Thursday, October 23, 2014

How NOT to Freak out in the Last Days of the Campaign

Guest post from Campaign in a Box. All these pointers are right on, and good to hear to keep sane during these last two weeks of campaign season.

By Jason Chambers

Campaigning Isn't As Intuitive As You Think

Every campaign season - often in October - I get an "aha!" question from a candidate that goes something like this: "I was talking to Dave the other day and he said that if we add QR codes to our mail pieces, everyone will scan them and visit our website. Maybe we should call all of our volunteers and have them put QR codes on our doorbell pieces this weekend?"

Rarely is a last minute deviation from the campaign plan a good idea. Throughout your campaign, you'll begin to better understand how campaigning works, but be careful about some of the less intuitive aspects of a political campaign. Your campaign strategy is developed in April (not October) for a reason - repetition and following a well thought out plan is the key to winning elections.
Here are a few examples of some of the ideas I've run into that you should be wary of:

More Targeted Voters, Not More Voters

Often candidates will get concerned late in the campaign season that the targeted lists we use to knock on doors are ignoring too many important voters, and they'll ask if we can hit every door while we're out.

Let's say you're running in Lexington, Kentucky for Mayor. Lexington has about 308,000 citizens. Of those 308,000 citizens, about 209,000 are registered to vote. In an off year election like 2014, about 42% will turn out to vote. That's around 87,500 voters.

Of those 87,500 voters, approximately 30% vote Republican exclusively. Another 30% vote Democrat exclusively. The remaining 40% leaves about 35,000 voters who can be persuaded to vote for you. That's 11% of the total number of people living in houses in Lexington. So about 1 in every 9 homes you doorbell - assuming you choose to doorbell every home - is worth your time.

Repeat the same message, over and over

Another thing and understandably frustrates candidates is staying on message. By the end of the campaign you've heard yourself say the same thing over and over and over. Your friends and your spouse are telling you they're bored of the same thing, and you probably need to mix it up because the voters are going to get bored of hearing the same thing.

The problem here is that your friends and family are paying close attention to your election. Nobody else is. Between work, church, the kids soccer game, budgeting for next month and the football game this weekend, most voters have 1,000 things on their minds, and elections are low on the priority list. That's why repetition of your message is a must - by election day, if a voter knows one thing about you, you're on the right track. So repeat that one message over and over and over, until it makes you sick. Then repeat it again.

What Your Opponent Puts on Facebook Doesn't Matter

My name has never been on the ballot, so it's hard for me to completely understand how difficult it is to hear negative things about yourself and not want to react. But you have to learn not to react. If your opponent writes "John voted to increase taxes last month" on his Facebook page and it's not true, remember two things:
  1. The people following his Facebook page are already voting for him, so don't worry about whether they think you voted to increase taxes last month.
  2. When you respond, you potentially turn a quiet attack into a public debate - and you don't want to debate whether you raised taxes or not if the attack will quietly go away by ignoring it. Half the voters will believe it, half won't. That's much worse than 95% of the voters not even knowing the attack happened. 
Commenters on News Websites Aren't Objective

It's helpful to get your supporters to comment on relevant stories on the newspapers website, but don't mistake the comments that disparage you as objective. Undecided voters don't jump on websites to blast you. Supporters of your opponent do. So don't freak out that some random voter doesn't like you - he's probably not random. Those comments are nearly always organized by the campaign of your opponent. Feel free to ask a few of your supporters to write positive comments about you, but don't assume that because there are 4 negative comments for every positive comment you're losing the race 4:1. Those comments are not representative of the general electorate.

Your Opponent Probably Isn't An Evil Genius

If you pick up a weekly neighborhood newspaper and see an ad for your opponent in it, don't worry. He doesn't have some mysterious insight about the effectiveness of weekly newspapers. He probably got a sales call from that weekly and got talked into putting an ad in it. You don't have to match him everywhere he's advertising - stick to the campaign plan and advertise where you planned to advertise.

That One Big Idea Probably Isn't A Gamechanger

A couple of years back I was helping out a campaign for Congress and we got so many random ideas from volunteers and donors that we started our own inside joke, "GAMECHANGER!"
It's tempting to adopt every idea you hear from people, and often they'll expect you to and gripe when you don't. But you sit down and write a campaign months before Election Day for a reason - and you need to stick to that plan.

A few years ago, the wife of my candidate's biggest donor ask for a meeting with the campaign a week before Election Day. Because she was married to our biggest donor, we agreed to meet. She had developed an interest in new technology, and had an idea for our campaign. She wanted us to halt the campaign and put QR codes on every piece of campaign literature we had. She was convinced that QR codes would drive thousands of voters to our website and would be the key to victory on Election Day. GAMECHANGER!

