The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Strategy Lesson: State Parties Matter

Posted on | November 23, 2010 | 4 Comments

For the benefit of Alex Pareene — who strangely seems to believe that campaigns are of secondary importance to who wins elections — let me unravel a bit of strategy.

When I visited Massachusetts in early October, there was clearly a grassroots “enthusiasm gap” favoring Republicans. Da Tech Guy kept saying he had that Scott Brown feeling,” and even the Boston Globe noted how fired-up the local GOP was.

Yet when Election Night returns came in, the result was an across-the-board Democratic victory in Massachusetts. Deval Patrick was re-elected governor by a 7-point margin. The NRCC’s favorite House candidate in the state, Jeff Perry in MA-10, got just 42% of the vote, and no GOP House candidate got more than 43%.

The secret of the Democrats’ success wasn’t really a secret: The Massachusetts Democratic Party outspent the state GOP more than 2-to-1:

In the final days of the fall campaign, the Democratic State Committee overwhelmed its Republican counterpart with a massive amount of spending . . .
New reports filed with the state show that from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, the state Democratic Party outspent the Massachusetts Republican Party, $475,641 to $21,147. In the prior month, the Democrats had outspent the GOP by more than 2 to 1, $2.4 million to $1.1 million, as both parties invested heavily in advertising to support their gubernatorial candidates. Since January 2009, the Democratic Party outspent Republicans by $5.9 million to $2.6 million. . . .
John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said the late spending was the final piece of a seven-month effort to identify Democratic voters and get them to the polls and avoid a repeat of the special US Senate election last January, when Republican Scott Brown was elected.
He said that the party’s strategy included reaching ethnic communities and about 300,000 so-called sporadic Democratic voters and that the state committee spent heavily on field organizers, about 40 campaign offices around the state, polling to track specific races, and assessing candidates for lesser office who would need additional help.

Read the whole thing, including the excuse-making by the state GOP chairwoman, who should be voted out at the next meeting. The overall money gap between the state parties — the $3.3 million disadvantage for Republicans — was not so great that it could not have been bridged, or at least narrowed, by fundraising efforts in a state as wealthy as Massachusetts.

And that should be a lesson to grassroots Republicans everywhere: Building up the state and local party apparatus is an excellent off-year project: “Stop asking what you can do, and start doing what you can.”


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