One way to prepare to run a great campaign is to learn from other campaigns. There are dozens of books I recommend reading (and will on this blog at some point) to learn from other campaigns, but because we're in the middle of campaign season right now, why not learn from the folks who are running this year?
With that in mind, I'll be writing analyses of the Senate campaigns this week. It's a great time to do it because we're days away from knowing who will win, and we have a pile of information on what they've done and how they've reacted to unforeseen circumstances over the past twelve months.
Focus on Messaging
The focus will be on messaging. As you begin to think about your run for office in 2015 or 2016, think about how these candidates developed their message, stayed on message and managed to come back to their message when their opponents tried to get them off-message.
Messaging boils down to this: when a voter walks into the polling booth on Election Day, what do you want him to think about you and what do you want him to think about your opponent?
I'll be linking each of the races here as I post the analyses. Here are the campaigns we'll discuss:
- incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) vs. Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) in Kentucky
- incumbent Kay Hagan (D) vs. Thom Tillis (R) in North Carolina
- incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D) vs. Scott Brown (R) in New Hampshire
- incumbent Mark Pryor (D) vs. Tom Cotton (R) in Arkansas
- incumbent Mark Udall (D) vs. Corey Gardner (R) in Colorado
Each race above is linked to the Real Clear Politics page for that race, which includes a rundown of recent polling for the race.
Localize It or Nationalize It?
A couple of things to note - while we'll discuss the context of each race individually, the overall national context of the races has a significant impact. Most voters in these elections will go to the polls with unfavorable views of the President, which is a significant advantage for all Republicans in the races.
But the Democrats in most races would like to localize the races. In Kentucky, is the election about Mitch McConnell's thirty years in the Senate, or is it about Lundergan Grimes' support for Barack Obama's agenda? In North Carolina: Thom Tillis' education record or Kay Hagan's ties to Obama? In Arkansas, Tom Cotton's blind ambition or Mark Pryor's 99% voting record with Obama?
See a trend? Voters support for the (Democrat) President are at all-time lows for Obama, so the Republican strategy will often be to tie their opponent to Obama through their voting records, through photos or through past speeches. Democrats will avoid the President and make the race about "Alison vs. Mitch," "Kay vs. Thom" or "Mark vs Tom."
Here's a practical attempt to do that from Alison Grimes, running a "Kentucky Values" kind of ad to distance herself from Obama and make the race about Alison vs. Mitch.
You'll notice this in just about every Senate race this year, and we'll discuss it in more detail over the next few days.
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