assignment desk
October 28, 2006, 7:58 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers

God help me for quoting Peggy Noonan, but she’s right in an aside in “Is there Progress Through Loss” published in Opinion Journal today, 10/28:

(An unreported story this year is the lack of imagination, seriousness and respect in the work of political consultants on both sides. They have got to catch up with American brightness.)

The ultimate problem lies with the consultant business model: spread-too-thin firms who look for the shortest-distance-between-two-points solutions– solutions that lack depth and, if you will, soul.

Couple the poor executions with pounding them into people by over-running them (2000 points is a common buy level nowadays– 100 points meaning that the equivalent of 100% of the people in the market will view the ad once. So, the average person in a market will see the ad 20 times– kind of hard to take, if the ad has all the imagination of “Head on: apply directly to the forehead!”) and you have a real overdose problem.


How “networked” are political sites?
August 7, 2006, 10:01 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers, web

A key measure of relevance for a website is its “network effect” — the number of inbound and outbound links to that site’s pages. Google uses a patented algorithm to probe for that networkedness and ranks sites with more (authentic) links higher up in the rankings.

Bivings rated this aspect of site relevance.

The webheads (Bivings and others) looking at this need to understand that (at least on the D side of things) most campaigns are lucky to have any site up that isn’t brochureware (or the slight notch above brochureware whose main purpose is harvesting emails for later fundraising pitches).

Real disclosure of a candidate’s persona on the web– in a myspace or personal-blog kind of way– just isn’t gonna happen very quickly. Most campaign communications infrastructure have been very command-and-control, not at all a series of small pieces loosely joined.

Getting the beltway’s Gang of 400 <tm The Note> comfortable with decentralization could have a perverse effect– more noise from more sources could further obscure accountability for success or failure (one of Kos’s main complaints about the Consultant Culture).

If Lamont loses, for example, how much could be pinned on the blackface shot — which is plausibly responsible for the last-week tightening by five points in the Quinnipiac poll??

Lamont ads, staying on top of the zeitgeist
August 7, 2006, 3:00 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers

One of the many things about the Lamont campaign which will revise the conventional wisdom has been his inventive ads. Seeing this one (haven’t figured out how to embed the ad in wordpress, sorry) brings to mind one possible way which could be big. Watch it, then come back here.


This ad responds to the environment in which the ads are playing– the rock-em-sock-em of a top-tier race within a two-minute-and-two-second commercial break, less than a month before the election.

And the content kicks the struts out from under the whole negative ad approach, following No. 5 of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

With any luck, we’ll see more Democrats paying attention to context and executing this kind of brilliant jujitsu.

Gov. Huckabee, whistling in the dark
August 7, 2006, 1:02 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers

One of my operating principles is that political people are prisoners of their experience (everybody is when you think about it). Over the weekend, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) defaulted to a standard argument about congressional races when talking about this year’s congressional races in an interview with The Note: (Scroll down a ways, no permalink)

“This is a typical situation where people are saying, ‘I’m really mad at Congress, I’m really mad at the Republicans, but my guy – he’s ok.’ I’m seeing that at the level of governor and even at the level of members of Congress. And, so, yes if you ask the generic ballot test question. . . Republicans are certainly not polling at the top of their game. And that’s a very charitable way of putting it. . . If you look at poll numbers within the state, you don’t see that incumbents are in serious trouble because they’re Republican,” said Gov. Huckabee.”

That’s the usual calculus the Beltway types use– “They hate Congress, but love their Congressmember'” Devil you know, and all that.


NPR recently fielded a uniquely-designed poll that gets out from under the generic ballot and enables asking about specific candidate names. By polling only those in the top 50 most competitive districts (using random digit dialing), they were able to ask BOTH the generic D-vs-R congressional question (for control purposes) and ALSO ask a specific D Candidate Name-vs-R Candidate Name question.

This structure gets out from under phoning into all 435 house districts– which include all the safe seats– and focusses only on the competitive races which will determine control of the House.

THOSE results showed a 6-pt lead for the D candidate overall, and in the 23 “top tier” MOST competitive districts out of the 50, Dem candidates showed a 10-pt lead.

Mystery Pollster did some further crunching using the NPR data, comparing to past performance in thse seats, and says:

“Republicans won 55% of the vote cast in these districts in 2004 and 58% of the votes cast their in 2002, but the Republican candidates are currently preferred by only 43% of the voters in the NPR survey.”

Mystery Pollster’s full analysis is here, with links to the NPR news story and the original pollster’s report…

Pssst– don’t anyone tell Huckabee. (And maybe knock him down a few notches in your 08 Republican nomination pool?)

[ this post filed under ‘handlers’ since pollsters are handlers ]

Memos. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
July 31, 2006, 2:49 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers

From today’s WaPo, a story on the so-called Atlas Project:

“…This fall, the three founders, as well as a few full-time staffers, will begin studying election results from the past two presidential races in the 12 to 14 states likely to provide the margin of victory for the next president.

The group will then travel to the battleground states to interview elected officials, campaign operatives and key activists to learn about winning in these critical states.

The third leg of the project will be a broad polling and targeting operation. Three prominent polling firms — Garin Hart Yang Research Group, Penn Schoen & Berland and Brilliant Corners — will conduct the surveys, while Copernicus Analytics will analyze demographic data so political messages can be crafted to reach very small constituencies.

Finally, the group will draft memos focused on the individual states and based on everything they have learned…”

Steve Rosenthal, one of the three founders of the project, goes on to be quoted

“In the heat of an election, it seems we’re always playing catch-up,” Rosenthal said. “Our goal with this project is to bring together the best strategic thinkers — the innovators at the state and national level — to learn from what’s been done over the past several elections.”

We’re always playing catchup for a reason; operatives like Rosenthal largely ignore innovators– unless they’re Republicans– and end up fighting the last battle, not the one they’re in. This project as described just continues that tradition, sadly.

Liberals Gone Wrong, Part I
July 31, 2006, 12:11 am
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers was established in the heat of the Clinton impeachment, pioneering online organizing and fundraising tactics. But they’ve become foolish.

Old example: organizing against layoffs at the Tribune Co. newspapers late last year. See Jonathan Weber’s recounting here. (Disclosure: I’ve worked for Weber in the past.)

New example: They’ve mounted TV ads against a slate of Republican house members, including the an R representing a D seat in Connecticut. See them here. (link is to a contribution page– click on “ad” in the upper right quadrant of the page. These ads are a classic example of where liberals (and their consultants) go wrong– being shrill, over-the-top, and downright wrongheaded about symbolism (a red hand really has to do with stealing, and none of the incumbents are accused of theft!). Design Observer has a detailed deconstruction here.

This is the kind of stuff that makes people hate politics. And liberals getting symbolism wrong–over and over– makes me hate liberals.
UPDATE: Great book on the topic: Danny Goldberg’s “How the Democrats Lost Teen Spirit.”

Karl Rove is right…
July 30, 2006, 6:05 pm
Filed under: candidates/campaigns/elections, handlers

It is “wrong to underestimate the intelligence of the American voter but easy to overestimate their interest…” The guy’s a pro– in addition to working for the bad guys– and/but he’s right about this.

His comment on corrosive reminded me of the Jon Stewart segment on Crossfire back in 04. Miraculously, that’s up on youtube:  LINK