Election Analysis--Results--Statewide part 2--posted by Tony Garcia on 11/17/2006
Wednesday morning after the election I knew nearly everyone would assume the elections in Minnesota were simply the result of a Left Swing or Blue Tide. Each race had its own independent reasons for its outcome. The "Tide" may have exaggerated some of the margins of victory, but it was not a catalyst for most of the outcomes statewide. I would assume the same nationally, but I neither have the time nor the interest to do background research to validate that assumption.
This post analyzes the US Senate race. It will sound like a pile-on, but that is only a result of the campaign strategies that I bring up. I believe the entire campaign was doomed to a blow out early on based on the strategies that were adopted. I pointed them out before and was met with hostility. Examining them again now may help to prevent similar drubbings in the near future.
Mark Kennedy's path to US Senate was started in 2005. He announced his intentions early and GOP leadership was all too willing to clear the path for him. Among other hopefuls that were pushed out (and their respective supporters disrespected) were Gil Gutknecht and Rod Grams. Harold Shudlick was treated with even more disrespect. Outwardly he was ignored and behind closed doors event organizers informed Kennedy to speak "as the sitting Congressman" as opposed to speaking as a Senate candidate. This allowed the organizers and Kennedy to publicly put on the rouse that Kennedy had no opposition (even if it was token opposition) while denying the appropriate access to candidates that were not crowned already by the GOP leadership.
From the beginning through the June endorsement this tactic on Kennedy's behalf and with Kennedy's tacit approval led to lukewarm acceptance of Kennedy from an already growingly discontent base. The ripple effects I predicted from this eventually did play out.
Understand the thinking behind "energizing the base" and "Get Out The Vote" (GOTV) efforts. The concept is the energized base will spread the word to "like minded" individuals who are simply not as deeply invested as the base. Then those "like minded" people may get excited and spread the word, volunteer a small amount of effort, wear buttons and put up bumper stickers or lawn signs.
The support will get spread from there to the less enthusiastic "semi-interested" people. By the time the support gets to these people it is not as strong as the previous messengers. The offset is the "semi-interested" people need less to make them give lukewarm support…and these contacts from the "like-minded" people can be enough.
With a base that is lukewarm due to the GOP performance and then even more wary of the process of crowning candidates as the sole and protected "one" there is none of this ripple effect.
GOTV efforts actually are designed to "close the deal" with these "semi-interested" and "like minded" people. They are also to help maintain the energizing of the "base". The GOP in 2006 got lazy regarding their GOTV. Rather than making certain they had lists of people to call that would be effective they changed their focus to pure numbers. "We reached 5 billion people in the last 72 hours…what a great job of Get Out The Vote. We done-did good, yeppers."
The problem is that my phone alone represented about 20-30 of those 'contacts' in the final 72 hours. From lukewarm to hotly annoyed…that was the difference in my support for State Senator as this harassment was on behalf of the MN GOP and the candidate was on thin ice for me as it was. The barrage of calls also pushed my support away from the GOP's Gubernatorial candidate and brought me incredibly close to picking a different candidate for Senate.
The laziness in filtering the GOTV lists created a double whammy and cooled the support for an already lukewarm base.
Once Kennedy turned his full attention to Amy Klobuchar he ran one of the most ineffective campaigns possible. Out of the official blocks Kennedy began a campaign of character attacks. "Klobuchar is collecting a paycheck while campaigning" and "Klobuchar is not REALLY a prosecutor" were among the first. The rhetorical position these attacks leave a campaign in are devastating…to be the one initiating them is incomprehensible.
In the meantime Kennedy's website listed positions that could reasonably taken as a promise to grow the National scope of government, grow the federal budget, increase the jurisdiction of big government and leave very little for the local government to determine for themselves. Interestingly his website had two other underlying premises (though they may have been too subtle to have an impact on their own). Running away from his Congressional record and pledging to "fix" things if elected as Senator though obviously not "fixing" them while a Congressman.
Whoever in Klobuchar's campaign recognized the rhetorical advantage Kennedy handed over should have their compensation doubled. By Kennedy's initiation of making the campaign about personalities Klobuchar was in the position to control which issues were discussed and at what depth. Any subsequent response from Kennedy would be viewed as desperate grasps no matter how legitimate Kennedy's responses were.
Kennedy's responses were even more disastrous. "What Would Amy Do" became the response. Kennedy ceded control of which issues to discuss, Klobuchar responded by laying out issues at a surface level and Kennedy's defense was to be interrogative about the level of Klobuchar's positions.
The gaffe in strategy appeared as desperation. The public picked up on it and Kennedy began whining about various inconsequential items like media bias. The desperation was moving from perception to reality and by September the only real question was what would Klobuchar's margin of victory be. She coasted from then on and treated Kennedy as a mere gadfly.
Would Kennedy have won with a well-run campaign? Difficult to say, but it would have been one of the races watched beyond 10 PM. Heck, it would have been one that would not have been called within 5 minutes of the polls closing.
Coming next: Results--Statewide part 3