Originally published at RLC.org
In Kentucky’s Republican gubernatorial primary, RLC endorsed insurgent candidate Phil Moffett, despite performing better than expected, wasn’t able to beat his establishment opponent, State Senate President, David Williams. Upon first glance at the results with 70% of precincts reporting and Moffett down by about 7%, I was wondering where the vaunted Kentucky tea party network that propelled Senator Paul into office was. I was actually on the phone with Dave Nalle earlier when I went to my favorite source, Twitter, and did a #KYGov search to find the aforementioned information. Looking at what I unearthed, I said to Dave, “I’m honestly stunned that anyone who voted for Paul wouldn’t also vote for Moffett”. After further researching the dynamics however, it turns out there were various factors at play that made for very different races, despite the candidate’s similar ideology and being the tea party insurgents pitted against the establishment.
In fact, one of the first articles I came across when I googled Phil Moffett, directly answered the question I had rhetorically posed to Dave. “Why Phil Moffett Is Not Rand Paul”, written by Kevin Brennan at The National Journal, provided immense clarification regarding their differences.
The first issue, and one that is always central in any race, was Moffett’s problem with name recognition. Despite marketing himself as Senator Paul’s heir apparent, there’s no doubt that Ron Paul’s network is what initially provided his son with momentum. That, of course, leads into Moffett’s second problem; fundraising – which the elder Paul also aided his son with greatly. Williams ultimately outspent Moffett 10-1, which speaks volumes about Moffett’s lack of traction in the money raising area. Additionally, Moffett wasn’t able to capture Paul’s official endorsement, because Williams was also supported Paul against Grayson in 2010.
Rand Paul’s national network, combined with media fueled fervor over whether the Senate would be turned over to the Republicans, was also undoubtedly an advantage for him that Moffett lacked. Although Moffett’s campaign and allies such as Western Representation PAC tried to pitch the storyline that Moffett’s campaign was a national one because this GOP primary was the only one in 2011 in which the victor would face off with a pro Obama, Democrat incumbent Governor, creating national fervor in an off year over a primary that the media cares little about turned out to be nearly impossible.
Additionally, a major issue at play that I actually wasn’t even aware of when the RLC endorsed Moffett, was the fact that there was a third dark horse choice in the primary. Jefferson County Clerk, Barbara Holsclaw, who is from Louisville just like Phil Moffett, ended up capturing 13% of the vote. She is reported to be well-liked by those who know her, but little known outside of her fairly small network. That Holsclaw and Moffett are from the same area and were both seen as outsiders, undoubtedly hurt our endorsee. In Rand Paul’s primary, it was just him, a nationally known figure with great fundraising capabilities, and the establishment candidate, former Democrat, Trey Grayson – who I believe was actually hurt by endorsements from the likes of Dick Cheney and Mitch McConnell.
Another aspect to note is the fact that Louisville is far north, right on the Indiana border. Having to compete for votes in his own hometown, and dealing with the fact that he wasn’t very well known in both the eastern and western stretches of his state were certainly a disadvantage. Moffett performed well in the Commonwealth’s two most populated counties, but was hardest hit primarily in the far eastern portions of Kentucky. When you aren’t raising enough funds, it of course makes travel difficult. Clearly, Moffett had trouble reaching some of the more off the beaten path rural areas, which make up most of eastern Kentucky.
Sadly, the momentum never really grew for Moffett, despite obvious potential. It’s possible that without Holsclaw, Moffett could have won in an upset, but unfortunately, that didn’t pan out for our anti-establishment businessman who valiantly took to the streets to peddle common sense ideas. However, from an optimistic standpoint, it’s important to note that with all factors considered, Moffett actually performed well. As I noted above, Williams outspent Moffett 10-1 – yet he only won by 7 percentage points. Additionally, turnout for this primary was only at 9%. Given that Williams was the clear establishment favorite, he no doubt had somewhat of a machine, capable of turning votes out for him. As Rand Paul noted in his book, “The Tea Party Goes to Washington”, the tea party networks in Kentucky, while strong ideologically, aren’t terribly well-connected or organized – which of course tends to be the case with the movement nationally.
Considering the off year timing, relatively disorganized network of Moffett supporters, and comparatively dismal fundraising, the results were noteworthy. Certainly, liberty Republicans can learn a lesson from the failure of this campaign, and work toward building better infrastructure in the future. We need to effectively network and get out the vote for our candidates. As we move toward 2012, the Republican Liberty Caucus will certainly be on the ground, helping with just that kind of organization. Please join us!