IA-03: David Young's coherent campaign message

From the earliest days of David Young’s campaign for U.S. Senate to the earliest weeks of his bid to represent Iowa’s third district in the U.S. House, I’ve been skeptical that many rank and file Republicans would vote for a career Congressional staffer in a competitive primary. I still view Young as an underdog going into next Tuesday’s vote. However, he has been working hard in the IA-03 counties and has put together a stronger campaign than most first-time candidates could manage.

Follow me after the jump for an overview of Young’s campaign themes, including videos and transcripts of the two television commercials he has run so far.  

Young worked in Congress for the better part of two decades, including seven years as Senator Chuck Grassley’s chief of staff. That puts him at a disadvantage compared to Republican candidates who have never lived outside the state, especially since most voters don’t have a favorable image of Congress. Young’s campaign is emphasizing the positive: as the candidate with the best working knowledge of Congress, he is most prepared to hit the ground running. He name-drops his former boss as often as possible. Here’s an excerpt from the official biography on Young’s campaign website:

As Chief of Staff for Senator Grassley, David worked day in and day out on behalf of Iowans. He listened to their concerns, developed solutions, and navigated the federal bureaucracy to get results.

Like his friend and mentor, Chuck Grassley, David believes in a government that works for people.  Public service is about helping your fellow man.

One summer morning in 2012 when David’s phone rang, he answered and on the other end was a man from Northwest Iowa who is the owner operator of a local radio station.  The station employs 15 people and provides programming to large geographic area.  The station owner was frustrated.  For two years the Federal Communications Commission had been giving him the run around.  The delays and red tape were threatening the renewal of his broadcast license.  After hanging up the phone David took action.  He contacted the FCC and the White House and sent emails demanding answers and solutions.  Two days later, the station received their renewed license.

Dealing with government shouldn’t be that hard.  Government exists to serve the people, not the other way around.

Throughout David’s career in the Senate, he heard Iowan’s concerns about burdensome regulations, the skyrocketing national debt, long-term unemployment, and the mounting government scandals. It was these concerns, coupled with his desire to use his years of experience fighting for the people of Iowa in Senator Grassley’s office, which compelled David to run for the Congress.

The challenges facing America are big, but we’ve overcome great challenges before.  America is comprised of the brightest, hardest working, and most optimistic people on earth.  There is no challenge we cannot overcome!

David, like most Iowans, is driven to fix problems.  David knows how Washington works, and he knows where Washington is failing to work.  He has the experience and knowledge to start working for Iowans on his first day as a Congressman.  David has a track record of getting results for Iowans and he’s ready to continue his service.

It’s worth noting that while Grassley is officially neutral in this primary, his media team have been working with Young, and his grandson, State Representative Pat Grassley, has endorsed Young. I’m sure he doesn’t object to the many flattering references. This is from the issues page of Young’s campaign website, labeled “Plan for Success.” Many of Young’s press releases draw from passages here:

David’s Better Budget Principles include:

Zero Based Budgeting – this solution simply means that each year, the funding level for all government programs and agencies will begin at $0.  This is a better budgeting practice than giving every program the same amount as last year, plus a raise.

Sunset Legislation – attaching a sunset clause to every law enacted by Congress means policies will no longer outlive their usefulness.  When the sunset date arrives, Congress will examine the program anew and determine if it should continue for another finite period of time.

Full Federal Audit – the budget of every government department and agency should undergo a thorough outside audit to ensure taxpayer funds are being used in the most effective manner possible.

Flatter, Fairer, Simpler Tax Code – the current U.S. tax code is 74,000 pages long.  Giving a percentage of your income to fund the government should not require us to hire professional assistance.  Additionally, the longer the code the more loopholes exist and the more opportunity there is to skirt the system and engage in fraudulent activity.

Balanced Budget Amendment – it is often said states are the test tubes of democracy.  The concept here is simple:  never spend more money than you have revenue.  In Iowa, this concept is just common sense.

Full Repeal of Obamacare – The disastrous rollout of government run Obamacare is the prophetic announcement of the real mess to come.  Trying to fix our health care system via a top-down approach, will never improve a broken system.  All Americans deserve the benefits of lower health care prices, better access to providers, and less government spending.

Moving America Forward

David appreciates the importance of Iowa’s manufacturing and agriculture industries to the American economy.  He knows Iowa has what it takes to help make America stronger than ever and more secure. To be successful as a nation, we need to enact and promote sound policies that give job creators and families certainty and optimism for the future.

David is courageous in his stand against the waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement rampant in the federal government.  He is not afraid to blow the whistle on government officials who act irresponsibly with the taxpayer’s dollars or trust, as he did when serving as Senator Grassley’s Chief of Staff.

David is a conservative watchdog – he learned from the best – Senator Grassley.  David will hold government from both parties accountable as he fights for transparent government that works for Iowa.

David is a pro-life conservative who supports Iowa family values.  He is a defender of the Second Amendment and a lifetime member of the NRA.

David has what it takes to get things done in Washington; he has the knowledge and solutions needed to serve our country.  On day one, he will put his Iowa and Senate experience to work for all of us.  Optimism is at the center of America’s continued greatness, and it is the defining character of David’s years of public service and of his campaign for the United States House of Representatives.

Few Republican primary voters would find anything to disagree with there. Most of Young’s policy ideas have no chance of becoming law, and some are outright fantasies. For instance, selling health insurance across state lines would create all kinds of problems without improving health care. Furthermore, when your life and health are on the line, most consumers are looking for the best treatment possible, not shopping for a bargain price.

