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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 26, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) -- With roughly ten days to go before Election Day, campaign 2014 is in the final stretch. Many races are close, and I thought I’d publish a little list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for the final days of the campaign. Candidates and volunteers are tired and beat up at this point, which often makes them vulnerable to crucial last-minute mistakes. Here are some timely tips:

“Don’t Be Camera Shy” – Former U.S. Rep. Bill Baker (R-CA) is an old political interviewee and friend, so I can tell this story. In 1996, the Congressman got mad at my former employer, KTVU-TV2, because of the way he was interviewed by one of my colleagues. So, he refused to do any more interviews on the #1 TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite my persistence, Congressman Baker said, “Mark, you’ve always been fair to me. This is not about you - but I have to boycott your station on principle. I’m sorry!” In short, he removed his name and face from the most-watched news venue in his district. He gave up all that free TV time. He was the only Republican in Congress defeated that year in the entire country! If you don’t like a media outlet, go on there anyway and be combative – if you have to – but go on and get your name out!

“No Such Thing as Bad Publicity” – There’s an old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity. It’s mostly true, but not always. The most powerful tools in politics, though, are name recognition and incumbency, which go hand-in-hand. Not everyone is a political junkie like me and many of my readers. Most people are consumed with their own lives and watch politics from afar. So, building name recognition is gold. If undecided or uninformed voters go into the polling place and see the name “Bill Baker” on the ballot, they might just say: “Well, I see him on the TV news all the time or his name in the papers, so he must be doing a good job if he’s still there!” Name recognition is king, so don’t pass up free press – unless, of course, you’re accused of a crime!

“Location; Location; Location!” – Speaking of name recognition, all candidates should be maximizing their yard signs and bumper stickers by now; they should be everywhere. Look, they won’t win you an election, but they do build and reinforce name recognition, and those reps pay off. By the way, I always advise candidates I’ve trained (outside this market) to speak as if they already have the job. For example, “Bob Smith – U.S. Senate” makes it sound like you already have the gig even if you are the challenger. Certainly you can’t say “Vote Senator Bob Smith” if you aren’t the officeholder, but my first example holds! Also, “location” means being all over social media, in every venue!

“Run Like You're Six Points Behind” – Candidates need to be aggressive in the final days, not complacent. That’s easy for me to say; but a campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. I realize people are tired as they near the finish line, but they have to press on. As late as October 24, 1980, many polls were showing President Jimmy Carter would be reelected. But Ronald Reagan – at age 69 – pressed on. He was tough and aggressive, especially in the final debate; and he won in a last-minute landslide so big that his coattails carried GOP control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in decades. Be a pit bull! Act like an underdog!

“Don’t Fall in Love with Your Pollster” – If I hear one more politician say, “Well our internal polls shows us with a five-point lead,” I think I will scream. The problem with many internal polls is that you are paying a pollster to deliver good news. So, there is pressure to pick a sample and to skew the results to put a smile on the candidate’s face (and to keep the paychecks coming to the pollster). Polls independent of the campaigns are more trustworthy (for the most part), simply because they don’t have the vested interest of trying to please the candidates. Media and academic polls can be conducted in an objective manner, unless the poll developers and sample selectors make the conscious choice to introduce their own biases in an effort to affect the results. Buyer beware!

“Gas Up the Campaign Vans!” – Any person can answer the phone and tell a pollster whom he or she will vote for, but unless they actually cast their ballots, their opinions mean nothing. Campaigns need to have “get out the vote” troops and vehicles lined up to drive people – especially seniors – to the polls. I’ve seen candidates up by over 10 percentage points in pre-election polls, only to lose by 10 points. How does that happen? It’s the lack of “boots on the ground” to get voters into the booth to cast their ballots. Campaigns also need monitors at the polls to see who has yet to vote, and send someone to find that missing voter. This is tedious and labor intensive, but that’s how you win!

“Meet and Greet” – Be highly visible in the public. Shake hands outside of a shopping mall, at a parade, baseball game, or factory gate. Be direct and say, “I would be honored to have your vote on Election Day!” The downside of personal campaigning is that it is very inefficient. You can shake only so many hands in one hour, versus the number of people who see you in a 30-second TV ad. But, the upside of personal campaigning is that it is very powerful. Looking a voter straight in the eye and shaking his or her hand can be incredibly persuasive. If people feel like they “know” you, they are more likely to feel a personal kinship and to vote for you. Let them take photos with you to post on their own social media. Viral campaigning is hot!

