Netroots Preferred Candidate Qualities Can Energize Base AND Appeal To Independents
by Chris Bowers, Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 02:38:51 PM EST
At the end of a lengthy post about Hackett, The Fix has a round-up of the polling memo. While I may be over-extrapolating, I think the memo shows that what the netroots likes, the electorate likes:
Hackett's decision was so unexpected that his campaign pollster -- Mark Blumenthal -- had prepared a polling memo to be released today detailing a survey conducted Feb. 6-8. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Fix today.I am posting this not to posthumously endorse Hackett over Brown, nor to make an argument that Hackett was more electable than Brown. Even now that it is over, I'm still staying out of that thicket.
While the initial head to head in that memo showed Brown with a 46 percent to 24 percent edge over Hackett, Blumenthal wrote that when a paragraph of only positive information about both men was read to voters, Hackett held a 43 percent to 41 percent edge. Among those who identified themselves as Democrats, Brown led 44 percent to 42 percent after voters heard positive information about both candidates. Among those who identified as themselves independent or other (Ohio has an open primary where independents can vote), Hackett held a 50 percent to 31 percent margin. The full text of each positive description is included in the memo and I'm posting that text at the end of this post.
While so-called "informed ballot" ballot tests are of questionable value, Blumenthal concluded that if Hackett could raise the money to simply introduce himself to voters, he would win the primary. Money, however, proved to be Hackett's undoing as he was unable to raise anywhere near the $2.1 million Brown had on hand as of the end of 2005.
H ere are two informational paragraphs read to voters as part of the Hackett campaign survey.
Hackett: Paul Hackett is a 43 year old Democrat, attorney and Marine Corps reservist from Cincinnati. Born in Cleveland, he attended Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University law school before serving in the Marines. Although he opposed the Iraq war, he reenlisted and volunteered for service in Iraq out of a sense of duty and responsibility. On returning, he ran for Congress and gained national attention by nearly winning a special election in a heavily Republican district. An outsider and political newcomer, Hackett wants to shake up the culture of corruption in government, saying quote, "if you like the way things are going in Washington, don't vote for me. If you think we need to completely change the way Washington does business, I want your support." He also says Democrats should stand up and fight for their beliefs on the war in Iraq, jobs, health care, education and the environment. Hackett says he will bring an honest, plain-spoken approach to the Senate.<<br>
Brown: Sherrod Brown is a 53 year old Democratic Congressman from Lorain. He first ran for office thirty one years ago and has served as a State Representative, Ohio Secretary of State and member of Congress. Brown says that in his thirteen years in Washington, he fought for his beliefs even when it meant bucking the political establishment. He consistently spoke out against the Iraq War and is proud of his fights against trade deals that sold out American workers from Clinton's NAFTA to Bush's CAFTA. Brown says the Republican team of Bush, Taft and DeWine have stood silently while Ohio has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs, families are losing their health care and too many Ohioans are suffering from high prescription-drug and home-heating costs. Instead of public servants Brown says we have moneyed interests -- in Columbus and Washington -- who reward their friends, punish their enemies and shower money on themselves. Brown says we need a new direction.
What I do hope to demonstrate with this poll is to show just how well what the netroots likes in a candidate tests with the public. Earlier today, I think Markos did a pretty darn good job summarizing what the netroots likes in a candidate:
Bowers takes a reasoned look at why so many people are furious at the Hackett withdrawal. If nothing else, perhaps it will send notice to the establishment that we're not ideologically hard-left. Otherwise, Brown would've been the consensus choice being more liberal than Hackett. Probably not, but whatever. As it was, while views on the best candidate might've been split, there's no doubt that Brown's support was very passive compared to Hackett's rabid supporters. More evidence for my theory that ideology isn't what really motivates netroot activists into action. It's things like straight-talking, partisanship, and fearlessness.In the paragraph describing Hackett in the poll, you find many of the same descriptive terms that Markos uses: straight talking ("Hackett says he will bring an honest, plain-spoken approach to the Senate"), partisanship ("He also says Democrats should stand up and fight for their beliefs"), and fearlessness ("Although he opposed the Iraq war, he reenlisted and volunteered for service in Iraq out of a sense of duty and responsibility"). When these qualities were tested in Blumenthal's poll, they tested quite well with the public. Among Democrats, Hackett was even with Brown's more professional, wonkier, progressivism at firing up the base. Among independents, Hackett held a significant lead.
I have long argued that it is just these positive, generally non-ideological qualities that Democrats need in candidates in order to break the Republican majority coalition, rather than better policies or more progressive candidates. I am in favor of those qualities as well, I just think the non-ideological, stylistic qualities will swing more votes. Blumenthal's poll offers some statistical backing to this belief, even if it only covers Ohio.
Contrary to popular belief, what the netroots likes in Democratic candidates is also what the public wants from Democratic candidates. Also contrary to popular belief, what the netroots most wants from candidates is mainly stylistic rather than ideological (although they do want the ideology too). The main problems we face, of course, are the same problem many straight-talking, partisan, outsider campaigns face. First, despite certain rare occurrences, we have difficulty raising the fund to project that image onto the electorate. Second, we have a difficult time convincing the established news media to project that same image. While voters say they want a straight talking candidate, there are few things the established news media enjoys more than playing "gotcha" and endlessly repeating the gaffes that are prone to come out of the mouths of straight talking candidates. Further, as part of the political industrial complex, the established news media is also more comfortable with establishment candidates. See, Bush, George W. and Kerry, John F for two example for this.
So, while it isn't easy breaking through existing filters of political information, it is comforting to know that if we could break through, the types of candidates we favor online would do very well at the ballot box. We are on the right track, we just need to keep plugging away.