Campaigns & Elections

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…)

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.