Ok, folks. I’ve just spent almost the entire day in conversations with various people in various stages of conjecture and speculation about none other than the Lt. Governor’s nomination for the GAGOP. As such, I’m going to lay out, as clearly as I know how, the way the signs read at this point. Earlier I classified both candidates as losers, and I hold to that assessment. However, I do think that one candidate will defend his weaknesses, and focus on his strengths, and thus prevail. Here’s my message to Ralph and Casey:
Ralph, heads up:
Don’t be concerned about the casino issue. The AJC has two reasons for their daily coverage of it: first, it sells more papers because some conservatives who otherwise wouldn’t read the Constipation are now buying papers to follow the LG race coverage; secondly, you’re the best candidate to hold the office. Otherwise, they’d be focusing their flames on Casey. It’s now exactly 12 months until the primary, and I rather doubt that anyone will remember these issues come time to cast a ballot.
I sat in the restaurant at dinner tonight, and looked around. 9 out of 10 people in the restaurant I guarantee couldn’t have told me who was even running for LG, much less the issues surrounding the race. Those who are aware of what is currently going on in this race have already decided for whom they’ll vote. Those who haven’t will start paying attention about three weeks out, 2 months at best, and they’ll make their decision in the final week.
Who cares about some paper back in college that might have said some nasty things about Ghandi? At least one of the candidates went to college…
Ralph, you have to get out of your consultant’s role. You’re fighting the same problem that got Sonny where he is right now: you’re a jerk, according to many people whom you’ve met. You’ve got excellent eye contact, and a great personal conversational style, and your smile is excellent. Use it to your advantage. When people meet you in person and get the feeling that you’re looking right past them, it turns them off. That’s what’s going to kill you, if anything does. Look them in the eye, flash a smile. Stop being a consultant. At the photo ops, you’re not coordinating the photographers and taking care of hospitality for the celebrities. You’re kissing babies, winking at the women, and complimenting the men on their last business accomplishment. Change roles, or you’ll lose fast. Take lessons from your opponent: he’s a pro at it. You’ve got the same natural aptitude: capitalize on it.
Little modification of message: from the mountains of North Georgia? Duluth doesn’t count, sorry to say. That one might come back to haunt you. I’m originally from those mountains, and they’re alot different then that little area off SR-400.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: lose the boots and the tie. ‘Nuff said. I think you know of whence I speak.
You other biggest weakness will surface as we get closer to the nomination: policy competency. Your opponent is an astute policy man, and has been chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Develop some good talking points on, and issue positions on, some hard core policy issues. We already know you’re pro life, pro family, and all of that. What about imminent domain, internet privacy, health insurance, homestead exemptions, Peachcare, and those other real life issues? That’s what matters to the voter, and what they want to hear about in those last three weeks. Key to doing this is get ahead of the casino issue: get to a place where you’re no longer defending on that issue, spend some time and focus on positive, issue oriented statements and stands, and you’ll see a tremendous turn of the tide…
Your biggest strengths are some of the items I already mentioned. You posess great interpersonal skills…use them. Use them. Use them. Capitalize on your ability to raise money, and form grassroots networks. People at all four corners of the state know who you are: use that.
Casey Cagle, here’s to you, friend:
Change the worldview of your staff, or get a new staff. Look at their resumes: they all used to work for Ralph at some point, in various capacities. It’s a mindset with them. I can see the staff meetings now. There’s no objective analysis of the issues. It’s all a question of, “How can we throw the kitchen sink at Ralph today?” I’d say that starts with your consultant…
Capitalize on your policy experience. You can’t do it while you’re spending all your time and money attacking the character of your opponent. Spend time and money putting forth your stance on the issues, and marketing your resume, and the contrast between you and Ralph will evidence itself.
Save your powder. Don’t use all of your ammo now. It’s 12 months out. When it comes to the casino issues, I’d venture to say that most of ya’ll in the Cagle camp think you’re driving the story: NEWS FLASH: driving the story you AIN’T. It’s driving you.
The sum total of all this? You’ve put yourself in a lose, lose. If the offensive tactics don’t work, Ralph wins, and you look bad for being negative. If they work, and Ralph drops out, what do you have to campaign on? Are you going to do a massive message switch next April and THEN start talking about the issues? I rest my case.
Another news flash: Ralph is the president’s homeboy. You’re going to have to come up with something big enough to overshadow a “W” visit to the Peach State in the media. It’s hard to do.
It seems to me that you’re connected with some people who are inherently unable to grasp the importance of grassroots politics. It’s obvious, I believe, who is the better fundraiser in this race. If not yet, we should know in a few days. If not, I’m happy to eat crow. However, when you’re being outraised by the other candidate, all you have left is grassroots. Listen up: grassroots are what campaigns are made of outside the Perimeter. If you don’t believe me, ask some of those rural Senators that so bravely endorsed you. Your people need to get their heads out of the Atlanta sand and smell the pizza..grassroots are going to make or break this election. If you make good grassroots, you have the potential to beat Ralph. If not, you lose, because there’s another statewide candidate who’s desperately going to need strong grassroots to make up for the incompetence of his political staff: my guess is that he’ll quietly support whomever has the best grassroots to offer him.
My prediction, without any indication of the candidate for whom I’m working, or voting: Reed wins. The odds are slightly stacked in his favor, and on top of that, I believe he has what it takes to minimize his weaknesses, and capitalize on his strengths.
Interesting little thing I realized this evening: who knows the names of the two individuals who used to be partners at the Georgia political consulting firm South Public Affairs? Joel McElhannon is now the sole member of that LLC. His former partner? None other than Scott Rials, who is now the general consultant in Gary Black’s race for Agriculture Commissioner, who is running against former state Senator Bryan Kemp. Bryan’s consultant? Joel McElhannon…Sonny’s consultant? Scott Rials…ya’ll making the connection yet?
More later on the brewing political situation in the Senate…