Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A letter

After watching one well preserved Republican and the obligatory Democratic trial lawyer go at it on Sunday’s Iowa Press, this is the sort of thing I might write to an Iowa strategy type...

October 25, 2005

Dear Important Iowan,

Interesting discussion, well not really, but anyway, it seems you guys are ramping up for 06. How is it shaping up? Do you have good candidates on the long lines? What’s the strategy?

For the D’s it’s easy; beat the hell out of the GW Bush White House, raise money on that theme and the lobby’s assumption it’s going left, and recruit middle of the road candidates that can win over Republican Lite votes in town & on the farm (as you may not get Republican Lite on the top of the ticket). In addition, find messages that move the voters that swing, not that type, they already vote for you guys, but the other type that swing – people who have to hold their nose to vote.

For the Republicans it’s not so easy. You guys will have to work against your own inclinations to go right, way too right, and a certain languidness that an ossified (it’s the perfect word) majority cultivates among its ranks. This is a particular problem in the Senate. The House churns too much to be excessively languid, although the House side may want to cull some of their more subtle habits.

It seems the Republican Senate is making a concerted effort to go after the hard right type of candidate. They certainly have a base, but if the messages don’t transcend the base it won't matter. The key for all of this heavy-handed Christian Coalition recruiting is to balance it with themes that bring in swing voters.

And, for either side to even begin to talk to swing voters, you guys need to make good on a few rules.

Rule #1: If you don’t have the money in the bank by October 1st, then you’re done.

How much money? That depends on the district, but I’m thinking if a Senate candidate doesn’t have at least 20 grand in the bank by the 1st of October, what’s the point?
Rule #2: You have to run hard against the bad guys. Of course, that necessitates making up some bad guys.

If you’re a Democrat, run against the usual money-ed up GOP slickster buying the race, and the ‘we’re big & we’re bad’ crowd comes to mind.

If you’re a Republican, a little tougher, you have to run against the urban goons who’ll run the show if the Democrats take the Senate. An urban goon? You know, guys like the ethically challenged Jack Hatch. Jack wants to preserve the state’s right to steal property from middle income families in the name of economic development while making sure Iowa can’t track scheduled drug seekers and their doctors (see this Cityview CS).

Rule #3: Have a handful of messages, three, that are clearly articulated throughout the campaign.

All a candidate in a rural district has to have is a pulse to run against Democrat Tom Vilsack’s Grow Iowa Values Fund, and any of the other Vilsack variations of urban pork (see Yepsen). Almost everyone, except the beneficiaries, hate the corporate welfare programs, and for good reason. The state gives a multibillion-dollar banking institution $10 million. And what do they do with a portion of that taxpayer coin? They turn right back around and give it to local governments & NGOs in the form of grants to help build a concert arena, sponsor hip little festivals in Des Moines and any other warm fuzzy where their logo can be prominently displayed.

October is the month for spooky things; nothing’s spookier than murdering, sex-offender Roger P. Bentley's mug shot, and a voice off camera screaming incumbent soft on crime rhetoric with the voting record “evidence” noted in small type near the candidate disclaimer.

We all love education (even if it turns out to be an almost waste of personal time). So, given this fact, it requires a couple innovative policy proposals, which will be expensive, but incumbents are always worth it.

I’m sure there are other issues that will manage to make the campaign radar. Health care costs, access and quality -- everyone wants the good stuff real cheap, and that’ll become evident when the senior lobby starts to rumble about the new prescription drug benefit and the co-pay. Energy costs -- go renewable; yeah rah, we love fall, vote for ethanol. Taxes -- everyone is just going to have to wait out the “we’re big & we’re bad” guys, then clean up the mess before November.

Not too many rules, and some version of these might provide a nice return on investment. Moreover, considering that the political tough talk is all over the map, rules are always helpful.

And so, as light blinded and twisted as these thoughts might be, just wanted to send along some ideas, ya know, for the pile.



Note: Today is the six-month anniversary of this project. I am thinking, like canned ravioli and drugs, this project has to have a shelf life.

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