Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Expert Advice

I’ve been corresponding with a reader, AC, who has managed a successful congressional campaign in a very red area. He has a vision about how to win this district. Given his expertise and, frankly, the differences between his view and mine, I think it’s important to present his vision here. I want this to be a poly-vocal blog, and his voice really deserves to be heard. Thankfully, he has graciously allowed me to post his analysis on the blog.

I will attempt to refrain from exegesis at this point, but will return to this after the holiday
I have, however, added a small number of comments in brackets. I have also made some very minor changes to the layout and have corrected spelling errors, but everything else is AC’s.

From an e-mail dated 11/16 responding to a thread on Dkos:

I was the one who posted that on DailyKoz - I am delighted to see such an online community dedicated to taking out Pombo in '06, it's been a goal of mine for over a decade.

NCEC - is the National Coalition for an Effective Congress., their data is used on top Congressional races for targeting purposes - the data is quite insightful, but NCEC doesn't necessarily deliver the data in a timely manner (my personal experience over several campaign cycles). The data are a series of statistical measurements that NCEC covers - Democratic Performance Index (DEM PERF is the column heading on the spreadsheet) is a baseline indication of a generic Democratic candidate's performance by precinct. Gerald McNerney's 04 results by precinct would give a good numerical indication of baseline DEM PERF. Note this isn't the same as turnout % by party affil.

My personal take on the race is that in order to beat Pombo, 1 - the Dem Candidate will need at least 750K minimum - realistically 1mil. 2. The state Dem Party in conjunction w/ DCCC needs to run a coordinated campaign whose primary responsibility is to register new Dems in precincts w/ high DEM PERF and to increase turnout through a dedicated absentee ballot push in low performing precincts with high DEM PERF - basically the coordinated campaign would take the field operations aspect off the candidates campaign budget allowing the candidates campaign to expend their funds on direct mail and TV.

I ran such a campaign last cycle for the DCCC in the Midwest and was hoping to do the same in the 11th this cycle if St. Sen. Machado ran, but DCCC was unable to convince him to run. I honestly think this is the only seat (maybe the CA-50) that is a legitimate spot for a win in CA in '06.

Ideally there would not be a primary so the Democratic candidate could campaign solely against Pombo thus saving precious funds. But on the flipside if there is a contested primary the media loves a horserace and the earned media that it generates would be an opportunity to air the Pombo dirty laundry for free.

I haven't seen the registration breakdowns in terms of voter distribution but my instinct tells me that this race will be won through picking off enough moderate Repubs and unaffil's in the Dublin/Pleasanton/Danville/San Ramon area. To do that the shores would need to be softened up per se through a direct mail campaign to selected households(HH's - in campaign parlance) highlighting Pombo's record in the 4 weeks leading up to E-day as most voters have no idea who he really is.

Keep up the good work.

From an e-mail dated 11/19:

There have been races where the candidate that I thought should have won didn't, but at least the other side didn't win. You and the other activists need to understand that the DCCC in wanting Filson isn't about inspiring the base, it's about winning the general election.

It's a moot point about name recognition as McNerney or Filson have absolutely no recognition among the greater voter pool - even most Dems have no clue about either one. You need to realize that just having this conversation with me indicates that you are 99.999999% more involved than practically everyone in the district and people such as yourself in the 11th are just a handful - so yeah you and a few hundred other people know McNerney - chances are they also have heard about Filson. [I do not live in CA-11. It’s a common misunderstanding, but I want to be clear about it.]

A true liberal more akin to Barbara Lee may appeal to the base, but probably would not win in this district in a general election. The key to winning is being able to pick off enough GOPers and unaffil's to get to that 50+1 promised land on E-day and in the general a candidate like a Barbara Lee type firebrand would be a disaster.

If it is indeed true that Barbara Boxer carried this district, then this tells me that a Democrat can win here (but one's enthusiasm needs to be tempered because her opponent ran a poor campaign).

That brings me back to the data - NCEC is costly. Using the returns from the '04 and '02 cycles could get you an indication of Dem Performance, but the info you should pay even more attention too(assuming you have a candidate or 527 with the resources to put it to good use) would be to look for data that NCEC calls PERSUASION INDEX.

Basically see how GWB vs. Kerry did in the district - did either one outperform their party registration % and by how much - particularly in relation to the DEM+UNAFFIL %ages - did Kerry or Boxer outperform that? Where that occurred is where you need to focus ideally with direct mail to those HH w/ voting history. There are other people you would throw into such a mail universe like new registrants etc, but I am getting way ahead of myself here.

Additionally look at McNerney in '04, since he didn't run much of a campaign that would give you baseline Dem support in the district. Then contrast that with Boxer, should be revealing.

To get all this data you would need to go to your county elections office (registrar of voters) and ask for the Statement of the Vote. They should be able to provide you with a CD-ROM of the data probably charge you $5 - $10 per cycle.

I like the Dublin/Pleasanton/SRV area as there probably are a lot of GOP moderates there who are ticket splitters, maybe even enough to attain 50+1. Again see the Boxer data to see if that proves my hunch correct.

State parties can do voter registration and abs balloting drives. [I had asked question about a congressional campaign coordinating with the state party.] From a respected colleague, "The main restriction on the coordinated campaign, besides what you mentioned (not explicitly asking people to vote for a candidate while doing a VR/AB drive) is that if you shouldn't just mention one candidate. Should be two-three, or just a generic "vote D" push in your script." Also, you can use soft dollars if you are just doing voter reg and Abs. Hard dollars if you are doing anything else." Ideally this funding would be through the Ca State Democratic Party. Start in June going until Sept in areas that the data indicated would be good for mining new Dem voters.

