Thursday, October 25, 2007

How Republicans Can Win: The Cases of Christy Whitman, William Russell, and Melissa Hart

"Money is the mother's milk of politics" (Thomas "Tip" O'Neill)
"In politics, money isn't everything" (Steve Maloney)

Bulletin at end of column: FOX Poll Shows Giuliani Surging, Thompson & Romney Failing

This afternoon (Thursday, October 25) I'll be writing about ways that Republican candidates with limited resources can run effective campaigns against well-funded Democrats. I'll be thinking specifically about William Russell, an Iraq War veteran, who is running against Jack Murtha in Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district.

(In 2006, Murtha raised $3.5 million, one of the highest totals of any congressional candidate in the U.S. In 2008, Russell may raise at most a few hundred thousand dollars. Always the optimist, I believe Russell can win the race against Murtha, although he'll have to conduct an extremely smart, low-cost campaign to do so.)

Look at it this way: in 2006, Murtha got about 120,000 votes and spent almost $300 per vote. Diana Lynn Irey, Murtha's opponent, got almost 80,000 votes, which meant she spent $110 per vote. Diana's campaign expenditures were just under $900,000 -- about $2.6 million less than Murtha. On election day, he got roughly six-out-of-ten votes, and she got four-out-of-ten

One race contemporary Republicans with modest campaign funds can learn from is the campaign in 1990 by Republican Christine Todd Whitman (who eventually became governor of New Jersey of New Jersey) against Senator Bill Bradley. In the race, Whitman spent approximately $900,000. Bradley spent more than $11 MILLION.

Bradley won, but by a razor-thin margin, 50% to 48%. Christy Whitman did just about everything right -- relying mainly on inexpensive radio ads rather than costly TV spots -- and Bradley did most things wrong. In terms of campaign funding, Bradley spent moer than $10 for every vote he received. Whitman spent about 90 cents per vote. Yes, if she'd had more money, she could have won, but she nearly did so anyway -- and she built a foundation for a very successful political career.

Whitman was twice elected Governor of New Jersey and later served as head of the EPA in the Bush Administration. She's known as a champion of the environment in a state that has more than its share of pollution problems. She's a moderate Republican who has argued that the Party needs to include more individuals, including pro-choice women and gays, who have tended to vote mainly Democratic.

New Jersey was then, as it is now, a "Blue" state. Specifically, in modern times, it's always had a large Democratic majority in registration -- a situation similar to the one Russell will face in Pennsylvania. The Whitman-Bradley race also has implications for people like Melissa Hart, who will be running for Congress in the PA 4th District against Jason Altmire.

Like Christy Whitman, I'm not a great fan of candidates' spending huge amounts of money on TV advertising. Even a relatively modest TV effort, like the one conducted by Diana Irey in 2006, can cost hundreds of thousands. In Rick Santorum's U.S. Senate campaign in 2006, he spent at least $10 million on ads. Apparently, they didn't win him more than a few percent of votes, if that.

If Christy Whitman had relied on TV advertising against Bradley in 1990, she wouldn't have had any money left to buy stamps or pay phone bills. On the other hand, she was extremely effective on radio, especially the all-news station in New York City, WCBS. That station (like others she used) had many New Jersey listeners, especially during drive-time programming. She portrayed herself as someone deeply committed to New Jersey, while Bradley -- she said -- was a "Beltway-type." Obviously, the approach worked, as her vote totals surprised all the so-called "experts."

Where do I think someone like William Russell should spend his money? It shouldn't be on TV, where he won't be able to finance a "saturation" campaign. Instead, he should spend it on PEOPLE. He needs to pay modest sums to students, veterans, and Republican activists who will lead a strong word-of-mouth campaign, make phone calls, and go door-to-door.

If William could get a dedicated corps of 1,000 people -- or even a number approaching that -- they could contact as many as 100,000 people (100 contacts for each supporter). Compared to TV ads, talk -- in support of the Russell candidacy -- truly is cheap.

