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A new era of competition could be dawning that will benefit GOP candidates and groups thanks to the growth of mega firms on the right.
Axiom now boasts that it’s the largest Republican firm in the country, maybe even in the entire U.S. consulting industry.
The multi-hyphenate shop, founded by Jeff Roe, has been on a buying spree as of late, acquiring Cannon Research Group and the California-based campaign management shop Revolvis. It’s also purchased the fundraising firm High Cotton Consulting and HenryAlan, a compliance shop.
That growth was mirrored somewhat by Majority Strategies, which was on its own breakneck expansion through state-based hiring and M&A activity. Still, it’s Axiom that’s now marketing itself as “ the largest political consulting firm in the country,” according to its latest press release.
Veteran practitioners say that’s a significant departure.
“Largest was never something I remember consulting firms saying about themselves to assert their importance,” said Tom Edmonds, a veteran GOP media consultant. “In the ’80s and ’90s, the important thing was being a major player with the most important clients.”
Edmonds added: “There were a lot fewer firms and everyone knew who the ‘leaders’ where. You didn't need to beat your chest. Firms were named after the principals because that was the brand.”
Axiom’s not just breaking with marketing conventions. It's growth could help disrupt the Beltway firms’ campaign committee referral business.
"For a long time, they would think I was too small,” Roe said of the GOP campaign committees.
He noted that his firm handled only two congressional campaigns in 2004.
“We've hurdled that," he told C&E. "I don't feel like I'm at odds with them."
Today, Axiom is handling 74 congressionals.
Roe attributes that to his shop’s size, noting that the firm now has 10 offices in 7 states, including DC, and a staff of more than 200.
"Nobody has the breadth -- I don't even think anyone's close,” he said.
In addition to outright purchases, Axiom’s expanded by launching an in-house digital and traditional media buying operation called AxMedia. It’s stood up a grassroots firm called Vanguard Field Strategies and launched shingles including Clout Public Affairs and Remington Research Group, which does polling. Moreover, it formed a “strategic partnership” with The Prosper Group.
"If you're a small shop, and you only provide a GC product, you're at the whim of everyone else,” said Roe.
Some GC’s aren’t deterred by the growth of their competition. Jason Cabel Roe (no relation to Jeff), who left Revolvis to launch his own self-named firm shortly before the Axiom purchase, said he sees an edge for his firm in the conglomeration.
“[It] gives me a new advantage that I didn't have before,” he said.
Axiom’s totality of in-house services, said Jason Roe, limits the ability of its clients to get outside opinions.
"I assemble teams unique to the race,” he said.
Another advantage that some small practitioners noted was that the new large firms could start to become overly corporate. To wit, the masthead talent will be so bogged down running such a large business that they’ll have to resort to cookie-cutter campaign strategy.
Competitors have pointed to a couple examples in the recent Texas primaries.
For instance, Axiom client Phillip Huffines spent more than $6 million in the GOP primary for state senate district 8. Despite the investment, he lost to Angela Paxton, the wife of the state’s attorney general, by nearly 10 points.
In a congressional primary, Axiom client Kathleen Wall, one practitioner noted, spent roughly $500 per vote — mainly on radio and TV — and didn’t make the runoff for the 2nd House district. Wall also had a budget close to $6 million, which was self-funded.