Sunday, February 10, 2008

GRASSROOTS: McCain's Key to Victory


Note: My primary blog is accessible at: Please read tomorrow's column: "Clinton & Obama: Two Phonies"

I asked Sharon, of Norman, Oklahoma, how she and her political allies were able to generate victories in Oklahoma, a state with a tradition of voting for Democrats. Here's her reply, beginning with the emphasis on giving people T-shirts at football games. Her emphasis, like mine, is on the least expensive and most effective forms of campaigning. Both of us believe that TV ads are too expensive -- and increasingly ineffective.

These were t-shirts which they [the campaigns] picked up very cheap. We had Crimson for OU [Oklahoma University and for OSU [Oklahoma State University] they had Orange. Since our mascot at OU is the Sooner Schooner, they had that on both sides and one had Sooners for Bush-Cheney and the other side had Sooners for Coburn. Then the ones for OSU had their mascot, the Cowboy.

We actually walked doors in a U.S. Senate race [that resulted in the election of Dr. Tom Coburn, who introduced McCain at the CPAC convention]. In fact, in our Governor's race in 2006, we had Bob Sullivan pick out precincts around the state where he walked doors. It made the news on both sides of the state at 10:00 o'clock [note: in OK, the "late" news is at 10 p.m.]. Candidates for statewide races or Congressional seats do not walk doors normally.

It started with Dr. Coburn in 2004 and then in 2006 our Governor/Lt Gov candidates walked some precincts. You cannot buy that kind of publicity. They actually had the media taking pictures and thety appeared in the paper.When we walked our precincts asking for votes for Dr. Coburn, we wore the shirts. We heard more of, "How do we get one of those?" When you wear straight campaign shirts [without the football links], I have never been asked where they can get one.

If you do a TV ad, I would recommend trying to find the one that Senator Don Nickles ran in 1998 -- know it is a long time ago but his ad was about bringing Oklahoma values to DC and he was out in the countryside with a white farm fence. It could be upgraded for today but the central theme of bringing OK values to DC still resonates as Coburn used it in 2004 when he ran for Don's seat.

My State Rep, who was defeated last time, spent $243,000 for his failed campaign and the Dem spent $41,000 but walked the doors and advertised on the radio -- especially sports talk radio while the Republican ignored radio and went to TV. We had so many TV ads before the 2006 election, they were lost in the shuffle.

Congresswoman Mary Fallin wore out several pair of shoes walking her Congressional district in 2006 asking for their vote. She was out all the time as were her Republican opponents for the open seat. She walked the most doors, got in a run-off, walked even more doors, and won. She connected totally with her district and to this day she is so well liked. She made the fair circuit of the counties in her district and was highly visible at our State Fair in [Oklahoma City]. She was on the radio a lot and she used the theme of bringing OK values and ideas to DC. She didn't use robo calls [automated calls] and neither did her opponent, Denise Bode, but several others did and they were not well-received. She had Ed Goeas as her consultant. Grassroots won it for Mary as she had the largest amount of volunteers.

I made calls before the primary election (not even my Congressional district) and the theme was: "Mary Fallin asked me to call today to ask for your vote." The senior citizens were so impressed that they were being asked by a live person. Then we had a cheat sheet to use if they had any questions but we found being short and to the point made the biggest impression.

Dr. Tom's calls were the same -- we were live except for the ones the NRSC paid for that Bush and Cheney taped.For the Rudy campaign, we had people use their cell phones on weekends when there are free minutes. It worked great and you can get a lot more people calling. Phone banks are expensive to set up for such a short period of time. so a lot of our campaigns are going to cell phones with a limited number of phones available for people to make calls during the week but on weekends it is almost all cell phones and same with the evening.

Big money doesn't mean you are going to get elected. You have to connect to the people, something a lot of candidates forget because of consultants who would rather line their pockets have forgotten.

Note from Steve: The emphasis in this blog is not on "borrowing" tidbits of information from news sources. Rather, it concentrates on political fundamentals, the steps necessary to win elections. John McCain is not going to be able to raise as much money as his opponent -- either Clinton or Obama -- and he shouldn't even try. Instead, there should be as much emphasis on person-to-person contact as possible. The emphasis should be on low-cost, high effectiveness forms of campaigning, the kind Sharon outlines above. What worked in Oklahoma will work in any state or congressional district. If John McCain uses these techniques, he will win. If he doesn't, he won't.
Please read the column today by Jack Kelly (a real conservative -- one with brains), who writes for the Toledo Blade and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It's accessible at: One good line: "Every GOP candidate who rose above the asterisk level in the primaries has been called a RINO." He also beats Ann Coulter about the head-and-shoulders.
"Ann Coulter is so angry with McCain's occasional embrace of Democratic ideas that she says she'll campaign for Democrats if Mr. McCain wins the nomination." Kelly adds, "Ms. Coulter says this kind of thing whenever she feels she's not getting enough attention."
Also, "If Mr. McCain wins despite the objection of the [right-wing] RINOs, he'll owe them nothing, and it is doubtful he will have warm and fuzzy feelings about them."
Kelly concludes, "We're in the midst of a war we can't afford to lose. There is a stark difference between Mr. McCain and the leading Democrats on this and many other issues. Spare me your phony airs of moral superiority, RINOs. To sit out this election would be like sitting out 1944."

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