Let's ask a basic political question: How do you get people to support your candidacy? A very simple answer is: You (or your representatives) ask them for it. Russell is a dynamic young man who happens to be a military veteran. He should have strong appeal to young people, especially high-school and college students, as well as veterans, active duty soldiers, AND THEIR FAMILIES.

There are thousands of active military and veterans in the 12th congressional district, and they have families totaling tens of thousands of people. Russell needs to ask all of them, directly or indirectly, for their support. He also needs to ask them for small contributions, which in the case of a few individuals, will turn into very large contributions.

He need to remain active constantly. If he goes to the drug store in Johnstown (his home-town), he needs to ask everybody there, including the pharmacist and the cashier, for their support. Also, he needs to go to college campuses, such as the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown and Washington and Jefferson College (Washington, PA), and ask the student and faculty for their support.

Russell should emphasize three points: (1) He, unlike Murtha, supports General Petraeus and the troops on the ground; (2) he, unlike Murtha, is honest and committed to representing the real values of people in the 12th District; (3) most of Murtha's contributions come from lobbyists in Maryland and Virginia, not from people in the District. He should say these things over and over again, making them in essence his mantras.

(The second part of this column will appear tomorrow, Friday. It will emphasize three types of individuals -- connectors, mavens, and salesmen -- that Russell needs to bring into his camp.

Connectors are individuals who know a lot of other people, both as friends and acquaintances. Mavens are people who are experts on a variety of things -- from who's the best candidate to who's the best plumber in town -- and who are willing to share their knowledge with others who come to them for advice. Salesmen are people -- like Adam Brickely of -- who are very good at selling ideas, products, and candidates.

All these concepts are from Malcolm Gladwell's superb book, The Tipping Point. Any candidate who can line up as supporters many of the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen in a particular district is well on his (or her) way to winning.

Note: I wrote the following comment to Cindy at her wonderful ThePinkFlamingo blog site (see my blogroll).

Cindy, I love your columns, especially the comments about "Dickie" Scaife, who funds many conservative causes and is still a thoroughly evil man. Here are a few Dickie stories: (1) he regularly has lunch with John Murtha, and his newspaper (the Tribune-Review) didn't even bother to interview Diana Irey before it came out (surprise) for the Prince of Pork; (2) one of his political writers (a female) got mad at me for writing an e-mail containing a four-letter word referring to doo-doo. She told me that her editor (Colin McNickel, I think), a Scaife devotee, read EVERY e-mail that came to her. So much for protecting one's sources! I made a deal with her -- she would never write an e-mail to me and I would never write one to her. On gay people: I know quite a few and some of them are devoted Republicans. My deal with gays is that I will let them live as they wish, as long as they do the same for me. By the way, George W. Bush got tens of thousands of votes in Florida in 2000 from gays. Gee, it sounds as if the gay vote was crucial to his becoming President of the U.S. Imagine that! -- Steve


Watch: Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll2 hours ago in

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll 10-25-07 GOP Nomination (trends since Oct. 10 poll) Rudy Giuliani 31% (+2) Fred Thompson 17% (+1) John McCain 12% (even) Mitt Romney 7% (-4) Mike Huckabee 5% (even) Duncan Hunter 3% (+2) Tom Tancredo 2% (even) Ron Paul 1% (-1).

Second Choice for Republican Nominee Rudy Giuliani 22% John McCain 20% Fred Thompson 14% Mitt Romney 11% Mike Huckabee 4% Ron Paul 3% Duncan Hunter 3% Tom Tancredo 2%.

If the United States were suddenly in an extremely serious crisis, which presidential candidate would you want to be president at that moment? (Republicans Only) Rudy Giuliani 39% John McCain 12% Fred Thompson 11% Mitt Romney 3% Mike Huckabee 2% Ron Paul 1%.

Among Independents (Only included Republican candidates) John McCain 17% Rudy Giuliani 12% Fred Thompson 3% Mike Huckabee 2% Ron Paul 1% Mitt Romney 0% Polling was conducted by telephone October 23-24, 2007, in the evenings.

The total sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. LV = likely voters Republicans n=303.

No comments: