the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Show me the money!

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The first thing most aspiring candidates discover when they approach the Republican Party for support is we don’t have any.  Well, that’s not really true, but more on that in a moment; we don’t have the kind of support they think we should have.  Despite its supposed ties to big business and rich folks, most state and county organizations run on a shoestring.  Few have money available for statewide or legislative races and, due to Federal Campaign Finance Laws, none at all for federal candidates.

I’m sure a lot of people reading this can’t believe what I just wrote.  After all, you get the same phone calls I do, asking for money for Republican causes, but I’m here to let you in on a secret.  There are a bunch of different groups, and they don’t share with each other.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raises its own funds, as do the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Republican Governor’s Committee (RGC) and, of course, the  Republican National Committee (RNC).  To that add state and county party organizations and, in many cases, state senate and house caucuses, all of whom are going for the same dollars from the same donor base.  Next time you get that call, pay attention to which group is making it.  Odds are the one you get after that is a different group.

Besides, when they call for donations, most people do exactly what you do – tell them “no”.  Some don’t say it as politely as I know you do, but those telephone solicitations  hear a lot more “no” than they do “yes” and tend to bring in just a few percent more than they cost.  The simple fact is  most people donate directly to a candidate or a cause much more quickly than they do a party organization.  After all, isn’t that what you do?

So, that explains why most state and local Republican Party organizations don’t really have enough to give to a candidate; they raise money primarily from their own members and use it to fund their own operations.  Since candidates believe the most important thing for winning a race is money, they often are annoyed when the party says they don’t have it.

Candidates make a serious mistake if they disregard the Party at that point.  There’s more to elections than TV commercials and printed material, and that’s where the Party can shine.  The forgotten key to a successful campaign is people.

With the advent of radio and, to a greater degree, TV, campaigns changed.  Money had to be raised to ever-increasing levels to get a candidate’s message to the people.  Sometime around 1985 or 1990 we reached the point of diminishing returns but, in most cases, Republican candidates and their counselors didn’t change tactics.  Since the Democrats changed theirs to fit the new paradigm, we’ve tended to lose more elections than we’ve won.

However, some GOP members and leaders learned a lesson in the 2000 election and, for the most part, have been growing and refining it ever since.  I have to admit not every state is as good at it as others and there’s resistance to the idea of building a grassroots network as the primary campaign strategy, but my home state of Oregon, particularly in the suburbs of the major cities, is well on the way to having it down to a science.

The point of all this is that there is a less-expensive, more efficient way to win elections.  All it takes is focusing on people rather than relying on purchased media.

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Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

1 January 2010 at 12:52 pm

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