Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ryall on Dole

Politics Magazine, via Dome, has a must read from Elizabeth Dole campaign manager Marty Ryall about the 'Godless Americans' ad and the campaign in general.

Mr. Ryall, may we remind you, somehow parlayed managing Bill '9%' Graham's hapless gubernatorial campaign in the primary into a job running Dole's campaign in the general.

Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts:

-He acknowledges the decision to do a huge early summer media buy to prop up Dole's numbers was a bad one. I've made that point for months. The thought that the DSCC would have just given up because Dole got a bump in June when it had already gone to so much effort to recruit Kay Hagan to challenge Dole and made an investment to help ensure she won the primary is ridiculous. Ryall also notes that the ads were very good, and I completely agree with him. Dole was at her best on the rare occasions when the campaign actually tried to portray her in a positive light rather than wasting all its energy with spurious attacks on Hagan. If they'd done more of that she might have had a chance.

-Excuses, excuses. More of the Republican whining about Obama hurting them so much down ballot in North Carolina. Five Republican Senators lost reelection last year. None of them lost by as much as Dole. In three of those states- New Hampshire, Oregon, and Minnesota- Obama won by at least nine points. In North Carolina he won by less than a point. Yet Dole lost by more than any of her colleagues. That has a lot more to do with what a good campaign the DSCC ran and what a bad campaign Dole ran than it does with Obama. (The other GOP Senate loser was Ted Stevens, no explanation necessary.)

-He makes the point again that they had to run the 'Godless' ad as a last resort because they were down by so much in the polls. I've made this point before, but both us and Hagan's pollster had her down by only 3-4 points before she ran that ad. We were in the field as late as the Tuesday and Wednesday before the election and found her down by just three points. By Saturday, after people had time to react to that ad, she was down by seven and she ended up losing by nine.

Ironically, Dole had actually been gaining in our polls the last few weeks before the election as she ran more positive ads about herself and reminded NC voters why they had originally liked her. If they'd done that a lot earlier maybe they could have won. But it looks like they were being informed by bad poll numbers. At least now I understand why they never attacked PPP the last two months of the campaign- what we were putting out was actually better than their assessment of the race!

I guess this piece is a nice CYA but the truth is that although Hagan would have won the election either way, the 'Godless' ad significantly increased her winning margin and destroyed Dole's legacy. If it makes the Dole operation feel better to claim it didn't matter, that's their perogative- it's just the culmination of many other things they were wrong about in relation to last year's campaign.

One other thing: Ryall refers to the folks running Dole's campaign as an 'all-star team.' That's an interesting take on a group that managed to drop 26 points in less than nine months with one of the most well known politicians in the country. Can anyone else think of a political race in the country last year where anything comparable to Dole's losing by nine points in November after leading by 17 in Feburary happened? I can't off hand. Even Obama only gained a little more than five points in North Carolina from his February standing despite spending a boatload of money and time here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know it's not in the 08 cycle, but you could argue that George Allen's collapse was even more dramatic and stunning than Dole's. And that his legacy is even more hurt, since the Allen/macaca stain looks more powerful than the Dole/godless americans connection.

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