Former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX) penned a piece for TheHill.com today which offers advice to embattled Democrat Congressmen facing extinction in this fall’s mid-term elections, drawing from his own experiences in surviving the last culling of the herd in 1994.
Frost’s advice? One would suspect to hear him say things like “listen to your constituents, vote for their concerns above your own and engage in a lot of retail politics” or at least something like “bring home as much pork as you can.”
One might suspect that, but one would be wrong.
Here’s what Frost actually suggests:
In 1994, I represented a district in Texas with a 53 percent Democratic performance index. It was ok but not great for a Democrat. I realized early on that it was going to be a tough year and took a variety of steps to hold onto my seat. I wound up with 52.7 percent of the vote and survived the flood. Here’s what I did:
(1) I made sure I had enough money to run a full-scale campaign. This meant going back to all my regular contributors and telling them that I had a real contest on my hands and needed them to both max out personally and to reach out to their friends. It worked and I had enough money to make a significant radio and tv buy, to undertake a very heavy direct mail effort and the put together a major ground campaign. Every bit of it was necessary.
So the first rule is to amass a monstrous war chest. Get the big money on your side so you can spend the other guy into oblivion. Perhaps decent advice, but hardly enlightened. One wonders in the age of social media and the internet if that advice is as good as it was 16 years ago; big money sure didn’t help John Corzine or Martha Coakley.
(2) I did not ignore my opponent even though he had not held office before and was totally unknown before entering the race. Incumbents sometimes will ignore their opponent, making him earn name recognition. This is a bad idea in a tough year. You must draw a sharp contrast with the opponent, pointing out real issue differences and shedding light on his past history. We did extensive opposition research and determined that my opponent had made an illegal $50,000 loan to his campaign from a corporation he controlled. Also, we gave my opponent a legislative record by telling the press that his signature on the GOP’s “Contract with America” meant that he was supporting cuts in Social Security. We made him into a household name by the time the campaign was over and he didn’t like the context.
Personal attacks are the next tenet of the Frost Roadmap. Yay. He says to go negative immediately in an effort to beat the opponent down, distort his message so as to scare the hell out of old people and accuse him of being a crook. Was Frost’s opponent convicted of a crime? If so, how come he only won 52.7 percent of the vote?
(3) I worked strength. Consultants will tell you to concentrate on swing voters. That’s ok as long as you don’t forget the people who brought you to the dance. My district was about 20 percent African American and we ran a massive get out the vote effort in that community. Your strongest supporters sometimes get discouraged when the general political environment is tough. It is important to make sure friends get to the polls in big numbers. We dramatically increased African American turnout in the district over what it had been in previous non-presidential years when turnout normally drops off and it was that vote that saved me on election night.
Racial politics apparently is a big factor in Frost’s calculus. Turn out as much bloc vote as you can and forget about swing voters or those who aren’t sold on your performance. That’s enlightened governance, for certain – and it really moves us toward that color-blind society we all hope for, no?
(4) We recorded my opponent every time he appeared on a right-wing radio talk show. Republicans will often let their guard down when they are taking to a friendly talk show host and say things that will come back to haunt them in the election. A recent example of this occurred when one of the candidates in the Republican primary for governor in Texas made an unguarded comment to Glen Beck on FOX. That candidate left the impression that our government had somehow participated in the events leading up to the attack on 9/11. Her primary opponents have made her eat those words for breakfast, lunch and dinner ever since.
Next, do whatever you can to make your opponent into a crank – or better yet, a racist. Lefties always think conservatives are racist anyway, so find a way to make that shibboleth count!
Frost closes with this:
Some Democrats in swing districts will wind up losing no matter what they do because the environment is so toxic. But at least there are things they can do to increase their odds of surviving.
Call us crazy if you like, but Frost’s advice seems to doom his pupils more than help them in the Tea Party nation of 2010.