Memo to National Democratic Leaders




DATE:            JANUARY 19, 2010

(Note: Neil Newhouse is proud to have served as the pollster for the Brown for Senate campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.)

On the heels of Scott Brown’s stunning landslide victory in Massachusetts, here are some observations based on our polling that might interest you.

  • Stop blaming Martha Coakley.

It’s not all her fault.  It’s the policies she supported that were more to blame.  She won the Democratic primary trouncing her opponents and was clearly the best candidate the party had to offer in the state.  She’d won statewide in convincing fashion.  She was a proven quantity.  And, yet this race wasn’t even close.

After watching Creigh Deeds, Jon Corzine and now Martha Coakley go down in flames, do you really think that the one thing they had in common was that they were below average candidates running sub-par campaigns?

  • Good idea going negative, worked out pretty well, huh?

One of the lessons Democrats are taking away from this race is that they need to go negative against Republican challengers earlier in the campaign.  Be advised that this race turned, and turned fast, following the debate on January 11th when the Coakley campaign launched their negative advertising.  Within days her image was almost inverted and her “information flow” was a net negative.  Being perceived as the negative campaigner moved key groups against Martha that she could never win back.

  • Like Virginia and New Jersey, President Obama’s visit changed very few votes.

Who could have imagined that one year after winning Massachusetts with 63% of the vote, bringing the President into the state to campaign for Martha Coakley changed very few votes.  While it DID energize segments of the Democratic base, Obama’s visit also helped us reinforce our support among Independent voters and ratchet up their intensity about the election.  Coakley swayed very few voters to her side.

Bottom Line

Given the Republican Party’s problems from 2005-2008, I personally want to thank you for getting the GOP back into the game by overreaching and overspending.

After spending four years watching Republican campaigns face the same problems — blaming candidates instead of the challenging political environment and going negative early to define the Democratic candidate — I understand those reflexive responses.

Given the opportunities the GOP has in November, please continue to blame your candidates and press forward with a reckless policy agenda.

In sum, my advice comes down to: no need to change a thing — full speed ahead.

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