Free campaign advice for Democratic women and their staffers

Lynda Waddington, contributor to Iowa Independent and creator of the Essential Estrogen blog, will be the featured speaker at two seminars on “developing campaign web pages and blogs for Democratic women candidates, and those who work their campaigns.”

If you know any women who have considered running for office, or anyone who wants to work on a woman candidate’s campaign, please spread the word. Waddington promises to “show participants the good, the bad, and the (oh so very) ugly that can come with being a politically active woman in the age of the internet and high technology.”

The Des Moines seminar will take place on Saturday, November 14, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the AFSCME office, 4320 NW 2nd.

The Cedar Falls seminar will take place on Saturday, November 21, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at the Cedar Falls Public Library.

For more information, contact Jo Ann Zimmerman at 515-225-1136 or atzzzzz AT, or Marcia Nichols at 515-246-1517 (for the Des Moines event).

The seminars are free, no advance registration required.  Sponsored by DAWN (Democratic Activist Womens Network) and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). DAWN was founded in 1992 to recruit and mentor Democratic women to run for public office.

Speaking of women running for office, jamesvw posted information to help get out the vote for Kirsten Running-Marquardt in the November 24 special election in Iowa House district 33.

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The perils of having no record to run on

Via the Stinging Nettle blog, I found this piece in Politics magazine by Marty Ryall, who managed Senator Elizabeth Dole’s unsuccessful campaign last year. Ryall’s main subject is the grotesque “Godless” ad that Dole ran against Kay Hagan in late October. He contends that contrary to widespread opinion, backlash against the ad did not cost Dole the election. Rather, the ad was “our Hail Mary pass” that ran only because they felt they had no other chance to win.

As you’d expect from an operative who worked on a failed campaign, Ryall goes out of his way to explain why Dole’s campaign was already in trouble before he came on in May 2008, and why she lost the election mostly for reasons out of his control. (For instance, Barack Obama targeted North Carolina and registered hundreds of thousands of new voters.) Ryall also claims that he and others intervened to make the final version of the “Godless” ad more fair to Hagan than the first cut. Whatever.

I was more interested in why Dole would have to resort to that kind of desperate attack. Ryall doesn’t explicitly address that point, but this passage in his piece suggests Dole simply had nothing else to say:

We knew we had three weaknesses. A report by had ranked Dole 93rd out of 100 senators in effectiveness. She voted with President Bush more than 90 percent of the time. And during the two-year period when she was chairman of the NRSC, she only traveled to North Carolina a handful of times.

No doubt external conditions helped sink Dole. But if she had built up a solid record during her six years in the Senate, Dole would have had a better chance of withstanding the Democratic wave. At the very least she would have had a better final-week message for voters than, “Atheists held a fundraiser for my opponent.”

Democrats control the executive and legislative branches in Iowa and in Washington. Current economic trends suggest that they may face a challenging political environment in 2010. I hope they will draw the right lessons from Dole’s disgrace. Don’t blindly follow failed policies and do something substantial for your constituents.

Having a record to run on is no guarantee of victory if the prevailing winds are against you. My very effective 18-term Congressman Neal Smith (IA-04) lost in the 1994 landslide. But it helps to be able to remind voters of some big achievements. In the worst-case scenario you’ll lose with more dignity than Dole.

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The History of "Change"

There's a fascinating SlateV video illustrating the history of candidates using the mantle of “change”. It's worth considering that Obama really hasn't invented anything fundamentally new, he's really just adapting an old familiar campaign strategy that's been around for decades and used by both parties.

A few highlights:

1952: Dwight Eisenhower, who the video notes is remembered for being perhaps America's most boring status quo presidents, ran on a platform of change. Specifically, he was running a change campaign against the legacy of an unpopular president, supported ending a mismanaged and unpopular war, stopping government corruption, and lifting a faltering economy. Sound familiar?

1976: Still reeling from the Watergate scandal, both candidates sought to run on a theme of “change”. Jimmy Carter ran as the ultimate change candidate–a fresh Washington outsider, brutally honest, with a campaign based more on big ideas than policy details. Gerald Ford on the other hand, was walking a tightrope. He had to convince the country that although he was the heir of an incredibly unpopular president, he was an independent thinker and had changed. At the same time, he struggled to mollify the party base that to a large part still rallied around their fallen standardbearer. Sound familiar in both cases?

1992: Bill Clinton, the original “Hope” candidate ran against a suddenly unpopular administration, a failing economy, and an increasingly out-of-touch president and opposition party–and based his campaign around the idea that, in his own words, “experience is important,  but it's not everything”. Sound familiar?

2000: Even after an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, change was in the air. George W. Bush based his first campaign on an uplifting message of spiritual and moral change, arguing that he was a fresh face and a Washington outsider, above the scandals and corruption of both parties, and would transcend partisian bickering and unite a fractured country. Sound familiar?


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