Craig “Campaign Doc” Varoga is a longtime Democratic strategist and manager. Questions on strategy, general consulting, or anything campaign-related? Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US and he’ll answer them right here.
Q: I just got through a bruising primary, but was impressed with the campaign my opponent ran. Should I hire his/her staff?
A: Yes, emphatically, but not the entire staff and only those who can do a good job for you. In other words, hiring just to be nice is a waste of money. But snagging the best of your opponent’s staff, for either your campaign or a party committee, is a smart way to unite the team in preparation for the general election.
It’s also a great idea to buy fundraising lists, voter IDs and analytics from your ex-opponent, budget and legal review permitting, in order to roar into the election with the greatest chances for success.
Q: Can a super PAC employ the same firm as the candidate it supports?
A: Yes, but some candidates and super PACs avoid the practice because of the optics. FWIW, an OpenSecrets analysis after the 2016 elections found that a total of 66 single-candidate super PACs hired the same vendors or staff as the candidates they backed.
In addition, the same analysis showed that there were “at least 632 instances where a super PAC and the candidate it supported both hired the same person or company at some point during this cycle, compared to 86 in 2014 and 161 in 2012.”
Combined, all that added up to at least 393 overlapping merchants and employees, and more than $32 million.
Still, it’s not the Wild West, so assess the politics and optics as part of your decision process, and hire an election attorney well versed in firewalls and written policies that protect both the candidate and the super PAC. Notably, candidates and super PACs can share the same attorney or law firm to remain in compliance with applicable rules and regulations.
Q: My digital media consultant is always throwing metrics out at me — some of which I don't really understand. Should I invest in my own metrics to verify what she's saying? I've heard of companies like Vidyard providing good video tracking.
A: Generally, we advise that all campaigns become better informed consumers, rather than delegating metrics verification to another vendor. Yeah, it may be tedious and time consuming, but it’s good management.
Point being: Your digital media consultant should be able to provide you with the most relevant video viewing data, without investing in a separate tracking software.
According to Bret Wask of SB Digital, “The most relevant video return data is most often ‘full view rate’ and ‘average length of view.’ Political campaigns should be prioritizing premium inventory (forced full view pre-roll) that forces views in order to get the best return on their often limited budget.”
Q: A super PAC supporting our opponent is running digital ads that feature a picture of the opponent for more than 10 seconds, far more than half of the 15 seconds. How did they get around the rule that 50 percent of the ad can’t be from the candidate you’re supporting?
A: We assume that you’re referring to 1. A congressional or Senate race and, 2. The FEC rule that less than 50 percent of the images can be obtained from sources publicly available from the candidate, e.g., their website.
It’s worth exploring, and you should determine, whether your opponent’s ally is violating this rule. But it is entirely possible that the super PAC bought the image(s) from either a news organization or a non-political group, which is legal and would comply with the non-coordination rules.
Q: Is 2018 going to be a wave election?
A: Yes, but even wave elections have riptides and cross-currents. In a political environment in which chaos is a strategy and government dysfunction is a pre-existing condition, some “done deal” candidates are going to lose and some jokes with awful campaigns are going to win. Take nothing for granted, no matter who or where you are.
Craig Varoga consults on local, state, national and international campaigns and is a regular political analyst in numerous news media. Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US.