Still, Young understands the federal budget and legislative process better than any of the other five Republicans running in IA-03. Listening to the candidates side by side, as during last night’s televised debate on KCCI, that came through loud and clear. Young panders to the GOP base on some issues, but he also was able to speak in more substantive terms, such as about interest groups that affect provisions in the Farm Bill.

Citing his expertise and ability, two former members of Congress endorsed Young early this year: Jim Ross Lightfoot and Tom Tauke. Lightfoot’s endorsement is more meaningful, as he represented parts of southwest Iowa that are now in IA-03. Iowa’s longtime former State Auditor Richard Johnson is also backing Young, as is former State Senator Jeff Lamberti, the 2006 GOP nominee against Leonard Boswell in IA-03.

Just yesterday, State Representative Mary Ann Hanusa of Council Bluffs announced her support for Young. In an e-mail blast from his campaign, she said,

David has been in Southwest Iowa weekly since announcing his candidacy in January. I’ve seen him at rotary lunches, Chamber of Commerce events, community gatherings, and going door-to-door to meet with voters and listen to their concerns. David has shown that he wants to represent all 16 counties of the Third District.

For the past seven years, David was Senator Chuck Grassley’s Chief of Staff. David learned from him how to be a good public servant who always remembers that the people of Iowa are your bosses. I too, worked for Senator Grassley in his Council Bluffs office, and understand the importance of service to constituents.

David listens. He offers real solutions to our toughest problems. David maintains a collected and steady demeanor, and is prepared to be a statesman.

David has spent his months on the campaign trail demonstrating the type of public servant he will be. His work ethic, experience, and knowledge of the issues will serve us well.

Hanusa’s support is more important than that of State Representative Pat Grassley, whose district lies nowhere near IA-03. She represents half of Council Bluffs in the Iowa House, and Council Bluffs is the second-largest metro area in IA-03. It’s also where rival IA-03 candidate Matt Schultz served on the city council before becoming Iowa secretary of state in 2011. Hanusa and Young have a similar background, as she worked in Washington, DC for many years before returning to Iowa to run for office. (She lost as the GOP nominee for secretary of state in 2006, but won an open Iowa House district in 2010.)

One of Young’s biggest campaign assets is the work of media consultant Strategic Perception Inc, led by Fred Davis. He created the commercials for Senator Grassley’s 2010 re-election campaign, which in my opinion were the best Iowa political ads of that cycle. Davis was also the consultant behind Representative Steve King’s tv ads in 2012, which were a masterpiece of image-making from beginning to end.

So many political commercials are boring, cookie-cutter pieces. A little-known candidate needs to stand out. Davis has come up with a memorable theme for Young’s IA-03 campaign ads: magic. The first spot started running in the Des Moines and Omaha/Council Bluffs markets during the last week of April.

My annotated transcript:

Young walks toward the camera, out of a completely black background, wearing a suit and tie: I’m David Young, and I approved this message.

Young holds up Obama HOPE bumper sticker, speaks to camera: Barack Obama promised us hope. But then he ripped apart our health care system, shredded our economy, and crumbled our national security. [Young tears up the bumper sticker, crumples it up and hides it in his left hand. Words on screen in small block capital letters: DAVID YOUNG  REPUBLICAN FOR CONGRESS IOWA’S THIRD DISTRICT]

But if we band together and fight for our conservative principles,[Young reaches into right pocket, pulls out magic wand, taps other hand; words on screen YOUNGFORIOWA.COM ]

We can put our economy, and our country, back together again. [Young pulls crumpled paper out from fist, smooths it out, revealing it to be an American flag instead of the Obama bumper sticker. Young smiles and walks back toward where he came from.]

Male voice-over: Iowa’s answer is not magic. It’s David Young. [campaign logo appears on screen next to head shot of Young an over words CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN]

It’s attention-getting, I’ll give them that. Of course, Obama never “ripped apart” the health care system or “shredded” an economy that was losing more than 500,000 jobs a month at the time of his inauguration. But the words work with a Republican audience and reinforce Young’s action in tearing the bumper sticker. My only criticism of this ad is that the words on the screen are probably too small for many viewers to read.

Young’s campaign rolled out its second tv ad last week, preserving the magical theme and using similar music and camera work. It even looks like Young is wearing the same suit, but the necktie is different–it’s bright green, the same one Young wore during the KCCI televised debate on May 27.

My annotated transcript:

Young walks toward the camera, out of a completely black background, wearing a suit and tie: I’m David Young, and I approved this message. [Words on screen in small block capital letters: DAVID YOUNG  REPUBLICAN FOR CONGRESS IOWA’S THIRD DISTRICT]

President Obama said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” [Young holds up small American flag with his left hand]

Poof! There goes that promise. [Young opens his hand, and the flag disappears as he says “poof”]

But we can reform our health care, with conservative, market-based solutions that focus on you, not the government. [Young holds up another little American flag, words on screen YOUNGFORIOWA.COM ]

And then poof! There goes Obamacare. [Young opens his hand and the flag disappears again as he says poof. He smiles and walks back toward where he came from.]

Male voice-over: Iowa’s answer is not magic. It’s David Young. [campaign logo appears on screen next to head shot of Young an over words CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN]

It will take some real magic to make Obamacare disappear, as the president’s not going to sign any such bill, even if Republicans win control of the U.S. Senate. The ad may not be realistic but it does stand out against many political spots, and I would guess a lot of people will remember Young’s name.

I would not be surprised to see Young’s campaign roll out a third magic-themed ad during the last few days before the primary. I doubt it’s enough for him win a plurality of the votes on June 3, and I suspect other candidates are better-positioned going into the district convention likely to determine the GOP nomination. Nevertheless, Young has run a more solid campaign than some of the others in the six-man field.

Any comments about the IA-03 race are welcome in this thread.

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