House members hitting the stump

House members running statewide will spend August mingling with the masses and courting donors at county fairs, parades, gun shows, small-town diners and big-city office suites. From the north woods of Minnesota to the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls will spend the late summer shaking hands, eating cotton candy and “reaching out” to PAC directors.

House members running statewide will spend August mingling with the masses and courting donors at county fairs, parades, gun shows, small-town diners and big-city office suites.

From the north woods of Minnesota to the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee, Senate and gubernatorial hopefuls will spend the late summer shaking hands, eating cotton candy and “reaching out” to PAC directors.

In Nebraska, Rep. Tom Osborne (R), running for governor, will spend the next five weeks meeting voters at Talk to Toms, small-town get-togethers at restaurants, senior centers and fire stations; raising money at 15 scheduled fundraisers; and assembling a campaign staff for all of the state’s 93 counties, campaign manager Vicki Powell said.

In Tennessee, Rep. Harold Ford (D), hoping to fill the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R), will continue canvassing precincts in the conservative, eastern reaches of the state.
In Nevada, Rep. Jim Gibbons (R), also running for governor, will meet with casino owners in Las Vegas, environmentalists in Lake Tahoe and homeowners in Henderson County.

In Florida, Rep. Katherine Harris (R) will begin raising in earnest the $20-million-plus she needs to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D), Campaign Manager Jim Dornan said.

Other statewide candidates will hit the campaign trail in Iowa, New Jersey and Vermont.

The major goal of all this politicking, campaign managers and political consultants said, is for candidates to come into contact with as many human beings as possible.

“August is a time for farmers markets, for summer festivals and for just being out and about,” said Andy Rosenberg, an attorney who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Jim Moran (Va.) in a Democratic primary last year.

Terry Sullivan, who ran Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R) first-term Senate bid in 2004, added that fundraising is as much a part of August as shaking hands. “Summer is never a good time to raise money, but at the same time most campaigns, better campaigns, have spent the last month or two lining up fundraisers in August.”

Every night, Sullivan said, is a fresh opportunity to attend a cocktail reception where a candidate can take in anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000. “That’s the way to do it,” he said. “Meet people during the day, attend parades and festivals, and raise money during the night.”

A Republican campaign aide recalled that during fundraisers at supporters’ homes during the August recess he found it tough to wait until the end of the evening to count checks. “I have been known to dispatch staffers to the bathroom in the middle of an event to see how we’re doing,” the aide said.

Some candidates have the luxury of spending August running a general-election-style campaign, meeting with voters from across the spectrum.

Rep. Ben Cardin (D) said that because he entered the Senate race in Maryland so early he can afford to spend time outside the three core Democratic bastions, the city of Baltimore and Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, attending fairs, meet-and-greets and Social Security town-hall meetings in Republican Reps. Roscoe Bartlett’s and Wayne Gilchrest’s districts.

Cardin will attend one event in August outside the state — speaking to teachers in New Jersey — but will mostly campaign from dawn to dusk in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, panhandle, Washington suburbs and elsewhere. Events outside the state will resume after Labor Day; in September, Cardin said, he will attend events in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

Candidates such as Reps. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who have emerged as their parties’ consensus candidates, can also spend the August recess with a cross-section of voters from both parties. Kennedy seeks to replace outgoing Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.); Menendez has his eye on Sen. Jon Corzine’s (D-N.J.) seat, assuming Corzine becomes governor.

For Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), hoping to succeed retiring Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), the upcoming recess, like the upcoming race, will look much like his previous eight races for Vermont’s at-large House seat. “The only major difference,” Sanders’s chief of staff, Jeff Weaver, said, “is that we expect that the Republicans will spend $5 million to $10 million on their race.”

Sanders, Weaver added, is accustomed to spending time at home talking about Social Security, dairy policy and economic development. He faces Senate hopeful Rich Tarrant (R), a software executive who has promised to spend at least $500,000 on the primary and another $500,000 on the general election; sources in Vermont and Washington say he has the money to spend far more than that.

But August is not just for campaigning, Cardin and other candidates said. Candidates will seek to weave together work and play, Rotary Club coffees and afternoons at the beach. “The Maryland Association of Counties meets in Ocean City,” the congressman said, “so we’ll combine the political meetings on the shore with some family vacation.”