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Campaign Fundamentals

September 28, 2010

Let’s take a big step back and, purely in the abstract, consider the fundamentals of running a statewide campaign. What are the basic things that need to be done? 

Well, you need to raise money. You need to surround yourself with experienced people. You need to have a solid game plan and a good message. You need to secure your base.  You need to respect the opponent, or at least not take him or her for granted. And you must work hard. 

We hope you’ll agree that these are some of the things a candidate must do to give himself or herself a chance to win a statewide race. 

Now let’s ask this question: Is Andrew Cuomo doing the basics? 

Let’s go point by point: 

Fund Raising:  Cuomo has raised a lot of money, about $25 million. But, so far, he has refused to spend it. 

Campaign staff:  Cuomo’s campaign staff includes some people who have been involved in statewide campaigns. But in a cardinal sin of campaigning, he is said to be acting as his own campaign manager, press secretary and policy director. 

Game plan: There appears to be no plan or strategy to the Cuomo campaign. Decisions about what to say and do are said to be made on the fly. The rationale for the campaign seems to be that it is Cuomo’s destiny to lead the state. 

Message: There appears to be no overriding message beyond the statement that the other guy is unacceptable. 

Status of base: Until recently, the goal of the campaign was to keep major elements of the base at a distance. The sentiment, which comes from the top, is that unions, minorities, gays and other core constituencies would never vote for the opponent, so there’s no need to pay attention to them. 

Posture toward the opposition: In the beginning, Cuomo and his people clearly underestimated Paladino. They were convinced that he was extreme and unelectable. They now appear confused on how to attack him.   

Work Ethic: Even the staunchest Cuomo defenders concede that his campaign has been less than energetic. In fact, it has been inactive for long stretches.    

Now let’s analyze Carl Paladino’s campaign: 

Raising money:  Paladino was said to be prepared to spend $10 million of his own money on the race, and his people have said they expect to raise at least that much in contributions.  This remains to be seen. 

Campaign staff: The ethics of the top three Paladino operatives — Michael Caputo, John Haggerty and Roger Stone — have been called into question, but certainly not their skill or experience, or the fact that they are firmly in charge. 

Game plan: The Paladino game plan is simple: Attack Cuomo and exploit vulnerabilities created by the all-Democratic control of state government. 

Message: The Paladino message is very simple. “I’m mad. So are you. Let’s do something about it.” 

Status of the base: There may be a question about whether establishment Republicans, particularly downstate, will come out for Paladino, but across the upstate, he has shown the ability to turn out these voters, as well as Independents. He has, in fact, expanded the base. 

Posture toward the opponent: From the beginning, Paladino relished taunting Cuomo, and the fact that there’s been so little pushback has emboldened him. 

Work ethic: Paladino has been extraordinarily active. For example, one day after the primary, he was said to have conducted 50 media interviews. 

Are we wrong with this analysis?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. societax permalink
    September 28, 2010 9:27 PM

    Are you wrong? It’s difficult to tell. Cuomo is traditionally a very close-to-the-vest player, which would be consistent with the concern that he is acting as campaign manager, policy specialist, and press aide. On the other hand, the buck has to stop somewhere and Cuomo is not going to let anything occur without his approval. And if he approves and it backfires, then that campaign worker will be fired (well, maybe marginalized).

    Of course, you are the insiders, not me. What’s the likelihood that the multiple unsourced claims about what’s going on in the campaign — “he is said to be,” “are said to be made” — are off-script or in fact only appearances — “now appear confused,” “appears to be” — which concededly might reflect a different problem — especially in the horse-race journalism mentality that you decried the other day. Would Cuomo tolerate that chatter?

    Did Cuomo underestimate Paladino? Sure, everyone did. Paladino did what any candidate for republican office does in a primary — he ran right. (Schneiderman ran left.) Did he expand the base? It depends on whether those “Independents” — (this is very annoying in NY: do you mean the actual Independence Party voters or the not-party-affiliated voters) — were really outside the base? There arguably was no “expansion” at all, just an energizing message and contempt for Lazio. (Now Lazio cares about issues from candidates, not pandering-to-the-base bogus nonsense about “mosques.”)

    Cuomo’s message? Haven’t you read his policy books? He took positions before anyone else did. You might not like them, you might think them superficial, but his positions are out there.

    Sure, you’re blog opinion writers, and you don’t pretend to be journalists reporting facts. Are you wrong with the analysis? Who knows. But nothing suggests that you’re right.


  1. Campaign Fundamentals « NT2: Nec Temere, Nec Timide « Politics And Funds

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