Yesterday, I attended a post-election forum (“After Virginia Votes”) held at GMU Law School in Arlington between George Allen senior advisor Boyd Marcus and Tim Kaine senior advisor Mo Elleithee. The discussion lasted about an hour, and covered the 2012 Kaine-Allen race, as well as some thoughts on 2013. A few points that jumped out at me from this segment of the discussion (note: I’m still uploading parts 1 and 3; this is actually part 2) are as follows. Note that it got pretty colorful at times, with Marcus slamming his own “team,” broadly speaking, in language for more candid than we normally here from political consultants…
1. It’s fascinating to me, and not in a good way, that Marcus STILL has no compunction about their wildly irresponsible, false, Big Lie, whatever you want to say, use of “sequestration” to attack Tim Kaine. The fact is, this was a bipartisan effort, supported by Republicans like Bob McDonnell, Eric Cantor, etc., and which Tim Kaine had absolutely NOTHING to do with. The alternative at the time, by the way, was for the U.S. to default on its national debt, which would have been utterly disastrous. Whether Boyd Marcus understands this or doesn’t understand this, it really tells you a lot about the Allen campaign.
2. Marcus’ whining about a supposed lack of money to run ads – largely attacking Tim Kaine – is just laughable. Basically, what he’s doing is trying to deflect responsibility for his candidate’s crushing loss from himself to Allen himself, for not raising enough money. Lame.
3. Marcus’ whining about having to go through a Republican primary, against what was in reality a field of nobodys, is also laughable. Excuses, excuses (note: last I checked, Jim Webb went through a brutal primary in 2006, was absolutely broke at the end, and beat Allen anyway – hmmmmm.)
4. After all that, Marcus seems to claim that the ads didn’t matter anyway, and that it all came down to “turnout.” Huh?
5. Marcus claims the RNC 72-hour model for getting voters out “doesn’t work.” Marcus says there “was a lot of activity going on…[but] most of it was pretty worthless…not very well done.” (note: this sounds to me like more blame-passing and excuses by Marcus)
6. Elleithee says the Kaine campaign had the best fundraising operation in the country, “born out of necessity” (because they knew how much of an “onslaught” they’d be facing from Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, etc.). It’s hard to argue with that, given that – as Elleithee notes – there was over $30 million in outside spending against Tim Kaine; more money against any other candidate in the country except for one: Barack Obama. Wow.
7. Elleithee says the Kaine campaign felt at a “distinct disadvantage” in terms of spending throughout the entire campaign. They felt a “little bit better” at the end, but they started spending against Kaine 12 months out.
8. Elleithee argues that the Kaine campaign got more bang for their advertising buck in part by purchasing the ads earlier. That allowed them to lock in better ad placement and better rates, helping to compensate for the massive amount of money against Kaine coming in from outside groups.
9. Marcus correctly points out that the outside groups had to pay more for their ads.
10. Marcus says the outside ads were not helpful. Elleithee says it was “total crap.” In fact, Elleithee said he saw the ads and said “THANK YOU, there is no way that ad is going to convince one single voter to vote against Tim Kaine.” Marcus says there were a “couple” that were decent ads and “that followed the themes” of the Allen campaign, but “well over half” didn’t follow the Allen campaign’s messaging and were “not well done.”
11. Elleithee says that Allen’s refusal to agree to Kaine’s offer to try to limit outside groups spending probably ended up helping Kaine in the end. “I was afraid you were going to say yes, because I was counting on these outside groups being as bad as they were.”
12. Marcus says they “had no idea what was really going to come in from the outside,” that those ads didn’t “make it worse” for Allen, it just “was a lot of wasted money.” The key, according to Marcus, is having someone in the SuperPAC who actually knows what’s going on in the particular state they’re running the ad in, not “just somebody sitting in New York who makes an ad.”
13. According to Elleithee, some of the best outside group ads were from the RNC and DNC.
14. Marcus says the Chamber of Commerce ads were “just about the worst” of the outside group ads, “really cookie cutter stuff.”