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How to beat Michele Bachmann

by The Big E on March 15, 2010 · 7 comments

How to beat Michel Bachmann in MN-06

In an opinion post from last week, my cohort, Bill Prendergast, wrote a comment double-daring anyone to explain how a Democrat could win in Michele Bachmann’s district (MN-06).  I am taking him up on it.

First of all, the Cook Report ranks MN-06 as R+7.  To put this in perspective, Keith Ellison’s district, MN-05 encompasses Minneapolis and the western inner ring suburbs, is D+23.  Betty McCollum’s, MN-04 is St. Paul and inner ring northeastern suburbs, is D+13.  John Kline’s, MN-02 is the southern suburbs and rural southern MN, is R+4.  And Tim Walz’s, MN-01 extends across bottom of the state, is R+1.  There are numerous instances across the country where Democrats have won in districts more conservative than MN-06.  

It is my opinion that ousting Bachmann is tough, but not impossible.

Here are the main factors a winning Democrat must do correctly:

  • Ground game
  • Neutralize the independent or Independence Party candidate(s)
  • Get the media to push key meme’s about Bachmann
  • Capitalize on every Bachmann misstep
  • Ground game is voter contact.  It means knocking on doors, phone banking, appearances and campaign events.  

    In 2008, 53.58% of voters voted against Bachmann.  Unfortunately, DFL candidate Elwyn Tinklenberg only got 43% of it.  Despite spending virtually no money and not campaigning, Bob Anderson ran in the Independence Party primary, won it and pulled 10.04% in the general election.  A Democrat must convince voters that a vote for the IP is a vote for Bachmann.

    The Democrats need to get our state’s media to tell the truth about Bachmann.  At this blog, we have documented that our TV, radio, dead tree media and even those who have fled the dead tree media and found other havens simply refuse to ask Bachmann any tough questions.  They don’t ask any tough questions, because if they did, they’d never get access again.  There are ways to get them past their timidity and I will elaborate.

    Finally, a Democratic candidate has to be ready, willing and prepared to take advantage of every Bachmann misstep, because there are going to be a lot of them.  She loves the limelight and seems to be proud that she’s viewed as a liar, unstable, erratic, bigoted and one of those burning-eyed crazies who are awaiting the end of times.
    GROUND GAME

    While almost every candidate reflexively answers that they’ll have a “great, grassroots effort” and that “nobody will outwork me,” it’s more complex than just saying it.  A friend of mine has a bumper sticker that sums this up perfectly:

    If going to church makes me a Christian, does sleeping in the garage make me a car?

    There are key things a Democratic candidate must do in terms of voter contact are:

    1. Spend money early hiring organizers to work specific sections of the district.
    2. Hire people who have successfully run large door knocking and phone banking operations
    3. Elevate volunteers who prove themselves to more responsible positions.
    4. Go the extra step to make sure that your door knock and phone bank operations run smoothly.

    Spending money on the right things …
    A campaign in the conservative district like MN-06 needs to spend a lot of money up front to hire the organizers and staffers to build the organization the campaign will need.  It takes a lot of work and if started early enough, will pay massive dividends in September and October.

    Both the Obama MN and Franken campaigns did this and it paid off as they had huge volunteer turnouts.  It may have been even more crucial for Franken as they had an instant pool of battle-tested volunteers ready to mobilize for the recount.

    Super volunteers
    Staffers cannot do everything.  If staffers are empowered and encouraged to promote volunteers who prove their worth or have skills the organizer doesn’t, these volunteers may actually do the small role they’ve been doing with such enthusiasm that they help motivate all the other volunteers.  Plus, it frees the staffers up to do other things that wouldn’t otherwise get done.

    Extra steps…
    A sign of a misfiring campaign are those instances when you show up to volunteer and the campaign isn’t prepared.  It’s frustrating for everyone involved and often the volunteers don’t come back.  If the staffers are overworked and frazzled, they look it and it rubs off.  Or even worse if they’re incompetent — past coordinated campaigns have been shockingly awful and I’ve literally sat around for an hour and then left.

    However, when the campaign is prepared, the volunteers get the training or explanations they need to do their task and everyone is excited because they’ve got a great candidate and a smoothly running organization, volunteers come back.  And often repeatedly.

    NEUTRALIZE THE IP CANDIDATE

    First and foremost, The Democratic candidate needs to give voters reasons not just to vote against Bachmann (which 53% already get), but a reason to vote for the Democrat.  This is the crux.  It’s easy to call Bachmann insane, a bigot and a liar, but it requires much more work to convince people that the Democrat is the  viable alternative.

