Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rolling out Dave Spence for Governor

Dave Spence

David Spence introducing himself to Missouri Republicans:
ST. LOUIS • Months after he first discussed the goal of seeking the Republican nomination for governor, St. Louis businessman Dave Spence remains a virtual unknown to most party activists across Missouri.
Thus begins Jake Wagman's coverage of Dave Spence in the Post Dispatch this past Saturday. Spence is a political newcomer, so I expect him to make some mistakes along the way. I think he could have announced his candidacy better, but I also appreciate the fact that he was willing to engage a grassroots organization like the St. Louis Tea Party. The photo above was from the Tea Party's Christmas Party last December. Since my initial criticism was about the fact that he didn't engage grassroots for his announcement, I see his willingness to meet with Tea Partiers in December as a course correction. Hopefully, he remains on his new heading.

The Post Dispatch provides a good introduction to Spence, so read the whole thing. Below, I will focus on what I think Spence's strategy should be to earn grassroots support.

In addition to Spence, Bill Randles has announced that he's running for governor. Randles has already begun to build a base of grassroots conservative support; however, Randles hasn't been able to raise much money. This race looks to be one between Randles grassroots boots on the ground and Spence's TV and radio driven air war. Ultimately, one of these two men will face Gov. Jay Nixon next November. Nixon raised over $17M in his 2008 campaign and has a reputation as a moderate Democrat. He will be hard to beat.

Because of his money advantage, I believe that Spence will win the primary unless Randles rapidly raises a lot more money. Basically, Spence will be able to buy the name id that Randles can't afford and that's what will win the primary for him. However, Spence has to be careful not to alienate Randles's supporters because Spence needs them to join him in the Fall for the fight against Nixon.

To do that, Spence needs to be accessible. He could host get togethers around the state like Ed Martin's "Ask Ed Anything" events. Speaking engagements will also help. He has to make a point of engaging the people who've come to see him. Often those people have come because they have a question for the candidate, so he needs to allow time at the end of those speeches to mingle.

I think there need to be several debates between Spence and Randles and they need to be held around the state so voters have an opportunity to see these candidates. At least a couple of debates should occur during the legislative session so that these men can comment on the Republican controlled General Assembly and their own legislative priorities. Spence should expect to be attacked by Randles (which isn't to say that Randles will attack him, merely that Spence should be prepared), but Spence needs to be gracious in his self-defense if he wants Randles supporters to help him in the Fall.

Ultimately, I would like to see Jay Nixon defeated in November. If Spence plays his cards right during the primary he could gain additional grassroots support in the Fall. The primary fight in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District between Ed Martin and Ann Wagner is also shaping up to be one between Ed's ground game and Ann's air campaign; however, that district is solidly conservative, so many grassroots activists will be looking for something else to do once the primary is over. Spence (and Randles) should build bridges to those activists during the primary so they can leverage those grassroots against Nixon in the Fall.

3 comments:

je2020 said...

I think it is worth noting that Bill Randles has attended over 160 events and personally met tens of thousands of mostly conservative grassroots folks over the past year. These are the influencers and key communicators for the GOP primary and they are talking to their friends.

Now, how much is that worth? How much would it cost for that many people to give their personal recommendation to 10 of their friends? It's more powerful, personal, and local than paid media.

Also, I think Spence will be the camp that will go negative first. For one, he's hired the most notorious negative ad consultants in Missouri. Secondly, Spence, in his first month getting his feet wet, has already said things that have given conservatives pause. When his consultants realize that they aren't getting the base, they'll attempt to separate the grassroots from Randles via negative communication, and they'll not be afraid to manufacture knocks when none exist. Third, Bill Randles doesn't have to go negative because he has too many positive ideas to talk about. Campaigns go negative when they've exhausted everything positive about a candidate.

I agree that debates need to occur, but I also predict that the Spence's consultants will vigorously avoid them. For every debate they sidestep, they alienate another grassroots/GOP organization. Brenda Webb has found an open days for both campaigns for later this month, but Spence's consultants will not commit. There are several other organizations that are planning debates, and they all will be equally disappointed when Spence's consultants reject them.

Look. I'm sure Mr. Spence is a nice guy. I'm sure he votes GOP. However, let's face it, Mr. Spence exists as a paycheck for the entrenched consultants, first and foremost. It doesn't strike anyone as odd that Mr. Spence announces, Lt. Gov. Kinder announces reelection, and all Kind er's paid consultants roll over to Spence's camp after a Kinder endorsement? I'm sure Mr. Spence wants to win and I'm sure he has good intentions, but I don't feel so certain about a group of consultants who simply drift with the money tide.

I would suggest we ask both campaigns to talk to us about WHAT THEY PLAN TO DO when they get in office. Politics is becoming more about the meta-game: What does the bank account look like? How many ads have they run? Do they have buttons? What are the polls saying?

Lets ask our candidates what they are all about. What are their plans? How well do they understand government? Do they share our values? All of these things are the solvent backing to the only currency that is valid in politics: votes.

dsm said...

@je2020,

I think Randles is a great candidate, I just wish he had more money to mount a campaign. And I agree with your other points, too. I'd love to see a debate between Randles and Spence, but I'm not optimistic. I think the reason that Spence should debate Randles, and debate him early, is that Spence needs the practice. Both Randles and Nixon are lawyers, so I worry that if Spence doesn't get a few debates in during the primary, he will blow it in the general election. We can't afford that.

je2020 said...

@dsm

A great, vast majority of MOGOP donors are on the sidelines in the gubernatorial race, and Spence's consultants aren't doing him any favors. Bill Randles continues to show why he is a solid candidate that has the chops to take down Nixon and donors are starting to see the contrast in communicative competency each and every day.

When it comes to paid media, there is the smart, targeted way, and the overpriced consultant way. Donors will appreciate that their contributions are being used smartly for the purpose of bringing lasting change to Missouri's government and not being used to line the pockets of those who feel an unwarranted sense of entitlement.

We have a fantastic candidate in Mr. Randles and a man in Mr. Spence who seems to mean well, but just isn't candidate material for this cycle. The smart thing to do as a party is to put our money behind Mr. Randles and let a new, more open era of the MOGOP dawn. An era where we just aren't "the other guys," but one where we have a clearly communicated winning strategy for generations.

If voters wish to see debates, they need to get on the horn! Contact both campaigns and let them know that debates will only help us identify who should lead our state ticket in the fall.

State Lincoln Days offer the perfect opportunity to have this first debate. As such, I would also suggest contacting the state party and request that it be put on the docket.