Opinion

Do You Think Your Newfound Popularity Has Something to Do With Politics?

We’re getting Senate serious, people. And it’s all about you. The candidates need you, even if your home state doesn’t have a real nail-biter. (Chuck Schumer is going to be re-elected in New York. You heard it here first.)

No matter where you’ve been over the summer, I bet you spent some of your time plowing through emails from Senate hopefuls asking you for money.

It can get a tad … dispiriting. You wake up and take a look at your inbox. When you see there are over 50 new messages waiting, you have to assume that a few are actually from people you know.

Nah. The one titled “Dinner Plans” isn’t about date night. Catherine Cortez Masto, the senator from Nevada, wants you to know that she and her husband just finished eating, and that while he’s doing the dishes, she’s got time to share a quick fund-raising request.

(Let’s at least rejoice that no male Democratic senator will dare write you saying he’s reaching out while his wife cleans up the kitchen.)

Last weekend, John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, was so engrossed in the meaning of Labor Day that he announced he’d decided to celebrate by not emailing anybody on Monday. (“… and that means we need today’s fund-raising to make up the difference.”)

And when Labor Day did arrive, Fetterman …

A. Took the day off and spent it watching “Sopranos” reruns.

B. Challenged his staff to a Wordle competition.

C. Wrote “I know I said I wasn’t going to email you today, but I want to share some thoughts.”

Yeah, I know you know it’s “I know….”

Val Demings, who’s running for Senate in Florida, sent me way more letters in August than anyone in my family did, all about her desperate need for funds to win what sounded like a very, very, very hard-fought primary — which, it turned out, she won with 84 percent of the vote. Demings piled up more than $47 million, some of which she still has on hand for her race against Marco Rubio.

This is not a bad thing. I’ll bet her primary donors won’t mind having their money used to knock off Senator Rubio, a raving foe of abortion rights who recently called the Mar-a-Lago document scandal a “storage” issue.

Of course, despite her big haul, Demings is right back blowing the emergency whistle. “I’m sorry to crowd your inbox, friend,” she wrote on Wednesday, warning that her campaign was “still short of our upcoming midnight fund-raising goal.”

Cynics might presume that no candidate has ever, in history, actually reached a fund-raising goal. Really, do you ever remember getting a note saying: “Thanks, guys! We’ve got all the money we need now! Give to your pet shelter.”

You do have to feel some sympathy — Senate campaigns are wicked expensive. The question is whether you should respond to this barrage of email requests for donations. The downside, as you probably suspect, is that it will make you an even more popular target.

But do you want to tell all these candidates that if they need money, they’d better go to the PACs and corporate sponsors? Come on.

“This is right now a kind of necessary evil,” Daniel Weiner of the Brennan Center said.

“It’s the choice between a couple of wealthy donors or grass-roots fund-raising.”

So if you’re reading all the stories about the critical Senate races in places like Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it’s hard to tell yourself they’re none of your business. We’re talking about who controls the Senate — not to mention whether the nation will be spending another two years obsessing over the mind and mood of Joe Manchin.

But it’s also hard to make a donation and keep your name from being given to — or purchased by — other campaigns. As it stands, this information is just another commodity. Sure, the Federal Election Commission could limit the sale of email lists. “But that’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle,” said Weiner, who spends a large part of his parental visits cleaning out his mother’s backed-up inbox.

You can get yourself off any individual candidate’s list — there should be an “unsubscribe” option somewhere at the bottom of every plea. Or, if you’re not obsessive about keeping your inbox tidy, you can just ignore the emails and let them stack up — my husband is closing in on 85,000.

I’m a deleter but also a kind of collector. Some of these campaigns do have particular … personalities.

For instance, Tim Ryan, the Democrats’ Senate candidate in Ohio, is a mega-mailer who appears to be in a serious funk. “This is BAD,” began one of his recent missives, along with another announcing “A HUGE setback.” And, perhaps most distressing from the readers’ side, one that promised, “This is the longest email I’ll ever send you.”

Don’t over-worry, Ryan fans — he’s doing better than expected in a state that’s become very tough for his party. And remember, this is the season when candidates try to sound as desperate as possible.

Anyhow, it’s a good week for getting involved. We’re coming to the big finale. Look around and see who you’d like to help. Doesn’t have to be the Senate. Although, unless you have a deep personal connection, it’s probably OK to ignore all those requests from candidates for lieutenant governor.

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