Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why Green Lost and Van Hollen Won

There must be a lot of conservatives in Wisconsin wondering what happened.

I remember some of them popping up in my comments section over the spring, summer, and fall to express how utterly confident they were in a Doyle defeat.

The conventional math went like this: Doyle didn't win with a majority in 2002, and those votes that went to Ed Thompson that year will break for the GOP this year because libertarian voters are more apt to vote right than left, thereby ensuring a Republican victory.

The Green Team picked up on this "Doyle has high negatives" line early on. It seems they figured as long as they kept Doyle down, Green would naturally rise to the top.

So the Green campaign, along with the RPW, engaged in months of bashing Doyle on ethics, culminating -- though not ending -- in the Georgia Thompson case, which many conservatives thought would be the deciding factor in the race as a whole.

And if all it took to win was running against Doyle, then Green would've won.

But that's not all it takes. Green also had to run for governor, and that's where his campaign lost the race.

The Green Team never crafted a centralized campaign message that it could use over and over and over and over throughout the campaign months to convince voters (particularly the indies, who showed up at the polls in big numbers) why they should vote for him rather than just against Doyle.

I figured Green would craft a message that was focused on the budget in general and taxes in particular. But when Green completely fumbled the chance to share his plans on the budget in a front page Journal Sentinel article in late June, it started to become clear that Green just didn't have a message to share and that his campaign had completely bought into -- or at least acted like it bought into -- the notion that attacking Doyle was enough to win the race.

And in the month that followed, when Green went on a rampage of tax break promises while simultaneously hammering Doyle over the long-term budget deficit, it shined through that nothing simple, straightforward, or centralized was going to come out of the Green camp.

JB Van Hollen, on the other hand, did craft a simple, straightforward, and centralized campaign message that he would be McGruff the Crime Dog on steroids, and he won. It didn't matter that the AG post really isn't about fighting crime, at least not on the front lines, it only mattered that Van Hollen found a strong campaign theme and stuck to it.

Even when Van Hollen was telling voters why they should vote against Falk, it was almost always in the context of her lack of crime fighting experience. In other words, the same message he was using to convince voter to vote for him. So when people thought Van Hollen, particularly the indies, they likely thought crime fighter, then figured to themselves, "AG = crime fighter. Sounds right to me."

Of course, the election results were not all about what the GOP candidates did and didn't do.

On the Dem side, Doyle ran a strong campaign that worked the stem cell issue and "Green is extreme" theme to near perfection. When you consider that Doyle, as the incumbent, already had a leg up on the challenger Green in the message department heading into the race, it really is no wonder why Doyle's margin of victory was so large.

And Falk, for her part, ran a campaign for the actual AG post as opposed to the one that many voters envision when they think of it (i.e., the one that Van Hollen talked about). It's not that she ran a bad campaign as much as she just didn't run a tough enough campaign.

Perhaps part of that can be attributed to the lack of enthusiasm for Falk's campaign on the left (many didn't seem to appreciate her challenging the incumbent). But I think it has more to do with the messages Falk and Van Hollen chose to emphasize -- Van Hollen's was just that much easier to buy into for the voters.

UPDATE: I see now that Jay beat me to the punch on this one. I'm with Dave on this one: "Damn you, Jay Bullock!"

9 Comments:

Blogger Erik Opsal said...

Did you see Jessica McBride's reasons why Green lost? Hilarious.

November 09, 2006  
Blogger Mike Plaisted said...

The primary reason Green's and the wing-nut radio obsession with Doyle-the-Corrupt didn't work is because it wasn't true. For a refreshing change, the "fact" that Doyle is "the most corrupt governor in history" was repeated daily on GOP-surrogate radio, but did not stick. That was because the facts were not there to make that case. They can talk about poor Georgia Thompson all they want -- there was no connection with Doyle or even Marotta.

Green was an empty suit with no ideas of his own, willing and ready to do whatever the GOP deciders wanted him to. Independents in the state have had enough of that, in so many ways. And Doyle has really done a good job in difficult times.

And, really, on the radio and in her postings, how pathetic is Jessica McBride? Is there any reason to give her any serious attention at all, even if it is just to laugh out loud?

November 10, 2006  
Anonymous Tom K. said...

