Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates: Listen Up!

One of the main purposes of this blog is to have a continuing dialogue with the various Republican congressional candidates and their supporters. The key for Republicans confronting Democrat incumbents is to spend their scarce resources very wisely. Should candidates hire high-priced consultants? Only if those consultants are almost literally worth their weight in gold? Should the candidates spend large sums reserving TV time for commercials? Only if they've lost their minds.

As the election approaches, there will be hundreds of political ads -- especially for the presidential candidates -- airing. Left-wing special interest groups, such as the Democratic national committee, MoveOn.org and other entities will be airing nonstop "Hate McCain" ads. Viewers will be making liberal use of their TIVOs. Others will just engage in full-time channel switching.

Republican candidates need to create small armies of volunteers. Also, they need to start wearing out pairs of shoes going door-to-door and talking to small groups. Also, they need to do something many candidates hate: asking for modest ($50 or less) amounts of money, so they can keep their campaigns afloat.

In terms of appealing to voters, these Republican candidates need to make the point that they represent change. Voting to keep the same people in offices -- i.e., the Democrats -- represents not change but more of the same. They need to keep saying the following: "The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again . . . and expecting different results."

I'm also strongly recommending that most Republican congressional candidates (although not all perhaps) need to explain why a vote for their opponent is a a vote AGAINST John McCain. The old concept that a candidate should not link himself or herself to any other candidate would be counter-productive this year. McCain is going to win MOST congressional districts by a wide margin.

Also, in most counties there is a great distaste for Obama, who has expressed contempt for most Pennsylvanians (in the "bitter" comments). The key is for the Republicans to say loudly and often that they support McCain -- while their opponent does not.

Candidates who have a good plan and carry it out rigorously should do very well. When anyone asks them, "How can I help?", they need to have something simple and effective to recommend.

This is an add-on to the column below. Pennsylvania Republican candidates facing off against incumbent Democrats must realize one important fact: their Democratic opponent are going to raise tons of money.

At this point, Allyson Schwartz apparently already has raised more than $2 million -- and it's only May! Schwartz is the wife of a super-wealthy cardiologist and a darling of Emily's List, Moveon.org and other radical groups who advocate an America that's nothing more than an oppressive nanny-state. Is Schwartz beatable (and add the names Holden, Altmire, and (Patrick) Murphy)? If Marina Kats (in the 13th district) can raise enough money to run a powerful volunteer-intensive campaign, Mrs. Schwartz could be beaten. In general, Schwartz backs an agenda that's deeply harmful to the people of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.

The key to beating an entrenched Democrat is to run a different kind of campaign -- one that's extremely cost-effective. Enriching the Philadelphia area TV stations is not a cost-effective approach. There are in fact ways to run inexpensive campaigns that are very effective. I keep citing Christy Whitman's campaign against Bill Bradley in the 1990 U.S. Senate race in New Jersey. If Mrs. Whitman could get nearly 49% of the vote in a campaign in which she raised $900,000, then Marina Kats -- an extremely attractive candidate -- can perform a similar feat with $900,000.

Allyson Schwartz could become the first $5 million loser in the history of the House of Representatives. Schwartz is a terrible congresswoman. Marina Kats could be a great one. That's a very effective selling point.

I've given the candidates (and, in some cases) their staff members a way to contact Sharon Caliendo. She's a political consultant and activist in Oklahoma who works mainly in OK and TX. She has been associated with many winning campaigns. Her emphasis is on low-cost, high-impact politics, where candidates get a major bang for their buck. Neither she nor I are currently being paid anything by any candidate. That's not to say it will never happen, only that it's not happening now (by design), and that's fine with us. I will continue to support the candidates I've named right through November 4. Sharon's e-mail is SKCalien@aol.com.

One critical thing candidates need to do over the next many months is to collect as many addresses (particulary e-mail addresses) of supporters. Then, after the election, whether you win or lose, keep your e-mail lists -- and stay in touch (monthly or every other month perhaps) with your supporters. That will make the next campaign a lot easier than this one.

"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory." (Apocalypse Now)

I've never smelled napalm, and I hope I never do. However, I have experienced the scent of victory, and it always smells sweet.

About 10 days ago, I was talking to one of my candidates, and she confessed to occasionally being discouraged by Republicans who were fearful of going against her incumbent Democrat opponent. It's okay to be discouraged in campaigns, but it's essential to overcome the "down" feelings. The way you win is to act like a winner -- as Mrs. Clinton has done in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

I'm backing five Republicans, but they aren't -- or shouldn't be -- running primarily as Republicans. They should be campaigning as good people, which they are. They have to go up to people -- many thousands of people -- and say, "Look, I know how to represent the people of this district. I'm a better candidate than my opponent. I'm also a better person than he (or she) is."

The people who hear that message may still vote for (or worse, give money) to the Democrat. But they will feel a little guilty for doing so.

All the candidates I'm support will be outspent -- sometimes by three-or-four-to-1. But when candidates have millions of dollars they tend to throw a lot of it down political ratholes. In campaigns, the one who works the hardest usually wins (or at least comes close).

In June and July, I'm going to make a major effort to advertise this site to make more Pennsylvanians (and interested parties in other states) aware that it exists. In September and October (and November!), it's easy to get attention for discussions of races for federal offices. I want the Republican candidates endorsed on this site to know that I have genuine affection and respect for them. Whatever I can do to help them generate support -- including financial contributions -- I'll do. Winning is part of a process, and sometimes it doesn't occur as quickly as we'd like.

Ask my friend and political ally, Diana Irey, who ran so hard and well against John Murtha. I was involved in both of Newt Gingrich's first two campaigns for the House, in 1974 and 1976. Running against a deeply entrenched Democrat, he lost both times -- by identical percentages of 52% to 48%. In 1978, his earlier opponent, faced with Newt's relentlessness, retired, and Gingrich finally won the "prize." He would not be denied.

When Diana lost to Murtha in 2006, I was driving home and, although defeat is always bitter in some ways, my thought was of Diana and what a wonderful woman she was. There is a way to lose -- a graceful one -- that is almost (but not quite) as good as winning. Right now, Melissa Hart, Toni Gilhooley, Marina Kats, Mike Livingston, and Tom Manion all looks like winners to me. Keep your chins up -- and think "victory."

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