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It ain't over 'till it's over, even if your campaign money is pulled

My guess is that Jerry Cannon is pretty upset today, and so are Pam Byrnes, Eric Schertzing and Bobby McKenzie.

They are all Democratic candidates for Congress in Michigan. They’ve been working their tails off for months trying to make some headway, three of them against Republican incumbents.

Cannon, a Vietnam veteran and former Kalkaska sheriff, was heavily recruited for the race by Lon Johnson, the new Democratic state chair. McKenzie, an anti-terrorism expert, and gave up a good job with the state department to come back and run.

Schertzing is the Ingham County treasurer, and Pam Byrnes is a well-regarded, moderate former state house speaker pro tem. They all got into these races knowing they were underdogs, but believing they had a chance. There’s still nearly a month before the election.

But the National Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has now proclaimed them all DOA. Yesterday, the D Triple C announced it was canceling their advertising buys in Cannon’s race, which includes the entire Upper Peninsula.

Earlier this week, the national Democrats announced they were pulling out of the other three Michigan districts.

This amounted to an extraordinarily defeatist statement that the House is not winnable, and that the incredible shrinking Democrats were going to use their dwindling resources not to try to win new seats but to try to hold on to the ones they now have.

It can’t help when your own party pretty much publicly proclaims you a loser ... But people deserve a contest. I don’t see how an openly defeatist attitude helps anybody.

This is what happens when you have a political system where money rules everything. This doesn’t just happen to Democrats; earlier this week, the National Republican Senate Committee did precisely the same thing to Terri Lynn Land.

Land will, of course, not drop out, and neither will the Democrats running for Congress. But it can’t help when your own party pretty much publicly proclaims you a loser.

Someone asked me if this would make much difference on the way these campaigns will be covered.

I said no, because with few exceptions, reporters don’t really cover campaigns anymore. They stay in their newsrooms and write about the money and write about their TV commercials.

And that’s a public disservice. The four Democrats who the national party has given up on all have fascinating races. Cannon is running against an opponent who won by less than 1% of the vote last time. Byrnes is running against a hard-right Congressman who has been defeated for reelection before.

Bobby McKenzie is not only running against a non-incumbent who is best known for mortgage foreclosures, but the incumbent Republican, who lost the primary, is launching a write-in effort which has to help the Democrats. Schertzing is also not running against an incumbent, but against a Republican badly beaten two years ago in a race for Oakland County Prosecutor.

Does that mean Democrats can win these races? Not necessarily. But people deserve a contest. I don’t see how an openly defeatist attitude helps anybody. In fact, it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet it doesn’t have to be.

Fourteen years ago, Debbie Stabenow was down by 12 points with just three weeks to go. She evidently didn’t get the memo that her campaign was doomed. Instead, she won.

Once in a while, despite all efforts, the people still have been known to decide an election for themselves.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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