For McWherter's candidacy, this pathetic showing is potentially crippling. Among major contributors and other political movers 'n' shakers, it reinforces the widespread perception that this is a big Republican year in Tennessee. True or not, it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, making it even harder for McWherter to raise money in the crucial coming months. Against whoever wins the GOP nomination, McWherter was always going to lag in cash. Now he's really behind the eight ball.
Jeff Yarbro has raised more for his state Senate campaign than McWherter raised in the last quarter. Ron Ramsey is spending more to air his first TV spot. We went to McWherter flack Mike Kopp to try to figure out what might have caused this campaign disaster. Here's some of our conversation:
Q: Why can’t you guys raise money?
Kopp: Well, the short answer is, frankly, his focus has been, well pretty much since the late fall up until pretty recently, he’s been trying to get to all 95 counties and do some of the retail politicking and make sure he has the lay of the land and getting the organization and stuff together, and his plan has been to sort of focus on the fundraising now as we’re going into the spring and summer. He did some pretty substantial fundraising in the first few months and then shifted to the retail stuff and, as we’re going into 2010 now, we’re going to shift back into the fundraising mode since he’s made the rounds and we’ve made the contacts and all that kind of stuff.
Q: So he hasn’t been raising money because he hasn’t been trying?
Kopp: He always spends time every day making some calls, but quite honestly there hasn’t been a huge intense effort in the last couple months to do it, and it’s frankly because the Democratic field has been pretty thin and it just got really thin. We’ve been watching what the Democrats in the field have been doing and their fundraising wasn’t getting off the ground, so we didn’t feel the pressure to focus all our attention on raising money. When everyone sort of dropped out, the idea was to get all this retail politicking out of the way. …
Q: Are you sure you want to stick to this story because this sounds like some pretty seriously ridiculous spin?
Kopp: It sounds like ridiculous spin?
Q: You’re telling me that he’s not trying to raise money?
Kopp: I didn’t say he wasn’t trying to raise money. I said it hasn’t been the primary focus the last few months.