Friday, July 17, 2009

New Campaign

I just joined a campaign outside of the Tampa Bay area, so my posting will be even more intermittent than usual for the next few months, but I will attempt to keep this blog updated - probably by continuing to write tips and thoughts about the nuts and bolts of executing a campaign.

In the meantime, wish me luck!

Thursday, July 09, 2009


They say timing is everything.

Generally speaking, “they” are correct.

In politics, paid media is all about timing. Absentee ballots just started dropping (not meaning that they are arriving today, but that they have been given to the post office for delivery today). Smart campaigns will usually drop a mail piece aimed at absentee voters either the same day as ballots start dropping or sometimes the day before – the object being for them to arrive at more or less the same time, so that no one has a chance to fill out their ballot before they’ve gotten at least one paid media contact.

Other key aspects involve trying to hit voters right before the election, which means trying to time your last mail drop so that they arrive the Monday before a Tuesday election. I tend to like to drop them Thursday. It increases the chance that it arrive on Saturday (or even Friday), but also decreases the chance that it doesn’t get there until Wednesday.

Television and radio are a little different. As a rule, when you go up on TV (or radio), you want to stay up until the election is over. Which means, if you only have the budget for two weeks of cable, you only start running those ads two weeks before the election.

There are some exceptions. For example, to defend one’s self against an attack or to launch a timely attack around a recent issue, you might want to break out of the traditional schedule long enough to run an attack or defense. Sometimes a challenger may want to run a week or so worth of ads early to make a statement – it’s a clear way of saying, “I’m here and I’m a legitimate threat to the incumbent that the media, voters and donors need to take seriously.” Similarly, an incumbent facing a hard re-election might make want to make an early statement to show their strength or define their opponent early in the race. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd is an example of an embattled incumbent who ran some ads early to try to revive his battered image well early.

Deveron Gibbons recently bought some cable for the St Pete mayoral race. Though not privy to his campaign team’s thoughts, my best guess is that they are looking at their fundraising and institutional support and seeing that it does not match their strength in the polls. They could be afraid of seeing that financial and institutional support slip if they aren’t showing that it can translate into actual votes and they want to make a show of intent. It can also perform the same function as the direct mail, in the sense that the timing of the buy coincides with the days right before and just after absentee ballots drop. I don’t expect him to keep cable ads running continuously through the election, but instead that he will save resources for another, larger buy as we approach Election Day.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Robocall Universes

I have done robocalls. I have a good friend who is a phone vendor (live calls and robocalls). I’d be happy to recommend his firm to you.

But, their value is very narrow.

We all know that Scott Wagman and Jamie Bennett have done robocalls in the St. Pete mayoral race. Each of them was delivering a persuasion message, by which I mean, a message that seems intended to turn an undecided voter into a likely voter.

I am not a big fan of persuasion robocalls, to be frank, but let’s look at some universes that might make sense.

The election is sooner than you think and ability of voters to ask to receive absentee ballots for future elections during the last presidential election means that universe of people who will receive absentee ballots as gone through the roof. This makes it very expensive to contact them all.

Potentially, a robocall to a subset of absentee voters makes sense. For Wagman, this might include Democrats who are receiving an absentee ballot, but who traditionally only vote in Presidential elections. In other words, a group that might vote this year, but are less likely to vote than other people receiving absentee ballots and whose party affiliation matches Wagman’s. The campaign might decide it wants to make some effort to reach out to these voters, but doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on them, because they are still less likely to vote than many other universes.

Just my initial thoughts on this issue.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Caveat – I have never been a big fan of billboards.

But looking objectively, let’s ask ourselves, what do billboards?

Basically – they put your name (and usually your face up there) up there in big letters for people to see. Do billboards have persuasion message to convince undecided voters?

Not really. Yes, you might have something like “John Doe: Working to Bring Jobs to Florida” or “Jane Doe: Standing Up Florida.” But no on is persuaded by that – no one says, “Gee whiz, John Doe is in favor of bringing jobs to Florida and I hear that his opponent is for massive unemployment” or “Wow, golly gee! Jane Doe will stand up for Florida, but her evil, mean opponent wants to stand up for Georgia, even though he’s running for office in Florida!”

You could put a 10 point plan up on billboard, but no one will be able to read it – at least not without risking a serious traffic accident.

So really, all a billboard does is put your name out there. How does that help? Easy – if you have low name recognition, billboards are one way to increase it.

But let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?

What are we really talking about? St. Pete Councilman and mayoral candidate Jamie Bennett has purchased three billboards.

Was this a good decision?

In my honest opinion, no.

This race will probably have relatively low turnout. I say that because a recent poll show 61% of voters are undecided. Undecided voters are much less likely to vote. Also, such a low number of voters who have picked candidates suggests a very low level of enthusiasm and engagement (and supporters of the various candidates - please feel free not to flood my email with outraged cries about how your horse in the race actually has very enthused supporters, because you understand what I mean and besides, my feelings are easily hurt).

In a low turnout race, name recognition is less of a factor because only the more engaged voters – those voters most likely to know who the candidates are – tend to come out.

Bennett, as a sitting, two term councilman who has gotten a lot press during this election, should already be reasonably well known to many likely voters. Bennett’s problem is that much of the press (primarily focused on his campaign staff) has been bad.

He doesn’t need to increase his name recognition, he needs to improve his favorability among voters who already know who he is – and billboards will do almost nothing to help.

Billboards tend to be pricey and it is questionable whether this is a good use of money. For Bennett’s sake, I hope that this has not affected his ability to run an aggressive direct mail campaign (7-10 pieces).

Do billboards make sense for anyone in this race?

Arguably, Scott Wagman and Deveron Gibbons, who each have strong institutional support, but have never held elected office and are also sufficiently well funded to (perhaps) purchase billboards and still run persuasion media, like mail and even cable television.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Crist Doesn't Have Much Room for Growth

It’s all wishful thinking by the left right now, but Dailykos posits a hypothetical situation wherein Charlie Crist pulls an Arlen Specter or a Joe Lieberman and either switches to the Democratic primary (a la Specter) of goes independent (a la Lieberman).

Why would the incredibly popular, well tanned, handsome, and sensitive Republican governor switch parties?

The Club for Growth is very close to endorsing Marco Rubio. While that may not mean a lot to the average voter, let me just say that the Club for Growth is almost singlehandedly responsible for Specter switching parties.

They are the biggest, baddest bundler of donations of hardline, anti-tax conservatives in the nation. The money the raised brought Specter within a hair’s breadth of losing to Rep. Toomey in 2004 and turned Toomey into the unassailable leader in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary, driving Specter to switch parties.

Most of you probably saw the poll that shows Crist and Rubio in a statistical dead heat among voters who know who both candidates are (Rubio has relatively low name recognition statewide). The fact is, the Club for Growth and the endorsement of national Republicans like Mike Huckabee (who can help Rubio among evangelical Republicans) have the potential to introduce Republican voters statewide to Rubio.

Crist’s problem is that he already very well known. He’s polling at just over 50%, which is good (you'd still rather by Crist than Rubio right now), but he also has no where to go but down. He’s been in statewide office for years – as Governor, as Attorney General, and as Commissioner of Education. Voters know who he is. The only surprises that GOP primary voters are likely to discover about him is just how bad the budget situation has gotten under his watch and how much worse it is likely to become.

I don’t think that Crist is likely to leave the Republican Party – but I don’t think he campaign handlers are any illusions that this will be the cakewalk en route to the 2016 presidential election that they’d hoped for.