The Stretch Begins

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Remember this moment. We’ve just begun the final stretch to the fall campaigns and – at this point – the outcome looks good for the Democrats. The party line, even from the GOP, is that the Democrats have an excellent shot at retaking the House if they can manage not to blow it between now and Election Day. The Senate, while not likely to turn Democratic, will certainly turn more Democratic than it is now.

But as stretches go, this is a long one. Don’t think of it as the end of a horse race. It’s more like the 4th quarter in a game of football, or the end of a baseball game from the 7th inning on.

A lot of mud will be slung between now and November and it could move things any number of ways. Personally, I don’t think the voters’ mood – sour and restless – will improve in the weeks ahead, but it could express itself differently than the polls today suggest.

That’s one of the byproducts of an oversupply of campaign cash. Subtlety and upbeat messages are not exactly the hallmark of political campaigns. The tighter the race, the more likely it is to go negative fast and to stay there for the duration.

Last week’s ruling by the FEC – keeping closed a loophole that would have allowed large infusions of last minute money for “issue ads” – should dampen the lid somewhat on spending by interest groups. But they’ll still be raising plenty, and the messages aren’t likely to stick to the high road.

The fascinating thing to watch in for the next two months will be the flow of the money, and its effect on political momentum in the races that could go either way.

Watch for red herrings paid for by committees with names you’ve never heard of before, like Citizens for Apple Pie. Keep a notebook handy and jot down the names from the fine print you’ll see at the bottom of their ads, then look them up on Google or Open Secrets. Do a little research of your own into who’s trying to influence your vote.

Whoever wins the election will undoubtedly be grateful to the people who helped put them over the top in this unpredictable year – so it’s definitely in your interest to know who those people are.

We’ll soon be giving you more tools for doing that here on the Sunlight website, so you can keep up with the money more quickly and efficiently. Keep an eye on this space for more details on that in the next couple of weeks.

Meantime, get ready for some serious political hoopla. For better or worse, the season is upon us.

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