Tuesday's obsessively watched congressional race between Democrat Francine Busby and Republican Brian Bilbray was irrelevant because the election to replace convicted Republican Duke Cunningham was decided over two months ago. On April 11, in the first round open primary in San Diego, Francine Busby won 44% of the vote. In the run-off Tuesday, she only picked up an additional one percent in her 49-45 loss to Brian Bilbray.
What happened? Nothing really. Busby simply had no room to grow between the first round and the second because her first round effort was so strong. All the national attention and all the money dropped in from the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees over the last few weeks really was never going to have much effect.
Busby's first round campaign in April benefitted from a committed organization, tremendous support from grassroots allies, /www.opensecrets.org/races/summary.asp?cycle=2006&id=CA50">about $2 million in spending by Busby, and a local electorate energized by their first chance to speak after Cunningham's ouster. Every liberal interest group and activist organized like crazy. The Democratic Party put lots of resources into the race hoping that Busby would get 50% and avoid Tuesday's runoff. She only got 44% in that amazing organizational effort. Nothing was left on the table.
From that point, it was going to be almost impossible to find 6 points more. The Democrats and Busby squeezed all the blood from that turnip the first time.
The numbers tell you that all the hype from the national mainstream media and all the spin from the political parties was just sound and fury signifying nothing. Busby went from 44% to 45%. Spending in the first round by over a dozen active candidates was around $10.5 million. Busby herself spent $2 million in April.
So stop the spinning Rahm and Tom. Cut out the analysis you national pundits. Rewrite your stories Los Angeles Times and Washington Post and New York Times. Let's move on to the fall elections where the Democrats have a decided advantage in the polls but a relatively small playing field on which to win.
The Busby-Bilbray run-off on Tuesday predicts nothing.