But it wasn't a gamechanger, and we thanked her for her suggestion then went back to doorbelling. Most ideas you get from volunteers and supporters aren't worth changing your strategy for. Thank them for their time, and continue doing what you're doing. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Unwanted advice about fundraising and those ubiquitous yard signs

So I went to a campaign function for a candidate I support but whose campaign I don't work on.  A friend from the hood. Who she is and what race she is in are not relevant to this story. A well known local personage was there to help boost her campaign. The personage was to speak, and introduce the candidate. In the back of the room, her campaign manager had just finished boasting to a supporter that this campaign was the "first to have yard signs up," when the short speechifying started.

As soon as the candidate finished her brief remarks, thanking people for coming and reminding them to tell their friends to vote and please take a yard sign, people went back to the refreshments and the very nice complimentary wine.

I was standing next to the campaign manager, an earnest young woman with little experience and, from what I had seen so far in this campaign, no overwhelming sense of the urgency necessary to bring a campaign to victory. ( I got a clue about that the first time the candidate's spouse called me for information the manager should have been supplying.)

"Isn't someone doing a money pitch?" I asked somewhat incredulously. (Campaign101  -  always ask for money.)

"That's not how we do it," she replied. "Everyone one here already donated."

"Yes, that is how we do it" I couldn't help responding possibly a little snarkily

With that, and before I could get to the part about people who've already given being the most likely to give again, she turned her back on me and stomped across the room.

Campaign folk can be touchy, I thought. Besides, she has to get rid of all those yard signs she's squandered the campaign coffers on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chevron out to buy Richmond election

This just in from AlterNet. File it under they're up to their old tricks. My campaign firm, GreenDog Campaigns did a training for the Team Richmond (non-Chevron) candidates for Council.

  News & Politics  

Death with Dignity - It's all about Compassion, and Choice

In July of 2006, I sat in a crowded Senate hearing  room waiting for a pivotal vote on the Compassionate Choice law, sponsored by State Senators Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine. The vote was tied when Senator Joe Dun, who had been counted as a supporter started to speak. It soon became clear that his vote was not going to go the way we hoped. When he gave a long disquisition on how his Bishop had counseled him of the potential harm this bill might do, we knew the battle was lost.

When he cast his nay vote, many people started to weep. People whose loved ones had died protracted painful deaths, and were supporting this bill to help out others in similar circumstances avoid the same fate, by offering them a “death with dignity.”

Full disclosure, at the time I was a paid consultant to the group Compassion and Choices  (get it, it’s all about compassion and choices) helping raise money in support of the bill.  Death with dignity or Compassionate Choice, as it was called then, is the right for terminally ill patients suffering intractable pain, in the last months of their lives, with counseling from medical doctors and psychological professionals, to choose to end their suffering by taking a lethal cocktail themselves.

I put my full disclosure right up front, because Debra Saunders, in her 10/14/14 column in the San Francisco Chronicle, saves hers for the very end of the italicized descriptive bit after the main column, oh by the way, my hubby is a paid consultant with the “anti-assisted suicide Patients Rights Council.”*

Saunders wrote her column in response to the very moving story of a young woman named Brittany Maynard who, suffering from a terminal brain tumor, had moved from California to Oregon, where she would be allowed to have a death with dignity. Her story had been told in the Chronicle the day before.

It's no coincidence people who oppose a person’s right to end their life under the circumstances described above, always call it “assisted suicide,” because well, you know, suicide, not a good thing. Surely if you are contemplating suicide, we can help. There are doctors, counselors, pills, lots and lots of pills.

Except for the one pill that might make a difference in the case of the lives of patients, and their families, who are suffering through the scenario above.

Saunders does get one thing right. Insurance companies are not happy with patients who expensive demand life prolonging care, especially if it comes with home caregivers.  No. no money for dying at home where someone has to be paid to do the messy stuff.

Saunders claims that insurance companies and “profit driven managed health care” may be steering patients in the direction of ending their lives.  For this she quotes Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund that “for every individual with a happy family who’s not at risk for abuse, there are many other individuals who may be subtly steered toward assisted suicide by their insurance companies or pressured by their family.”

While no one can doubt that there is abuse of the aged, disabled and dying by family members and others, opponents were able to dredge up only one story that could be considered someone being “steered” by an insurance company to toward offing themselves.  In that case, an insurance company refused to pay for an expensive drug prescribed for a lung cancer patient, instead offering a list of other drugs including, according to an unattributed Oregon media report “the one for physician-assisted death.”    

The true villains here are not laws that allows sick people a choice,  but voracious insurance companies, drug manufacturers, hospitals and some physicians who want to squeeze the last penny out of consumers,  insureds and patients, with high costs, higher co-pays and guilt inducing propaganda that push family members and loved ones to go bankrupt to pay their bills.

In fact, in states where it’s legal, the statistics tell a far different story ignored by Saunders (and presumably her husband whose organization is listed among the conservative non-profits who benefit from and contribute to, at least indirectly, Koch brother money and right wing political causes)*

In Oregon according to the original Chronicle article, “since the law was enacted in 1997, 752 people have used the drugs to die out of the 1,173 who were given prescriptions. The median age for those who took the pills was 71 years old. Most had cancer. Just six people under the age of 34 have taken the drug, a barbiturate called Seconal."   