    To do this the candidate will need an excellent ground game.  They have to be reaching the voters in more ways than just via mail and TV.  It is simply not enough to send voters 5 pieces of mail and run endless ads in September, October and November.  If voters talk to volunteers via door knocking and phone banking, there’s a chance that the Republicans who think Bachmann is an embarrassment and the independents who think similarly would have a favorable impression of the Democrat.

    The candidate needs to show up at places where the voters go.  The best example of this is what Dana Houle did in New Hampshire in ’06:

    For example, the local politicos in New Hampshire all suggested that the best way to meet voters was at the dump.  This seemed illogical, but considering how badly Hodes had lost in the last race, he was willing to try any method to get him in front of voters.  This district in NH is very rural and difficult to door knock.  But everyone goes to the dump periodically.  So every Saturday the candidate or at least a bunch of volunteers were talking to everyone waiting in their cars to get into the local dumps.

    Considering how outdoorsman are now realizing the importance of protecting wetlands, rivers and forests — are becoming environmentally conscious — a Democratic candidate would do well having a large presence at outdoor shows.  The bottom line is there must be ways to get the candidate and volunteers in front of voters.

    There have got to be other ways.  A campaign that beats Bachmann will figure these out.

    The Sixth District has a strong independent streak.
    It’s really a strong ticket splitting streak.  For example, Obama did far better than Franken in MN-06.  In other words, there are plenty of Republicans who wouldn’t vote for McCain, but would vote for Norm.  I’m also guessing that there were plenty of Republicans and Independents who voted for Obama and Bob Anderson.

    The trick will be to minimize the anti-Bachmann voters who can’t stomach voting for a DFLer.  This is possible.  And it all hinges on getting two messages to these voters:  a message that makes them think the Democrat is a reasonable, straight-shooting person;  and that voting IP is a vote for Bachmann.

    This is complex to achieve, but possible.  I’ve already explained how important a strong ground game is and this will play a large factor, but so will getting our local media to cover Bachmann better and ask tougher questions.

    GETTING A BACHMANN STORY TO GO LOCAL

    It boggles the mind that the men and women who consider themselves “journalists” have never asked Michele Bachmann the tough follow-up questions or investigated her ties to the national evangelical movement.  It’s a rare occasion when they’ll run a story about the insane things she says and not spin her as a “firebrand” or “outspoken” when she’s clearly insane, dishonest and bigoted.  

    I’ve actually talked to “journalists” who admitted it wasn’t their job to investigate or analyze if what she says is the truth or not.  But are the stenographers and hacks who are still employed at our newspapers, TV stations and radio stations just totally hopeless?  Are even the ones who fled to other places so they could get a paycheck just as hopeless?

    No.

    There’s a new strategy:  going local.  The SD26 special election is a classic example of it.  Republican candidate Mike Parry wrote some really inappropriate, offensive and deplorable twitter posts.  Several bloggers made screen captures of these tweets before Parry’s campaign took them down.

    The blogs covered this campaign development nonstop.  We bloggers who use Twitter tweeted relentlessly on this.  We used the channels we have to get the attention of the national blogs.  They thought it worthy and covered it, linking to our posts.  Then it made it on national media.  At this point our local newspapers, TV and radio could no longer avoid covering this story.

    Now consider that Bachmann loves the spotlight and breathlessly tells the world the latest conspiracy theories at the rate of one per month.  She regularly goes on right wing radio and says the most dishonest, bigoted and insane things.  She frequently appears at events in other states and apparently doesn’t understand that the media in those states won’t cover up for her.

    Bachmann is a frequent award recipient in Keith Olbermann’s Worst Person in the World segment, Ed Schultz documents regularly talks about her on his Crazy Talk segment and Rachel Maddow regularly covers her shenanigans.  
    At some point, her insanity, lying, bigotry and ties to the national evangelical movement is going to “go local.”

    As a matter of fact, it’s already happened once and on a massive scale.  She embarrassed herself on the Chris Matthews Show in October of 2008 by accusing member of Congress of being Anti-American.  She nearly gifted the race to Tinklenberg.  

    It’s not really a matter of if she’ll do this again, but when.

    CAPITALIZE ON BACHMANN’S MISSTEPS

    Elwyn Tinklenberg’s campaign simply didn’t have the infrastructure built to take advantage of the $1 million money bomb that was dumped in his lap in late October of 2008.  A Democratic candidate who already has a large door knock and phone bank operations already rolling can instantly change their scripts to incorporate the latest gaffe, lie or insanity.  A Democratic candidate who has built up their Facebook and Twitter can instantly contact and mobilize their volunteers.  It takes a while to call through volunteer lists.

    If the Democrat has been using YouTube and has their own YouTube channel, they can post responses within hours and generate multiple thousands of page views if they’ve tagged their video correctly.

    A prepared campaign will be ready at an instant’s notice to go into high gear to take advantage of an opportunity.

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