One of the most frustrating aspects of campaign management is that you never quite know what finally convinces people to vote for your candidate. Was it the giant yard sign near their house? Was it one of the phone calls that your volunteers made? Maybe it was that cleverly designed mailer you sent out? Or that great ad on the radio? Or maybe they just read some blogger’s online voter’s guide and that’s what convinced them. You can never tell. Oh sure, you can do some analysis about where you sent mailers and who you called, but even then, the data is rarely conclusive.
However, we have a unique opportunity to compare the success of different campaign tactics in our own backyard this August. The candidates running in the new 1st Congressional district are all pursuing very diverse campaign strategies, and we will get to see which one is the most effective. Before I start analyzing, you can pop over to the Voter’s Guide tab where I have long interviews with all the Democrats running for this seat.
Power to the Base — Darcy Burner: Netroots champion and progressive pugilist Darcy Burner is building a strategy around winning the base. For the last six months, Darcy has been making the rounds to every little Democratic organization and giving a PowerPoint presentation. This presentation is about power dynamics within Congress, but more directly, makes the case that you need someone who understands that the rules have to change, one of the key arguments for her candidacy. She has since expanded that strategy to include heavily recruiting party volunteers to staff her phone banks. As a result of this plan, it was of little surprise when Darcy picked up the most votes at the Washington State Democractic convention. The convention is attended by the hardcore activists that make up the backbone of every local political party.
Bring in the Big Names — Suzan Delbene: Microsoft Millionaire and former Dept. of Revenue director Suzan Delbene has built an air of inevitability around her nomination. As I outlined in an earlier post, she has secured the endorsements of Gov. Gregoire, Rep. Larsen, a slew of state legislators, the Washington State Labor Council, and
the Snohomish County Democrats (EDIT: everyone got the Snohomish Dems endorsement). Not stopping there, she has picked up a handful of local endorsements, including Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen. No word yet on whether Pete Kremen has weighed in, but the plan is pretty clear. Pick up a bunch of big names, and then use her impressive campaign war chest to carpet bomb the area with pictures of her with her arm wrapped around whichever local mayor or Congressperson is popular in the area. However, this air of inevitability did take a hit recently from a recent SurveyUSA poll that showed her coming in third, behind Darcy Burner and . . .
The Personal Touch — Laura Ruderman: State Representative and self-described “Baseball and Karate Mom” Laura Ruderman is building a strategy around personal connection and small clutches of voters. Case in point? She held an event in Concrete. Here’s the picture. Literally, just a handful of people in someone’s backyard, however that handful of people got a very direct access to their candidate. She is known for personally calling her constituents on a regular basis and has taken that method to the campaign trail, calling voters individually asking for their endorsement and support. The upshot? She has picked up several sole endorsements from organizations because of the direct contact with each member of the board/deciding body/etc. Will it work out or is it too much effort for too small of a return? We will see.
Conservative-ish — Steve Hobbs: State Senator and National Guardsman Steve Hobbs has built a political career around appealing to a more moderate crowd. He is one of the founding members of the “Roadkill Caucus”, a group of conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans who regularly fight for business interests on the state floor. His biggest claim to fame has been supporting the Cherry Point facility, and generally standing out from his competitors as a conservative but still democratic alternative. While this has gained him some, in my opinion, rather unwarranted praise at Crosscut, we will see if it actually generates some votes.
Not a Politician! — Darshan Rauniyar: Businessman and immigration success story Darshan Rauniyar has been gathering support as the anti-candidate. He is not a polished political mover and shaker, and his straightforward demeanor in addressing issues has appealed to some people. He also is the only candidate to fully opposed the Cherry Point facility, a move which should win him some votes. In the “post-Occupy Wall Street” era, a non-politician might sound pretty good to some people.
So which strategy will work the best? It is hard to say. Another dimension to consider is what strategy will work well in the general. Will building a base of volunteers be more effective than activating small groups of unknown voters? Will big name endorsements win out over moderate positioning? If I had to place a bet, I would say that Suzan Delbene will get the nomination, but I’ve been wrong many times before.
I think the most important thing for Democrats to consider when voting in this race is this question: Who has the best chance of beating John Koster? Because as much as you like one candidate or another, when it comes down to it, who is ready to take on the big guy in the corner and win?