Hillsborough 03 special election was a major debacle for the Republicans. Where to start in explaining where things went wrong is a tough choice.
Do I start with the fact that we had a somewhat weak candidate. Oh, he was very conservative in his views, Right to Work, Castle Doctrine, Right to Life, etc. but he wanted to run as a moderate to not upset his Peterborough base of voters. I was told at one point to be careful mentioning the “T.. P…. words,” in fact please refrain from using them in connection with David Simpson and his campaign. He also wanted to stay aloof of the fray, not get down into the trenches and fight. No negative Letters to the Editor about the opponent Leishman allowed.
There was an offer from ABLE-NH (a disabled lobbying group) and Leishman to participate in a forum run by ABLE. Of course, this was a rigged game with a stacked deck, but instead of negotiating with them, it was outright rejected. I authored the Letter to the Editor explaining the campaigns position, that it was not appropriate for a Special Interest Lobbying group to run the forum, I really wanted to say the truth, this was a rigged game with a stacked deck by a hyper-partisan group looking to get more stuff for themselves and their children, hoping to trip up Simpson for quotes to put in the paper.
We were fortunate in having the NH GOP and the Hillsborough GOP come out to “Help Us” or were we? Yes, they did some really good works I guess. Advice on how many mailers to send out, how many signs were needed, things to say or do with reporters. They also came in with a “Canned” campaign all laid out on a spread sheet. It was an awful plan for a NH House Seat special election. All the phone calling was being done by volunteers at the GOP Headquarters in Concord. This relieved the candidate from doing any of the actual calling as he was in Peterborough and the phone banks were in Concord!
It seemed to me the schedule was upside down and backward with phone calling early in the campaign leading up to a few weekends of “Literature Dropping” one for each town in the district. That was a major issue with the locals in the campaign namely myself. New Ipswich is large and very rural; Peterborough is large and somewhat rural. There is no way you were going to reach every Republican household in one day in these towns.
But the fact that they wanted to do literature at the end and phone banking at the beginning made no sense to me. I wanted to get literature in the voters hands early on in the cycle including Absentee Ballot Request forms. I was informed that no one uses Absentee Ballots and it is a waste of time perhaps that is true especially if you get the forms to them in the last week of the campaign! Even defining “Literature Dropping” was an issue, they wanted to place it and run, I wanted to knock on every door and hand them the literature, bring back a list with the “Not Homes” flagged so they could be called on a follow-up by the candidate or staff in the district not some anonymous people in Concord.
Frustrated with the “Help” from the GOP, Jeff Frates-Fox from New Ipswich and I started slogging our way through New Ipswich Republican addresses supplied to us by the GOP. Note, no Undeclareds were on this list as the theory was to “let sleeping dogs alone” Soon after we started this I was removed as campaign chairman, the official excuse was for not keeping the spread sheets updated with things like the meeting place for the “Literature drops” scheduled a month out. Did I mention that the spread sheets were in possession and control of the NH GOP. I presume the real reason was the NH GOP wanted to take full control of the process and I wasn’t following their plan.
I practically begged the candidate and some of his other staff to start working the Peterborough addresses immediately. The response was they didn’t think we should change the campaign strategy and schedule in mid-stream! I asked a number of times who was taking care of Greenville, the answer was we have it under control. I don’t think the candidate did any voter outreach in Greenville, all they got was phone calls from NH GOP office and a literature 'drop and run' at the very end.
So there you have it, a weak candidate not willing to do the dirty work, a proven losing campaign strategy now 0 for 3 over the simple system we used last fall to get 4 Republicans elected in H03.
How did they beat him, a huge turnout in Peterborough made up primarily of women (at least 3 to 1 possibly 4 to 1 over male voters) sympathetic to the ABLE moms trying to just get services for their children, teachers who were frightened by the unions that they would lose their bargaining rights and gays looking to protect gay marriage. Republicans in Greenville and New Ipswich not willing to go out of their way to support another candidate from Peterborough who doesn’t come out to see or call them didn’t help the cause.
Good news is the 2012 election cycle is right around the corner. The NH GOP and the Hillsborough GOP will be so busy with the other races they will leave us alone out here to do our thing the way we know it works!
Work Hard Have Fun!
Update: In Peterborough, 586 Democrats voted, 290 Republicans, and 394 Undeclareds with Simpson getting 358 total votes! These could be off by one or two as this was a quick hand count!