I guess all of us who oppose higher taxes are "wing-nuts"? My taxes went up 7.5% under Doyle's phony freeze. Liberals continuously fail to understand that you cannot tax your way to a successful economy.

November 10, 2006  
Blogger CMCE Reformer said...

Tom K, your taxes went up a hell of a lot more because of the $4 billion in state giveaways to the special interests that funded the political campaigns. How does $1300 per taxpayer per year sound to you? Does that have anything at all to do with Wisconsin's being the third highest taxed state in the nation?

Thank the Republicans for shooting down a sensible Clean Money campaign system that would have cost just $5 per taxpayer per year. The GOP ought to join the reform efforts or quit the misleading rhetoric that they favor lower taxes.

November 10, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

It's not about opposing higher taxes, Tom. As much as conservatives like to think it, Dems are not about raising taxes.

Dems, like myself, prefer to think of it as public finance, not just taxes. Sure, we can cut taxes, but the important questions are really how and where, and to consider all of those things is to consider public finance.

All Dems in the state (at least those holding public office) are absolutely opposed to writing restrictive fiscal policy into the state constitution. Many Republicans oppose this idea, too, but a good number also support it...and do so quite vehemently.

In my mind, there are better ways to limit taxes than simply setting an arbitrary cap on revenue or spending that usurps local control. For instance, comprehensive health care reform -- if done correctly -- can result in significant revenue savings for governments and private industry alike by reducing administrative costs and increasing the purchasing power of payers in the system.

Take the health care proposal by state Senator Russ Decker (D-Schofield) and Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls) that was completely ignored by the GOP legislature. The county executive in Fond du Lac estimates the plan could save his county $3.5 million per year in health care costs -- and that's just in relatively tiny Fond du Lac County. The savings in other larger governmental entities would be even greater, subsequently saving revenue that is becoming more and more scarce because of, you guessed it, rising health care costs.

The Decker/Musser plan would also save private industry millions each year. Mike Rayome, who is the regional human resources manager for Graphic Packaging International, estimates the WHPP would save his company $2.88 million per year in health care costs -- which is a savings of 60% from what it pays now. And that's just at the company's Wausau facility. The savings would be even greater if the company's Menasha site was included in the calculations. (The Wisconsin Daily Herald is blocking me from accessing the article without paying for it, but if you're interested, the article is called "Bill Creates Insurance Pool for State" by Amy Olson and it's from the May 2, 2006 issue.)

That's the way you lower taxes -- through setting policies that create efficiencies wherever possible. Sure, it won't work for everything, but it can work some of the time. And one of the big things it can work for is health care, which happens to be the most daunting cost facing entities in both the public and private sector. The GOP route of arbitrarily setting caps on revenue and expecting efficiencies to naturally flow from it is flawed, unrealistic, and irresponsible. Efficiencies, and subsequently revenue/tax savings, come from specific policies, not blanket restrictions.

November 10, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I meant Wausau Daily Herald in that last citation.

November 10, 2006  
Blogger Xoff said...

It wasn't just message in the AG race. The WMC spent $2-2.5 million, mostly in negative ads against Falk. She was outsent about 2.5 to 1 and still got nearly 50%. That election was about money more than message.

November 18, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Very true, Xoff. Money was important.

But considering WMC failed in nearly all of the legislative races it spent money on, I think it's also true that the message being sent through the money in the AG race happened to resonate with people (as opposed to the message sent in those other leggie races); which, in turn, made the money in the AG race -- that is, the vehicle for the message -- all that much more important. In this sense, I think it was really the two working in tandem that was so powerful...or, I should say, powerful enough to give VH 9,000 more votes than Falk.

But, you're right, the money does come first -- no money, no message.

November 18, 2006  
Blogger goofticket said...

Green lost for one reason.
He was a typical corrupt Neocon puppet.

He wanted campaign money at any cost, in any manner.
He did not question one Bush policy.
He did not promote Wisconsin, by cowtowing to the Bushites in DC.
His staff was opportunistic with Abrahmoff and got caught.
He never took responsibility for anything. He blamed everyone else.

Green was a bad politician, from the beginning until his career end.
He cannot come back, his record is not good enough for Wisconsin

January 02, 2007  

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