EMILY’s love of Emily is a very big deal

A very important announcement in the Democratic primary for Congress in Maine’s 2nd District (Rep. Mike Michaud’s district) received minimal press last week. The organizational powerhouse for pro-choice democratic women, EMILY’s List, endorsed Emily Cain for Congress.

Why is this significant? Two reasons. First, EMILY’s List is very rigorous in their endorsement process. There are many pro-choice Democratic women in primaries around the country who never get endorsed. That’s because their campaigns do not show enough promise.

In this instance, they must be seeing some very early strength. Likely, that means Cain did very well in her first full quarter of fundraising and/or they have polling that shows she is viable.

On the fundraising front, Cain raised $67,000 in three weeks last June; very impressive for a first time candidate. My sense is that when the reports come out this week, she will now be close to the $150,000 mark, having raised more in the second quarter than she did in the first.

You might say, “Well of course she raised more in the second quarter! She had three months instead of three weeks.” But understand that the initial money in political fundraising is always the easiest. These are your closest family members, friends and allies. As we say in fundraising, “If you can’t get your mother to give, it is time to find a new career.”

Once the slog of making “cold calls” begins (calling people you don’t know) the money rolls much more slowly. While your ratio in the initial push will be 80 percent saying yes to contributions, your ratio in the “cold call” months will be more like 1 in 10.

In terms of polling viability, I have already written about two polls in these pages  and in both I mentioned the strength of Cain. She appears to be solidly in second place among Democrats (to Joe Baldacci), her favorability numbers are 2-1 among Democrats, and she has the best numbers among independents of any of the Democrats polled. These numbers alone would be influential to EMILY’s list, but I expect they also have some internals showing similar news.

But perhaps the most significant reason that this endorsement is a big deal is not because of what Cain has done to earn it, but what it will bring. Having run the campaign of an EMILY’s list endorsed candidate (Dale McCormick, 1996) and having run against an EMILY’s list endorsed candidate (Chellie Pingree, 2008), I can tell you the power of what they bring is formidable. No doubt, EMILY’s List turned McCormick, then a state senator, from a little known possibility to a contender who came within a point and half of beating Tom Allen, who had just run statewide.

The first thing they brought was money. Their name “EMILY” stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast, it raises the dough” and they mean it. Money starts coming in from all over the country and it is a steady source of fuel. And having that fuel helps you get more fuel and the cycle grows.

But it wasn’t simply the money they brought to the table (which was substantial and steady), they also brought immense expertise. They put people on the ground, they analyze data, they network into new communities and they give tremendous emotional support in the dark days of every campaign. I expect they will do the same for Cain.

Certainly some might say it would be more newsworthy if Cain did not get the endorsement since she is the only pro-choice Democratic woman in the race. Perhaps, but that misses the point of what she had to do to earn it and the benefit she will now gain.

Now, let me be clear, this endorsement does not mean that Cain is guaranteed a victory in the primary (Baldacci has a strong polling advantage and state senator Troy Jackson is working hard to offset Cain’s EMILY’s List advantage with union support). However, it is a huge boost that has shifted the ground in her favor.

— Posted by Ethan Strimling