Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why the Barrett Campaign Can Win in November

Summary: Tom Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign in Wisconsin applies new and traditional techniques alike to defy the odds in 2010.

I can’t really count how many times now I’ve said on this blog that Democrats will have a rough year in 2010. Across the country, the GOP looks poised to retake offices up and down the ticket.

In Wisconsin, two Republican candidates – Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann – have been campaigning for several months (years, arguably) in a gubernatorial race that should theoretically be a pretty easy GOP pick-up.

Democrats, luckily, have managed to secure the bid of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett who made national headlines last summer when he put himself in harm’s way to protect a grandmother outside the Wisconsin State Fair. The “Hero Mayor” status he received will go a long way towards securing the hearts of Wisconsin voters in a year that should bolster conservatives.

But the Mayor’s campaign has been doing more than relying on this status. They’ve been applying both new and traditional tactics that will go a long way come November.

For starters, they’ve been focusing hard on fundraising. Entering the race later than his Republican counterparts – in part because of Governor Jim Doyle’s late retirement announcement and in part because of the incident at the State Fair – he has had to do call-time and fundraisers at a much faster pace.

From Wispolitics.com:

Walker's campaign said the Republican county exec raised almost $1.8 million during the reporting period and ended the year with more than $2 million on hand.

GOP guv rival Mark Neumann filed his report earlier this year. It showed he raised just more than $1.3 million during the reporting period after putting almost $1.1 million of his own money into his campaign.

Dem frontrunner Tom Barrett raised more than $750,000 over 47 days after getting into the race in mid-November and had more than $1.5 million cash on hand. His war-chest got a boost from the more than $800,000 he already had in his mayoral account when he got into the race.

Sure, the Walker campaign might have more cash-on-hand at this point, but when you break it down this is approximately what each campaign was raising per day by the end of the filing period:

Walker: $9,890/day

Neumann: $7,142/day

Barrett: $15,957/day

That’s pretty impressive.

Next, the Barrett campaign has been keeping the political community in Wisconsin confident in his chances. Just look at this email they sent regarding his fundraising numbers and a disappointing Rasmussen Poll:

The impressive outpouring of support was raised in just 47 days, making it the best fundraising start to a gubernatorial campaign in Wisconsin history. The total brought Barrett’s cash-on-hand to more than $1.5 million…

…[Scott Walker] raised just $1.79M in 6 months. For the GOP frontrunner, for a guy who's been in race for 5 yrs, in the best GOP electoral climate in 15 yrs, this is a pretty weak showing.

He has to have spent $800K-$900K this period, a staggeringly high burn rate. His administrative incompetence has wreaked havoc with the County, now it’s hurting his campaign. Can Wisconsin afford this awful mismanagement in the governor’s office?...

Rasmussen Poll Numbers

- Their methodology is unreliable

"Other pollsters and political observers have long complained that Rasmussen polls are conducted through automated phone calls that reflect only the views of the most fervent likely voters because others are likely to hang up on a computerized caller."

--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1/29/09

- Rasmussen oversamples conservative voters. In the recent Wisconsin gubernatorial poll, for example, nearly 60% of respondents oppose Obama, including most strongly, a high number given 2008 election results

Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist, said there was “huge concern right now” that Rasmussen was polling a universe of largely conservative-minded voters. “How is Rasmussen selecting likely voters almost a year before the election? And why would you even screen for likely voters in measuring presidential approval?” said Abramowitz. “My guess is that it's heavily skewed toward older, white, Republican voters.”

--Poltico.com 1/2/10

Emails like this are exactly the kind of thing that kept Obama supporters confident during the 2008 presidential primaries, when people were convinced Hillary Clinton would be the inevitable Democratic nominee. Obama’s primary upset over Clinton would not have been possible otherwise. In 2010, it will be tactics like this that will send Barrett to Madison.

For those who have signed up for the Barrett email list, they’ve also been receiving important updates about the race that keep them engaged and give them a sense for who the man is. This is especially important when voters cannot see speeches day-in and day-out like they did in 2007 before the Iowa Caucuses.

Take this email for example:

Dear Friend,

Tom visited a worker training facility in Kaukuana today and he sent me this note on how he thinks we can get Wisconsin's economy moving again…

Phil Walzak
Senior Advisor
Tom Barrett for Wisconsin

Begin forwarded message...

From: Tom Barrett
Sent: Thursday, February 4, 2010 1:37 p.m.
To: Phil Walzak
Subject: What I saw in Kaukuana today


I had a great time today visiting the worker training facility in Kaukauna, WI. What I saw was incredible, and represents the kind of vision and commitment to partnership that I will bring to the governor's office to create jobs, expand opportunity, and get Wisconsin's economy working again.

The training center is a 41,000 sq. ft. facility that provides apprenticeship training programs to workers in a broad range of fields. It is operated by the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 400, which is comprised of 2,000 people working in 18 counties throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

Local 400 works in partnership with 125 businesses across the region to train and supply the skilled workforce these companies need to get the job done. Basset Mechanical is one of these firms, and a representative of the company joined us for today's tour.

What I saw is a great example of the collaboration we need to get our economy working again -- organized labor and business management coming together to make sure people have jobs, and workers have the skills they need.

These are exactly the types of partnerships that I will fight to build and expand as governor, so let's be sure we are doing all we can to highlight them during this campaign.

See you back in the office,


Supporters love to see things like this because they are not fabricated. When Barrett sent the email, he clearly didn’t think it would be forwarded to supporters like it was. But by sending out an internal email like that, Walzak knew that he would make supporters feel like part of the team by giving them unmitigated access to the candidate’s informal update.

It also spoke to Barrett’s broader vision of what politics is about: not left v.s. right or Democrat v.s. Republican, but rather “let’s get the job done” – also, it's always a winning message.

And of course, the campaign was sure to let supporters know when they did well in a poll. Here is the breakdown of the latest poll taken regarding a Barrett-Walker match-up:

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker are locked in a dead heat in the race for Governor, with Barrett leading by a 1-point margin (40% Barrett, 39% Walker). This is virtually unchanged from a survey we conducted in September 2009, where Barrett led by a 2-point margin (39% Barrett, 37% Walker).

Both candidates show strength in their partisan bases, with Barrett leading among Democrats by a 79% to 4% margin, and Walker leading among Republicans by 82% to 5%. Barrett holds a slight 2-point lead among independents (32% Barrett, 30% Walker).

Barrett and Walker are each known to just over half of the Wisconsin electorate, though Barrett is slightly better liked among those who know each. As illustrated in the chart to the left, Barrett’s favorables are 1 point higher than Walker’s, while his unfavorables are 2 points lower. The same is true among independents, with Barrett (35% favorable, 15% unfavorable) garnering somewhat stronger favorability ratings than Walker (36% favorable, 21% unfavorable).

How will it all turn out in the end? It’s impossible to know who will win at this point, obviously. Despite Barrett’s many strengths, Walker is a formidable opponent and he is proven to be politically-savvy.

But in a year where Democrats are expected to do poorly, Barrett has been leading a remarkable campaign thus far. It really is the best chance Democrats could have of keeping the Governor’s Mansion in 2010.

1 comment:

capper said...

I personally believe that Barrett will win rather handedly. Walker's showboating with the County budget is already coming back to bite him on the rump, and things will only be getting much, much worse well before summer.