Then the drive would transform into an Absentee Ballot chase. Get the data from the county elections office daily (usually electronically) that indicates who has turned in their ballot vs. your in-house data that shows who had requested it - hound the people who haven't turned them in.

All of this cost $$$$. IMO what you and the other activists need to do is swallow your pride, become pragmatic and rally behind the DCCC candidate, as if Rahm Emanuel (DCCC Chair) stays true to his word - the money will be there for Filson and to keep him to that word - Filson (or whoever the frontrunner is) needs to have a easy win as Dems don't have $$$ to waste on a primary battle.

So your NUMBER ONE GOAL right now should be to organize amongst the activist community in the 11th to prevent a circular firing squad as we don't have any bullets to waste.

Democratically Yours,

From an e-mail dated 11/23:

Also after rethinking what I said about the primary, I do stand by my statement that the best candidate ideologically should be a moderate, yeah it maybe unappealing but he/she will have the best chance in the general, but aside from that I think a competitive primary will actually be beneficial, especially if it brings lots of publicity about Pombo's record as most people don't know where he really stands on the issues. Newspapers love political horseraces, so if the primary is competitive should gets lots of free press.

Christensen McDevitt [Ed. Note 11-29-05: sic--correct name is Christensen & Associates, Inc.] is a heavy hitter in the fundraising game from what I know. I guess McNerney is serious about his candidacy this time around so Filson won't be getting a free ride. Firms like Christensen McDevitt won't just take any candidate, they have to believe that you are viable and thus they will be able to raise funds for you, their cut is like 15% I think.

Even if DCCC/ Tauscher is behind Filson, whoever wins will still get the DCCC money if they think Pombo has a legitimate chance of going down (this is weighed of course in how this race looks in relation to other House contests).

Lisa Tucker as far as I know is the Campaign Manager for Filson. Filson is very much Tauscher's boy, I believe he donated money to her campaigns in the past I am not insinuating a quid pro quo though.

About the registration totals. In 04 I ran a campaign in the reddest of red areas with registration totals worse than those and won, overwhelmingly I might add. I wish the district I was in in '04 had that many Dem's %age wise.

If SJ County has the bulk of voters and the Dem/GOP breakdown is that close - I like it a lot. Thus hopefully the GOPers in the SR/Danville/Dublin area are the ones most persuadable (you need to see the returns from '04 to see if that is correct). And if that is the case in Nov '06 you just need to break even in the SJ County part (possibly pick off a few GOPers there (again use '04 data to look for fertile precincts).

If the unaffiliateds in the district mirror the polls nationwide, they will break for the Dem candidate overwhelmingly (this assumes the political climate then is similar or god forbid worse (that’s a whole other discussion) then this is a viable race and Pombo should be worried that he will actually have to spend his campaign funds instead of just giving it to his wife and brother.

The only way for this whole thing though to work is with $$$ and a lots of it. This district crosses several media markets - TV in CA is expensive, direct mail would be more effective IMO.


Blogger VPO said...

Wow, that is some interesting advice! Thanks for posting that. Let's keep this guy on the team.

I think he is low-balling the $$ needed. My take is more like $1.5 million or more to be viable.

As far as Filson, he makes the point that a former military man has some credibility in that regard. But the race is very up in the air for the Dems.

By backing Filson, the DCCC has left McNerney to make his own way. I am not sure what their take on Ensign is, but as I understand it, Filson was not too happy that she was entering the race. Is this reflective of Tauscher's and other DCCC's views on Ensign? Is Filson afraid his current backers will cut him loose for a stronger candidate? Or does he just want to waltz to the nomination, with his stories about swamp coolers and the 4 years in the 1970s when he was stationed near Fresno?

What I think the Tauscher backinf of Filson shows is that the Dem party in San Joaquin is weak. If an East Bay-er like Tauscher is picking who is going to run in their district, then the San Joaquin Dems do not have enough power to put up their own candidate. They are being left out of the picture and obviously have no sway in the Dem party power structure.

But the mistake I see in this is that the SJ'ers really need to be in the loop and get excited about the candidate so that they can do the work there to get him/her elected. Yes, Danville (Filson's town) is in the district, but it is on the fringes in an area socially and economically very different than SJ county.

Maybe with the techniques the export recommends in the posting any moderate candidate could win, even if the name recognition and experience at the start is zilch. Will any of the campaigns have their act together enough to do something along what he suggests?

It is all very interesting....

12:20 PM, November 23, 2005  
Blogger shakingthetree said...

Steve Filson may be a moderate and he may ostensibly be backed by the DCCC...

BUT... he doesn't appear to be a FIGHTING Moderate (by "fighting," I do not mean a veteran a la Paul Hackett or Patrick Murphy; I mean passionate with a spine --- like Howard Dean).

No matter the candidate's ideological positioning, it will take passion and a spine to beat Pombo. In lieu of a fighting moderate who probably stands a better shot at winning a conventional campaign, I'll take a fighting progressive any day.

The risk of a crushing landslide loss may be more likely, but the chances of a squeaker win are potentially better, especially if said fighting progressive can leverage a clear message to mobilize money and volunteers. Build it and we will come.

Unfortunately, none of the candidates appear to fit this profile quite yet (unless McNerney can get a passion transplant).

4:29 AM, November 27, 2005  

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