Reconciling Conventional Wisdom and New Data on Direct Mail

A recent study conducted by the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) in conjunction with the United States Postal Service (USPS) found that 75 percent of Millennial voters, those aged 18-35, “use political mail to remind them when to vote.” At first glance, this seems to be a surprising finding especially comparing it to the older generation of voters, only 58 percent of whom are motivated by direct mail to go vote. It also stands in stark contrast to established academic studies on the topic of mail used as a turnout tool.

In their book Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout, political scientists Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber explore the gambit of GOTV tactics employed by campaigns, compiling the results of dozens of studies which rigorous field-tested each tool. Of utilizing direct mail as a GOTV tool, Green and Gerber write, “Direct mail is expensive (more…)

Using Social Pressure to Accomplish Campaign Goals

Despite the pop-psychology hubbub about individuality, our natural, human desires are to fit in, to learn and abide by social norms. Humans are innately social creatures. Think about tailgating during football season, double dates (or just regular dates), and Facebook. All of these activities point to the undeniable fact that people want to be socially accepted.

In political consulting, we frequently use social pressure, communication designed to compel the recipient to comply with a given social norm in order to avoid the risk of humiliation. Most often, we use the technique in advocacy or issue-based campaigns rather than candidate campaigns. The AAPC even has several categories of Pollie Awards dedicated to practitioners who excel in the use of social pressure. So how do we employ social pressure? (more…)

Presidential Budget Woes

Campaigns fail for a variety of reasons. Some reasons are beyond the control of the campaign and its manager: A crowded field, an upset or apathetic electorate, or an unimpeachable opponent. Some failures can be traced back to a candidate: Skeletons in the closet, gaffes, and laziness. And many flops fall squarely on the shoulders of the campaign manager; one of those failures is the inability to maintain budget control. In addition to a campaign manager’s roles in developing and executing strategy, hiring and managing staff, and being a surrogate for the boss, the task of staying in the black is solely the responsibility of the campaign manager.

Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on the campaign of Dr. Ben Carson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who has skyrocketed to conservative fame in a short period of time. The Journal scoured financial documents from the Carson presidential campaign and found “[Dr.] Carson’s team raised $8.8 million in October and spent $9.5 million—putting the retired neurosurgeon’s effort under water months before the first early-state voters caucus and cast ballots.”

It appears “Carson fever,” as campaign manger Barry Bennett called it, has become scarlet fever because of all the red ink. And sadly, Carson’s is not the first campaign to fall victim to budgetary mismanagement this cycle. (more…)

No, Not Everyone Hates the Louisiana Media

Yesterday, John Binder over at The Hayride wrote an article titled “Dear Louisiana Media, This Is Why Everyone Hates You.” In it, Binder, a regular writer for the conservative blog, lashes out at the Louisiana media for journalistic plagiarism, citing specific examples of when he and his colleagues at The Hayride have broken stories that were picked up by state media outlets without attributing the work done by writers at The Hayride.

Everyone who knows me knows I’m as conservative as (maybe even more than) anyone at The Hayride, and I agree with a number of things Binder wrote in the post. So I’ll begin there. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good sample of where Binder and I can agree.

  1. I agree the media has exhibited a long and well-documented liberal bias.
  2. I agree there is a noticeable double standard in the traditional media (a natural result, I presume, of their biases).
  3. I agree the mainstream media should give credit where it is due. If Binder and his colleagues break a story that another media outlet picks up and confirms, they should attribute the lead to The Hayride. In other words, plagiarism is unethical and unacceptable.

That said, none of these things surprise me. I can’t say I expect better from the liberal media.

But I must disagree with Binder’s all-encompassing statements: “Everyone Hates (more…)

Book Review: Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

In one of my first semesters teaching Political Management, one of my students, an aspiring political campaign manager, asked me for a list of books I recommend she read. That request led to the development of my “Recommended Reading List for Political Managers.” I’ve made a commitment to revise and extend that list by reading one book per quarter and adding books I view as beneficial to political practitioners. The idea of writing book reviews naturally grew out of that commitment, and I’ve decided to make use of The Mud Bath to publish these reviews for consumption by political professionals and aspirants alike. So, with that background in mind, I present my first foray into this new realm with my review of Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi.

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship At A Time, by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. Published in New York City, NY, by Currency Doubleday in 2005. First edition, 298 pages, featuring “Connectors Hall of Fame Profiles.” $24.95. ISBN: 0-385-51205-8.

In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi lays out, in an entertaining and attention-keeping way, a coherent and very practical approach for seeking, developing, and maintaining relationships. Ferrazzi’s thesis is that life is better when one is well-connected. Networking, a fairly contemporary term Ferrazzi says, is not done for its own sake. He thus prefers the term “connecting,” which he sees as necessary for career and personal development. Going a step beyond simply expanding your Rolodex, one should seek to maintain relationships for the purpose of connecting others. Ferrazzi, a proven master networker and thus reliable subject-matter expert, thoughtfully conveys a meaningful and methodical strategy for becoming well-connected, and explains in detail the tactics necessary to accomplish that goal. (more…)

Democrats and their Dollars

Last year, national Democrats exhibited a shocking inability to think past the end of their nose. In the December runoff in Louisiana, the Dems and their allies left former-Senator Mary Landrieu (man, that phrase sounds great!) to her own devices against then-Rep. Dr. Bill Cassidy. The Senate map in 2016 favors Democrats (and it’s a presidential year, which always favors the left) and retaining that one seat last year would have made their battle next year a bit easier. But they gave up, which was a strategic blunder, in my professional opinion.


Campaign Direct Mail: It’s Not All About the Money

Direct mail is essential to any campaign, regardless of size. But candidates shouldn't sacrifice quality to save a few pennies.

Direct mail is essential to any campaign, regardless of size. But candidates shouldn’t sacrifice quality to save a few pennies.

Despite the increasing flow of money into politics, campaigns — especially local campaigns — are looking for every possible avenue to stretch their donors’ contributions to the max. Frugality should always trump lavishness. But when votes are on the line, quality should never be sacrificed on the altar of cheapness. Voters judge candidates, rightly or not, on the quality of material produced by the campaign.