A moderate Democrat Senator, who had been backed into some tough votes, was made vulnerable by his public allegiance to President Obama. The only possible path to victory would be a tea party Republican candidate lacking in media savvy and unable to connect with voters. Unfortunately for Jim Webb, he isn’t Harry Reid. Despite a wide-open Republican field stuck between lesser-known candidates and former YouTube sensations, Webb is not running for re-election in 2012.
Many political observers thought a groundswell of conservative activism would upend incumbents in 2012 – speculation included Orrin Hatch, Dick Lugar, and even the normally safe Olympia Snowe falling in primaries. Webb’s surprise exit beats them all.
Even without an opponent at this point, Webb had to see the writing on the wall that his re-election would be tough. The redemption-seeking retread candidacy of George Allen is ripe for a tea party upset, and other candidates are lining up as well. But with excited conservative activists and the absence of national Democrat momentum, Webb was destined to join Creigh Deeds in the second place circle in November 2012, even against a fringe tea partier.
Put another way, Sharron Angle, who narrowly lost to Reid, probably would have beaten Webb in Virginia. John Buck in Colorado likely would have beaten Webb in Virginia. Webb doesn’t have the long record of public service that Reid boasts, nor the leadership, nor the ability to raise nearly $25 million to holdhis seat. Democratic campaign committees and independent groups were unlikely to chip in – races in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and New Mexico, plus pickup opportunities in Nevada and Massachusetts, will all rank ahead of Virginia for national Democrats.
Aside from the realities of the electoral map, investing in a Virginia race with Jim Webb as your candidate has a strategic messaging issue. After all, Democrats were able to beat back some challengers in 2010 by convincing independents that specific Republicans – such as Angle – were a bit loony. Michael Bennet, Chris Coons, Reid, and others were able to paint themselves as sane alternatives to “crazy tea partiers.”
There is simply no conceivable way the tea party could out-crazy Jim Webb.
Do they ever. And what a week it has been for Alaska political ads.
Just in time for Halloween, Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign has a new ad with former/late Sen. Ted Stevens, endorsing her from beyond the grave:
The good news for Murkowski is that the utter creepiness of the ad overshadows the fact that Stevens – who was drummed out of Congress under a cloud of ethics charges – is basically saying that Murkowski’s biggest asset is her incumbency. That’s not the best message for the 2010 election cycle. Also, if the biggest knock on Murkowski is that she’s a more self-serving than a self-sacrificing public servant, then cutting a commercial with footage of a dead guy seems to play right into her opponents’ hands.
Speaking of opponents, a Joe Miller ad launched this week spoofed the Old Spice body wash commercials from this summer – which is appropriate, because after watching Murkowski’s ad, you may feel like you need a shower:
The Carly Fiorina campaign has answered a question politics and tech bloggers have been asking of themselves for months: How will campaigns used location-based social networks?
Fiorina’s camp launched a location-based check-in iPhone app that lets users earn points checking in to rallies and other campaign events. This is just a few days after Fiorina’s use of text messaging and a mobile-based phone bank system drew positive media coverage. And, even though the story glosses over it just a bit, it’s worth noting that Fiorina’s app targets college students – an important piece of strategy, given that the general population is still getting used to mobile applications.
Earlier in the year, Scott Brown’s Massachusetts Miracle campaign was lauded for its use of remote phone banks and hyper-local online ads to identify key supporters and topple the ghost of Ted Kennedy. If Fiorina pulls off a victory that would have been unthinkable a year ago, you can bet in the days after November 2 the interblogs will buzz about her online strategy.
It’s certainly a far cry from the Demon Sheep.
Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, and the NRSC marked it with this video:
It’s a cool donor/message piece, matching the administration’s promises against their results and infusing some humor (or whatever it is that Jay Leno does) in a way that doesn’t affect the serious tone.
An ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee showed up in my GMail this week, asking me to take a survey. The survey was pretty basic – asking which issues I care about, and things like that. But with unofficial Campaign Kickoff Weekend just a week away, it’s a good idea.
The NRSC has been taking some flack this week, but this is a pretty good idea – and not just because surveys and petitions make it easier to capture my email address and information. Even better, it follows a good pattern – between this, America Speaking Out, and YouCut, there’s a consistent pattern of engagement with voters and activists. That outreach in the context of the NRSC survey will help them craft communication that speaks a bit more directly to me when they follow up.
If you’re an optimist, it’s about connecting with the voters; if you’re a cynic, it’s about refining strategy so match talking points with the things people actually care about. Either way, it’s a good strategy.
Rand Paul’s $250,000 money bomb is being treated like a dud for failing to meet the lofty $400,000 goal the campaign set for it. For a Kentucky Senate race, a cool quarter mil is far from chump change, but the dour coverage shows the value of managed expectations in setting benchmarks for online metrics.
Paul inherited from his father a reputation for both staunch libertarianism and savvy online organizing, which make his swings-and-misses at online fundraising and Facebook recruitment much more pronounced. But Paul isn’t the only one who falls into the trap of easy metrics: dollars raised online, Facebook “likes”, Twitter follower counts, and other obvious numbers are easy to understand, so issue and candidate campaigns alike will use them as benchmarks for impact.
Two problems stem from this. First, metrics which are easy to understand are not always easy to obtain. Second, having big numbers doesn’t always translate to big impact. Having 100,000 Facebook followers who don’t vote is just like having 100 Facebook followers who don’t vote. Further, there comes a time when a campaign must balance the effort of recruitment with the reality of mobilization.
In the particular case of the campaign’s recent online fundraising attempt, Rand’s supporters may be suffering from money bomb fatigue, since the campaign has used the tactic regularly. They might be feeling the pinch of a tough economy, and giving $25 where they would have given $50. But none of that would be in the discussion if, at the outset, the campaign had set a reasonable benchmark for dollars. There are plenty of completely legitimate explanations for why Paul raised “only” $250,000 – but what really requires explanation is the original expectation for $400,000.