In fact, the young woman in the Chronicle article herself said she was not sure she'd take the drug, but, as in stories I'd heard from people in that hearing room in 2006, it is being able to have that choice that brings comfort.

Conveniently, Senator Dunn, who cast the deciding vote to kill the bill in California, within months took a lucrative job as executive director of the California Medical Association, which, along with the Catholic Church, was one of the most vocal and big spending organizations opposing the bill. I suppose becoming a priest didn’t appeal to him.

*A little research shows that The Patients Rights Council is the DBA name of an organization called the Family Living Council, in turn funded by the Randolph Foundation, which also donates generously to Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers group and other groups funding right wing causes and politicians. As “tax exempt” organization, it does not have to disclose who it gets money from, but I’m not holding my breath that the insurance companies and major medical corporations (including “profit driven managed health care”) are not somewhere in the mix.    

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Campaign Trail - A Day in the Life, Part II

A day in the life of a campaign consultant isn't all about the usual things, getting the mail ready, vetting your client's message and his photographs (no white shirts; don't stare right into the camera), buying cable ad time.

It's dealing with lots of small crises ("My opponent copied my message!" Well, it must be the right message then. "Someone is stealing my signs!" Then they must consider you a threat. Besides yard signs don't vote. And so on).

It's also getting calls and emails from friends who are running and just want a word of advice. Like the water board candidate in another County who wants me to take a quick peek at her email message asking for volunteers and endorsers. I do, and then advise her she must be much more direct, and calling is better than email; at least follow up with a phone call when you don't hear back.

Like the committee head who is running a tax measure in a nearby town, and wants my opinion of their handout (not so good). I suggest robo calls. Yeah, everyone hates them, but if you don't have money, they work, with the right message (really short) and the right messenger (a local celebrity or the fire chief for a public safety measure or a parent for a school bond). Oh, can I help with the script?

Sure. I'm only partially in it for the money. Hey, consultants have to eat too you know. But happy to help out a fledgling campaign Who knows, if they win, they might just hire me for their next run. And it wouldn't be campaign season if I wasn't just a little frazzled.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On the campaign trail - a Day in the Life

Besides the campaigns I am actually running, here's how my day goes:

Candidate A who didn't want to hire a consultant because he has a good committee to help him calls. "Help," he says. "My committee is making me crazy."

"what's the problem?" I ask.

"They all hate the mailer I put together, you know the one my brother in law in advertising did for me?"

"Smart committee," I think, but do not say.

"So how can I help you?"

"Can you just look at it and give me a few tips?"


"I'll pay you."

"OK," I relent, sure this is a mistake. Then follows a flurry of emails. The committee is right. The mail piece makes no sense. Not only that, it doesn't even have the most basic information, address, FPPC number, or email.

"Hmmm, could use some work," I type back. "Could use some consistency. And you have to have a way for voters to get in touch with you."

"What do you mean consistency?" he writes back and we're off.

Hours later, we have something that just might work, with a new graphic designer, and a print shop that can get it to the Post Office in time. Oh, but wait, it has to get the approval of the committee first.

"About my fee," I finish up, naming a very fair amount about half what I would normally charge for a rush job. I'm still awaiting his reply.

And this is all before breakfast. Stay tuned for more of a Day in the Life.

Monday, October 6, 2014

They're baaaack! More on fake anti-consumer ads

Those of you who have been around the block a time or two will remember those "Harry and Louise" ads which were so effective in causing the Clinton-era health reforms to tank. Well, meet "Ana and George", a supposedly small business-owning couple who worry that if Proposition 45 passes, it will take away the power of the "Independent Commission" to set health insurance rates for Californians, and give it to a politician, who can take millions in special interest money. And that's why they're voting against Proposition 45.

Well, that would be a bad thing, if one word of it were true. It isn't. Ana and George are simply Harry and Louise reincarnated. And according to Consumer Watchdog, a creation of the same ad man, Rick Clausen, who gave us Harry and Louise in the first place. And Rick Clausen appears to be a puppet of the insurance industry, which has to date spent $37.5 million to defeat Proposition 45.

So Ana and George are not real small business people. What about the independent commission they lament is being sabotaged by that dastardly politician? There is no such animal. What there is is the Covered California board, a board appointed by politicians, (many of whom in fact, take millions themselves from insurance companies). And Covered California has no power to regulate rates. All they can do is implement the Affordable Care Act.

Oh, and that corrupt politician? He's Dave Jones, the Insurance Commission elected by the people of the State. And he takes not one dime from any insurance company or their minions.

So far, the law does not allow him to regulate health insurance rates the way it does auto and home insurance rates. What he'd like to do is put the brakes on runaway health insurance rates,  just like Commissioners do in 35 other states.

We passed Proposition 103 regulating car insurance rates in 1988. Now we need to pass Proposition 45, to put the brakes on Insurance rates!

Yes on 45 spot with real nurses here.

No on Prop 45 with fake Ana and George here.