Are you an undecided voter this year? If so, what are the things that sway you at the eleventh hour of a campaign? Post your comments by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ExtraPackOfPeanuts.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 19, 2014


(Bellows Falls, Vermont) -- Okay we’re down to the wire in this campaign season with just over two weeks to go. All the coverage has been very interesting (but very stressful). So today, just some fun political trivia as I venture through Vermont looking at fall colors to sooth my soul before the final campaign rush.

“Two ‘fer” – Vermont is the second least populous state in the nation behind Wyoming, but the tiny Green Mountain State has produced two presidents, Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge. However, both men left Vermont before ever achieving their political pinnacle. Arthur became politically active in New York; Coolidge in Massachusetts. Both ascended to the presidency after the death of their boss. Arthur after the assassination of President James Garfield; and Coolidge after the sudden death of President Warren Harding. Coolidge is buried in his hometown of Plymouth, Vermont while Arthur is buried in New York.

“Who is that Man?” -- In neighboring New Hampshire, the state highway signs feature a profile image of a famous Granite State resident. When I looked it up, I found that it was Franklin Pierce, our 14th president. Given New Hampshire’s prominence in electing U.S. Presidents, I am surprised there have not been more from here.

“Name the Original Thirteen!” – If I don’t keep current on my history, I get a bit rusty, I admit it. Being in Vermont, Hew Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts over the weekend made me wonder – which were the original 13 colonies? I know, it seems easy, but it’s not. I would have sworn Vermont was in the original 13, but it wasn’t; same with Maine, so here goes: The original 13 colonies, (flag photo above), are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. (For the record, Vermont was originally part of New York; Maine was originally part of Massachusetts).

“New England” – Speaking of membership, there is only one clearly defined region in the United States, and that is New England. There are six states, period! Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Six – no more; no less! I mention this because someone recently tried to tell me New York was also part of New England. It ain’t. This region is clearly defined; others are nebulous. I had a co-worker once who argued that Colorado was in the Midwest. It’s not. Kansas may have a case for Midwest – albeit vague – but not Colorado. Some count Texas and Oklahoma in the South; many disagree. Again, the only unarguably defined U.S. region is New England.

“Whose da’ Boss?” – There is a lot of pride over which state has elected the most U.S. Presidents. It’s not precise, since some Presidents were born in one state; but were elected from office from another. For example, Abe Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but as a grown man, was elected President as a resident of Illinois.

“By the Original 13” – This is amazing. Our original 13 states have produced 26 of our 43 Presidents. That’s staggering. I mean in the first several decades of the country you might expect that, but 238 years later, it is still true. While many were born and elected from the original 13 colonies, some were born in New England – George W. Bush in Connecticut, and George H.W. Bush in Massachusetts, only to have been later elected from Texas. Maybe it’s about roots!

“By Region” – As a region, New England states have produced eight Presidents who either were born here, or were born and elected from one of these states. By the way, 12 or our 43 Presidents graduated from either Harvard (Massachusetts) or Yale (Connecticut), so the region’s educational influence is substantial.

“By State” – This is a trick question because some Presidents were born and elected from the same state; while others were born in one state, but grew up and were elected elsewhere. Let’s look at the two lists. States that elected the most Presidents: New York 6; Ohio 6; Virginia 5 and Massachusetts 4. Presidents by birth state: Virginia 8; Ohio 7; Massachusetts 4; and, New York 4. So, three of the original 13 states remain fertile ground for producing Presidents.

“On the Other Hand”- For all the strength Massachusetts has had in producing Presidents, it is 0 for 3 in its most recent tries. Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA); Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) were all nominated for President by their parties in recent years, only to lose the election. Still, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) are considered strong prospects to be President someday, so the original 13 states continue to put forth viable candidates.

“Why All of this Matters?” – Electing Presidents is still steeped in much tradition. There seems an inclination (rational or not), that candidates born, raised, or educated in the Northeast are somehow more qualified for that office. If we tossed in Vice Presidential nominees and Presidential nominees who failed to win, the list would include an even more disproportionate number of New Englanders or candidates who hailed from the original 13 colonies. As we get ready to choose nominees in both parties for 2016, watch how this phenomenon plays out because it is still a factor

What factors are important to you in electing a President? How important are geography, history, and education? Let me know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: USFlagDepot.com

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