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Craig “Campaign Doc” Varoga is a longtime Democratic strategist and manager. Questions on strategy, general consulting, or anything campaign-related? Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US and he’ll answer them right here.
Q: Should candidates run the same kind of data operation that Barack Obama invented? And do you think Donald Trump is right in saying data is overrated?
A: First things first: Neither President Obama nor his campaign teams “invented” analytics, micro-targeting or number crunching in the service of political campaigns, although they did raise it to an unprecedented level of efficiency – for which they’ve earned appropriate kudos.
Second: Some background on what Trump actually said. In May, after clearing a path to the GOP nomination, he declared his plan to blow off Obama-style analytics. Quote, “I’ve always felt it was overrated. Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine. And I think the same is true with me.”
This bluster was pure theatre – marketing his anti-politician brand. Have no doubt that all winning campaigns, big or small, will (and should) use data and other technology to target voters.
Q: We are being audited by the FEC. Should we hire a lawyer?
A: According to the FEC, “An attorney is not required under the Act; however, committees should feel free to retain legal counsel. A designation of counsel form will be provided to the Committee at the beginning of the audit, and may be submitted at any time during the process.”
Forewarning: It would be foolery not to hire an attorney, a CPA and someone with political sense to guide you through an audit. The glibberati say that the FEC is a toothless tiger. Wiser heads say, don’t take any chances with any branch of the federal government that has investigative authority.
Q: How long should online video ads be? And for how long should they run?
A: According to Joe Fuld, founder of The Campaign Workshop, “We typically use 15- and 30-second ads for digital video; 15 is better for mobile. If you are doing YouTube or posting to a landing page, use a 60-second ad.” Regarding the length of digital campaigns, Fuld adds, “The length of an ad run depends on the goal of the ad, but I would look at running ads for at least two weeks.”
Q: Do endorsements matter? How much time should we spend pursuing them?
A: They matter – but not as much as endorsers think they do. Notably, Trump foiled GOP eminences, one after another, despite having the fewest presidential endorsements in history. Likewise, Bernie Sanders won numerous Democratic primaries with few political names buttressing his “revolution.”
Arguably, the most effective endorsements remain the “man bites dog” kind. To wit, Republicans for Obama in 2008. Likewise, endorsements by state celebrities can tip a close race. See basketball coaches in Indiana or Kentucky, and homegrown TV stars such as the Duck Dynasty guys in Louisiana.
Q: Our opponent is a born liar. How do we make that point with voters?
A: Truth benders in politics? Not exactly a “wow” moment. We’ve always had them among us, and always will. In responding to your specific nemesis, make it about voters (you can’t trust him or her to keep commitments or do what’s right) and not about you (how dare he or she question my integrity, I’ve never done and never will, blah blah blah).
Translation: he or she is a typical politician, is out only for themselves, and doesn’t give a single blue blaze about anybody other than themselves, thank you very much.
Craig Varoga has consulted on local, state, national and international campaigns and is a regular political analyst in numerous news media.