September 27, 2006 - One of the principle roles of a competent political consultant is to keep the campaign from wasting money on dumb stuff that isn't worth any votes.
Much of what happened in our recent primary - and will occur again in the general - ranges from ineffective to downright counter-productive.
Direct mail is a necessary part of any modern election from Constable up. Television is over-rated - viewing is so fragmented that TV buys have been massively extended to reach even less people than a generation ago when we were all watching the same thing. Try "I Love Lucy" rating numbers versus "24." Television time was once available in five and 30 minute chunks. The reason candidates now talk in 30-second soundbites is because that's all the stations will sell them - and all the TV news people will cover if they cover it at all.
Newspaper and radio ads are still useful, but the only way to reach a majority of the electorate is in the mailbox.
Two close friends who've been around the campaign block here observed to me that the mail they received as the election drew closer all looked alike. Slick, glossy, full color graphics pretty much the same size - and was generally blah. "Didn't tell anybody who they really were" was one bright comment.
Having worked direct mail campaigns in both Illinois and California, and even when handling many candidates for state legislature simultaneously all over the state, I always made sure the pieces looked different - size, color, etc. Recycling the same pieces into multiple districts lasts until political reporters or the opposition wake up to it.
There's a simple principle with political media. Don't do what everybody else is doing. Fourteen mailers landing the same day, six radio spots back to back, 25 robocalls on Monday may lose more votes than they garner.
Now for the weird stuff. We not only had the national GOP endorsing Steve Huffman in the CD8 primary (to no avail) we had the national Democrats simultaneously attacking him. Some thought this a Machiavellian ploy to get him nominated and it probably got him votes, but I think that they read Randy Graf as the guy they wanted because the GOP national folks had already been stupid enough to proclaim that Graf couldn't win and have apparently conceded the district to Gabby Giffords.
Stuck on stupid is clearly non-partisan. The state GOP financed a phone bank attacking State Rep. Ted Downing who ultimately lost to State Sen. Paula Aboud. We could possibly understand this if Aboud acted like Zell Miller but she more closely resembles Barbara Boxer.
After winning a primary for the second house seat in District 28, Democrat Steve Farley has proclaimed GOP primary winners Al Melvin and Dave Jorgenson in District 26 to be "Un-American."
Being nominated by your party for holding solid conservative views doesn't fit Farley's definition of an allowable political alternative. Since he began this obscene classification process, I observe his views seem similar to totalitarian fascism and are genuinely Un-American.
Farley, who I kinda liked, might just as well have had "NUT CASE" tattooed on his forehead because that's how he'll be considered. Too bad for Farley, worse for Pima County who will have one more ineffective loudmouth in Phoenix, assuming Republican Bill Phillips doesn't whip him in the general. It would've been much smarter for the state GOP to spend money on Phillips in District 28 instead of Aboud.
Finally, what I find most annoying is all those snot-impacted letters to the editor whining about phone calls, political mail, and - the horror of it all - having to LOOK at those terrible political signs. That's a small price to pay for living in a free society with free elections. Deal with it.
Think about those purple thumbs in Iraq. Some of us aren't willing to wait for the media to tell us about who's running and interpret their views for us.
That really would be Un-American.
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