Thursday, September 12, 2013

Democrats learn a lesson in Colorado gun control recall vote: money doesn't buy elections.

With two Democrats who had voted for strict gun control laws in Colorado losing the recall vote, there is a valuable lesson for Democrats to learn and it has nothing to do with gun control. It has to do with money.

One of the favorite tactics of Democratic and progressive political groups to try and raise money is to use scare tactics with their supporters for one reason: to get them to contribute. They do this because they still haven't learned that its the message, argument, and how it's presented that sells, not money that sells the message.

Despite the excuses Democrats and their strategists make, money is never the deciding factor in an election. Yes you need some money -- enough to get your message across.  But having created political ads and commercials on a very limited budget following the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries that received world wide attention, especially by the news media, and having had a successful career creating consumer advertising, I can cite many examples proving that  it doesn't take as  much money as Democrats like to pretend. It takes imagination, having the facts on your side ( which Democrats have most of the time and dont know how to use) and the  message and how to get it across.

Democratic strategists and the party as a whole try to blame everything on money despite the fact that time after time, reality proves its not so. Democratic campaign committees and political groups are forever sending out emails trying to raise money by talking about how much money Republicans have and raising the specter of dire doomsday results if they can't match the Republicans dollar for dollar.

The favorite bogeyman for Daily Kos, ThinkProgress the PCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, MoveOn and lots of others are the  Koch Brothers. Every other fund raising email brings up the Koch Brothers and how much money they have and how they want to destroy life as we know it with their money.

The problem is, that the Koch Brothers spent over $200 million in the last  presidential election and,according to researchers that look into such things, received zero in return for their money.  Nothing. Nada. The same was true for the NRA whose return in terms of candidates supported against Democratic incumbents who opposed them had a return of less than 1% on their  $7 million investment. On the other side of the ledger, in terms of money spent on candidates who supported them and their work, Planned Parenthood had a 98% successful return on their investment.

The scare tactics used by Democratic groups to raise money for the two Democrats facing the recall  in Colorado raised over $3 million. Democratic groups like Daily Kos, Think Progress and MoveOn made it sound like money would make the difference. It never does. The real problem was their strategists didn't do a very good job with all the money raised. This is not the candidates fault. They are legislators who took a principled position. This is the fault of so called Democratic political strategists who, as they have for decades, didn't know how to put together a powerful and winning message.

Democrats, who always point out the amount of money spent by the NRA around the country in support of their candidates and against those who don't vote their way, this time far outspent the NRA in the Colorado recall election  by a staggering margin of almost 10-1. Yet the Democrats who voted for the new strict gun control laws which passed the Colorado legislature, were defeated in the recall by two Republicans.

 It wasn't money that mattered. Democrats raised and spent more than $3 million while the NRA spent a little over $300,00. And it certainly wasn't policy, since the stricter gun control laws that passed in Colorado were common sense laws opposed by people who were "outraged" that they couldn't buy ammunition clips that held more than 15 bullets. If you can;t create ads or commercials that mount a powerful argument against that it's no wonder they lost. And again this is not in any way to blame the candidates. Its to blame their strategists.

If there is one thing Democrats have been sorely lacking for decades, its competent, exciting, innovative  creative and powerful political strategists who know how to formulate a message and capitalize on facts that favor Democrats, defend a position, sell an idea and put the opposition on the defensive and win elections on the merits. Does anyone remember the preposterous TV commercial in the 1988 presidential campaign that showed Michael Dukakis wearing a helmet and riding around in a tank to try and show he supported the military too? That was supposed to compete with George HW Bush who was a WWII pilot and bona fide war hero? And let's not even talk about John Kerry and his campaign against George W. Bush in 2004 who had the worst four years of any president in history, yet Kerry let the Swift Boaters run all over him,  still had everything on his side and lost anyway.

Democrats should not delude themselves or pat themselves on the back for winning the 2012 presidential election by thinking they had out strategized anyone.  Romney lost the election more than Obama won it thanks to Romney's terrible policy ideas, 47% comment and catering to a lunatic extremist right wing along with Republican positions on many issues that were so repugnant to a majority of people that even though polls showed 54% didn't think Obama deserved to be re-elected, they voted for him anyway over the Republican alternative.

In Colorado Democratic strategists failed despite far outspending the opposition because they did not know how to be persuasive and to motivate those who supported their position to go out and vote.  Those who supported the recall turned out in greater numbers because they were more motivated.

That is the lesson to be learned in Colorado. It was a failure to make a case and make it stick in a memorable and compelling and common sense way that motivated people, not, as the NY Times inaccurately and simplistically tried to argue,  the political vulnerability of those supporting common sense gun laws.

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