunt for two more qualifying polls for October—she needs to get those by September 29th. She’s got two already, and in the FIVE new polls that rolled out over the weekend, she got 1% in every one of them. If I were in that campaign HQ right now I’d be tearing my hair out and screaming. Gabbard is right on the cusp of making this. Also, Williamson has one qualifying poll, but hit 0% in all of these new polls, so she may be better off waiting for more national polls to come in, where she tends to do a bit better.

Get ready for Q3

Okay, so let’s talk about quarterly fundraising and strategy.

In the small business world where I live, most of us just wrapped up fiscal Q3 because we deal with the IRS and pay taxes on their quarterly schedule. The IRS divides the year into these wacky segments that they call quarters, but they aren’t actually one-fourth of a given year. There are reasons for that, but this is, fortunately, not a tax policy podcast.

For clarity, the IRS defines the four quarters using these deadlines for filing, covering the months leading up to them: April 15th, June 15th, September 16th, and January 15th. You might notice in there that the number of months in each quarter is half wrong—it goes three, two, three, FOUR. Well, okay, whatever.

The FEC schedule is in fact sane and requires candidates to file THEIR finances at the end of actual literal quarters of the year. You get a two-week grace period, like the IRS, in order to do your bookkeeping after the end of a given quarter. So the deadlines to file for a CAMPAIGN are April 15th, July 15th, October 15th, and then January 31st—that last one is a year-end report, so you get an extra few weeks to tally it all up.

In other words, if you’re filing your own personal quarterly taxes and you think Q3 is over, well, it ain’t for the candidates. They have until the end of THIS month—September—to keep fundraising, and THEN in mid-October, we’ll have another raft of those who-raised-how-much-money stories. But again, this will also creep into the fundraising emails you get as candidates start to look at their numbers and ask you to make them better. It will be a ticking clock racing to the end of September.

Part of why this is important has to do with the timing of who might enter or exit the race. For instance, Sanford and Walsh entered near the end of a quarter. The expectation would be that their fundraising would naturally be low because of that—they didn’t have a full calendar quarter to raise money. And by the way, I’ve never done a Republican primary fundraising roundup on this show, but I’m gonna, come mid-October.

The flipside of that, over on the Democratic side, is that the existing campaigns are required to disclose their financials by October 15th. Well. Guess what else happens on October 15th? Bingo, you got it, that’s the first night of the October DNC debate. So leading into that particular moment would be a logical point to drive some folks out of the race. If you have a candidate who’s polling at 0% nationally, and they hit October, and they’re not on the debate stage, they don’t have any other clear prospects, AND their fundraising is still low, that would be a logical time to bow out. We are beginning to hit those now-or-never moments, right? Like for months I’ve been saying it’s early, but I am now saying, officially, it’s not early anymore. We’re at halftime right now, so you better be going for some points right now. If you’re not on the board soon, you have no shot.

So, just some perspective on how financial deadlines will drive part of the news cycle coming up.

Giffords releases a candidate-heavy video about gun safety

Early this morning, the organization Giffords released a video featuring eight Democratic primary candidates. Now, Giffords is an organization founded in part by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 at an event in Tucson. Giffords barely survived—it was a gunshot to the HEAD—but she DID survive, and she has devoted much of her time since then to gun safety.

Oh and by the way, she’s married to Mark Kelly, whom you may recall as one of those astronaut twins, where one brother went to the International Space Station for a super-extended stay, then returned, and scientists studied them both to see if their genetics and other factors diverged due to time in space. Fascinating stuff, look it up, and, oh, by the way, Mark Kelly is running for Senate in Arizona in 2020, and he’s got a solid chance there of flipping Senator Martha McSally’s seat.

Okay, with all that out of the way, that couple founded this thing called Giffords, which is an umbrella for several advocacy organizations. And they released a Public Service Announcement this morning. Listen in:

[CLIP-GIFFORDS-PSA]

At the end of the PSA, they cut to near-silence and words appear on the screen. The first statement reads, “Our kids deserve to be safe at school.” The second statement reads, “Who is your #GunSafetyPresident?”

And in case you didn’t quite catch all those candidates from their voices, the list includes, in alphabetical order:

Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders, and Warren.

That’s everybody who will be in the debate this week minus Castro and Yang. It’s unclear to me why those two were not in the video. My guess is that it was a scheduling thing, because Giffords told CNN that they had reached out to, “All the candidates.” Okay, reading here from a CNN article by Dan Merica:

“The video, the first in a series produced by Giffords' Courage to Fight Gun Violence, will be part of a six-figure digital ad buy targeted toward Houston around this week's third Democratic debate.
While Democratic candidates have some differences on how to combat gun violence, the video stands out because of the candidates' unified message on the issue in the midst of an increasingly contentious primary. Cast against a gray slate and edited to make it appear that the candidates are finishing each other's sentences, the candidates uniformly tout the need for stricter gun laws to protect children.”

Expect this issue, especially IN TEXAS, to be a huge focus in Thursday’s debate.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. I had a lovely weekend at the XOXO Festival. It was legitimately surprisingly running into so many of y’all, and I’ll admit that more than once I was overly surprised to run into old friends who are listeners and I just didn’t know it because I been pretty busy since April. So, hello again, and sorry I might have yelled “shut the front door” when you told me. (That’s for you, Dan.) And for the rest of y’all, there will be Debate Bingo, I’m working on it tonight, hope to have a segment on it tomorrow with download links. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.

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