Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Was Learned in Massachusetts?

Summary: Fellow political consultants provide critical, but reassuring insight following the Senatorial special election in the Bay State.

Recently, our colleagues at Zata3 - a Democratic consulting firm in Washington, DC - sent us an email titled “Sorting Through the Wreckage Massachusetts.”

The email contained some important lessons from last week’s special election that we thought would be good to share with you today.

From the email:

We’ve talked to several of our friends who were involved in the MA Senate race (we did not work there). We’ve read dozens of news articles, blog exchanges and statistical analyses and listened to more than our share of the talking heads from both sides of the aisle. Here’s our one minute summary of the lessons to be learned.

Don’t let the other side define you. Coakley was not on the airwaves until after the IE’s had defined her as the establishment candidate.

Take the pulse of voters frequently, especially in these volatile times. GOP polls had Brown within 3 points of definite voters a month out. By January 9, he was ahead and by all accounts, it was too late to reverse the momentum.

Expect a pragmatic, nimble, aggressive Hard Right. Brown was not the Tea Party’s ideal candidate but when they smelled opportunity, the zealots poured it on.

Get your field program in order. Accounts vary about the shape of the MA voter file going into the special election, but all agree that Democrat turnout was anemic in key areas.

In special elections, retail politics matter. The online Far Right was increasingly energized by Brown’s public appearances during the week around Christmas when Coakley made no public appearances.

Don’t expect help from the White House. The President is personally popular, but the Bush hangover (two wars, Wall Street excesses, deficit, etc.) and Obama’s own ambitious agenda negate any positive coattails.

The good news is, nearly all of these lessons are from the Politics 101 text book. A solid, hardworking candidate and a capable campaign team who execute the fundamentals will win.

Soon we plan to bring you an analysis from a Democrat on the ground during the Massachusetts race, to learn further lessons as we look forward to the November midterms.

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