Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Temperature Check

We did this a few weeks ago, but figured with Labor Day loooming, and the election just 29 days away, it was time for another look at where everyone stands in the mayoral contest.

First, a few thoughts based on recent, uh, comments:

Signs don't vote, so don't hand someone the election because he or she has the most signs on the street. Signs can measure depth in that only those really committed to a candidate will let their lawn hold a sign for weeks on end, but are not a great measure of bredth (unless those signs are absolutely everywhere). Let's stop gauging strength by signs, it's a silly process.

Ted supporters are putting waaaaaaaaay too much importance into the musings of some online folks like Rachel, the unicow and the saynotodesalvo guy. The claims that their relently anti-Ted bent is hurting other candidates is just ridiculous. If there was a super-strong media outlet in the city that was read by everybody -- like 25,000 people -- that was whacking away at a candidate or overly supporting one, that would be on thing. But arguably, that media outlet doesn't exist (the Sentinel moves less than 4,000 copies a day. The Pride moves about 8,000 a week. Hey, we're a must-read, but I know our situation), and even if it did, while some bias is possible in some corners, it hasn't been ridiculous or overbearing. So, if you really think Unicow is going to shape this election, you're really reaching (no offense, 'cow).

Hopefully that clarifies my stance on annoying and borderline dumb comments. On with the show:

For starters, no one knows how this is all going to end up, and that includes folks who have run for office many times in Fitchburg. To say you do at this point is kind of silly. To wit: Donnelly v. Wong, or Donnelly v. DeSalvatore in the general. Two very different general elections. Forget Wong v. DeSalvatore, which is a whole other kind of election. You can guess, you can hope, but final matchups are going to mean a lot to how candidates run and how solid their chances are.

That said, Donnelly remains in good shape to make it to the finals. His campaign has been ramping up in recent weeks, with standouts and the rest. He's spent 10 years building a base and an organization, and now is the time to rely on it. He needs to get over the "slumlord" claims (true or not, at least one candidate mentions "slumlords" often), he needs to try to win over a few folks who consider him part of the old-boy network, and he needs to figure out a way to say he's not part of the city's financial problems, even after being on the council for eight years. But if he keeps moving in the same direction, he'll be tough to beat Sept. 25.

It might not be ridiculous to think Wong and DeSalvatore are fighting for the other spot. DeSalvatore had a rough late-July/early-August. Not a bad time to have a rough stretch. While there's a lot of Internet heat, the heat hasn't been seen by most folks. His one big example of being "decisive" in the Pride op-ed last week -- cleaning up B.F. Brown -- is nice, but not exactly the legislative victory you'd expect, even from a one-term candidate (by contrast, look at Dean Tran's proactive first term on the council). DeSalvatore's fate might be the biggest question of the preliminary election. He has a great core, but no one knows how far his voting base fans out. Will 800-1,000 people vote for him on election day? Honestly, no one knows. He is so polarizing it's tough to figure out. At this point, I'd believe both sides.

That leaves Wong, who, quite honestly, has been a little quiet lately. It may be by design, but on Sept. 4 she needs to kick it up a notch or two. There's also the lingering questions about Putnam Place and her gig at FRA. They linger because people wonder, but there doesn't appear to be much there... yet. Maybe a campaign tries to drop a September surprise, but it just seems to be mostly a non-starter, unless there's something we don't know about. Her buzz is down right now, but they may be saving their powder for September, which might not be a totally ridiculous idea. DeSalvatore by his very nature will maintain attention, and Donnelly's recent spurt of activity has been noticeable, but Wong needs to work a little more to get some momentum going. Not really a problem right now, but if you're wondering where she is come Sept. 10 or so, then all bets are off.

Ron Dionne says he's been knocking on doors and has gotten good feedback -- he's even thrown out the "I'm going to shock the city" line here and there. He's spending no dollars and is hoping his door-knocking gets him through. We'll see what happens there, I guess.

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