Will Perry Change Course?
posted at 3:04 pm on October 5, 2011 by Karl
Amid poor debate performances and slumping poll numbers, the answer to be found from McClatchy is “probably not”:
In 2006, [top Perry consultant Dave] Carney hired four Yale University researchers, known as “the eggheads,” to rigorously study traditional campaign techniques. The result was a dramatic change in how the Perry campaign operated, said Sasha Issenberg, a journalist who in August released an e-chapter, “Rick Perry and His Eggheads: Inside the Brainiest Political Operation in America,” that’s part of his upcoming book, The Victory Lab.
“They ran these large-scale political versions of drug trials,” Issenberg said, that measured the impact of radio and TV ads and personal appearances. “They found that when Perry traveled somewhere there was a bump in the polls, in volunteer sign-ups and contributions.” TV ads, in contrast, had only a “short-lived” impact. The findings led Carney to send Perry to small markets such as Lubbock in settings with more glad-handing opportunities.
Carney also limited Perry’s debates: He had only four debates in the last 10 years and refused to debate the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Bill White.
Carney also made sure that Perry didn’t meet with any newspaper editorial boards. The result: Perry didn’t get any endorsements from any major Texas newspapers, but he still easily defeated White.
Although McClatchy used examples from the 2010 general election, Perry also fended off challenges from the moderate establishment Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and the Ron Paulian Debra Medina in the 2010 GOP primary. (Indeed, Perry trailed Hutchison badly in early polling.) Chris Moody describes Perry’s prior campaign as a scene from Moneyball:
At a campaign retreat before Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign, the eggheads basically told a group of consultants and strategists that their techniques were little more than a waste of time. It was like “going into the Catholic church telling everyone that Mary wasn’t a virgin, and Jesus really wasn’t her son,” Carney tells Issenberg.
“Either the eggheads are right or you’re right,” Carney told one consultant. “We’re going to prove it out, and plan our campaign and allow these guys to develop experiments for everything we do.”
Last night Issenberg emailed Politico’s Ben Smith that Perry’s campaign seemingly remains skeptical of national media opportunities and “[o]ne of the things Carney detests about campaigns is when they lurch tactically and lose sight of their broader strategic plans.” That’s apparent from Carney’s recent email to McClatchy at the initial link:
“This campaign is built to win delegates for the RNC convention in Tampa in 2012,” Carney said in response to McClatchy Newspapers’ questions via email. The Republican National Convention will be the week of Aug. 27. “We have been in the race for, like, six whole weeks, while some have been in the race for, like, six years. That is our focus.
“As the governor has said, we will get better every day. Our message for getting America working again and our record of job creation will be the foundation of our campaign’s success.”
The Perry campaign philosophy is also a subtext of the scoop Team Perry gave to HotAir’s Ed Morrissey regarding their Texas-size fundraising in the third quarter:
Perry had 49 days in which to raise funds, rather than the full 92 days of the quarter, a rate of about $349,000 a day. The final debate in September didn’t hurt Perry’s fundraising rate, either. In the 42 days prior to the Orlando debate, their rate was $323K per day; in the eight days following the Orlando debate, that escalated to $478K per day. Perry’s on-line operation did well, too, drawing in $1.1 million — despite, as my source says, not driving contributions with their on-line ads.
Best of all for the Perry campaign, the burn rate in the first seven weeks was negligible. The campaign has $15 million cash on hand from its $17.1 million haul. Team Perry wanted 18,000 contributors in this quarter, and finished with over 22,000. More than 60% of their contributors donated $250 or less, which means that they can keep going back to them for more money.
Ed highlighted that the news was intended to send the message that Perry isn’t going away anytime soon. But Team Perry is also saying that the fundraising accelerated after Perry’s widely-criticized debate performances. That the campaign specifically broke out that data is meant to send a message to those who are focused on the debates. That the campaign has spent a small percentage of what they have raised suggests they still believe a lot of traditional campaign spending is wasted. Are they right? Issenberg asks key questions on that score at the end of a NYT interview.