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.