Now it’s time for some actual analysis on what the Democrats’ nomination of David Cox means.
I should note that I observed a primary somewhat similar to this two years ago when Shaun Kenney tried to knock off Delegate Robert Orrock. The local Democrats had someone waiting in the wings, but largely kept the would-be nominee there. In the end, the Dems never put a candidate forward; I’m guessing it’s because they didn’t think Orrock would go down (he won by about eight points in the primary).
In this case, however, the Democrats have decided to go “above ground,” and not only put forth their nominee (Cox), but had him rip Scott Sayre up one side and down the other. It was left to former Senator Frank Nolen to go after Hanger. From this, I can draw a couple of conclusions (admittedly from afar).
The Democrats think Sayre will win: They wouldn’t have bothered with a nominee, let alone finding someone to push aside the would-be tax-cutter Will Hrovat, if they thought Hanger would pull this out. Cox will have little, if any, appeal to Sayre voters if Hanger wins. Moreover, a Democrat running against Hanger would put some local Dems in a pickle. Clearly, this is a scenario they don’t see coming.
More to the point, the Dems want Sayre to win: The strategy the Democrats are employing is right out of their Republican-primary-reaction playbook – run a candidate who will supposedly appeal to those who voted for the moderate primary loser. Of course, Cox will run no matter what happens, but no Democrat outside the 24th will care as much if Hanger is renominated. Conventional wisdom holds that Hanger is tougher to beat than Sayre is (said conventional wisdom is wrong, but I’ll get to that later).
Local Democrats know this as much as anyone else, which bring us to the most important point, Hanger cannot rely on a single Democrat to support him in a primary: The partisan Dems won’t be looking at the primary choice as the lesser of two evils (as many did in the aforementioned Kenney-Orrock race), they’ll be looking at the best chance to take the seat. That will mean sitting the primary out, or for the more Machiavellian types, actually voting for Sayre in the primary (note: in the land of my birth and upbringing – New Jersey – cross-party primary sabotage was routine).
So will the Democrats win the seat if Sayre knocks off Hanger?
As I’ve mentioned before, the presence of Liberatarian Arin Sime throws a monkey wrench into the Democrats’ plan, for reasons I mentioned earlier:
Sime will have to oppose Sayre from the left, in which case he and the Democrat will be fishing in the same pond. So in a general election, Sime and the Democrat will battle for the liberal minority while Sayre has the conservative majority all to himself, and as such, he (Sayre) will cruise to victory.
This is why I have always considered Sayre the stronger general election candidate than Hanger. As I expected, most Democrats disagree, including the Democrats in the 24th. So thanks to their mistake, Scott Sayre is not only better positioned in the general election, but the primary election as well.
Cross-posted to Bloggers 4 Sayre