Murray's gamble and Rossi's strategy



Posted on October 21, 2010 at 9:57 PM

As President Barack Obama comes to Seattle campaigning for Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray, some thoughts on strategy for both sides.

The Murray Gamble
Democrats know they've got a problem.  Every poll shows Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting this year.  So clearly, bringing in Obama, Clinton and Biden, is all about generating some excitement for Democrats.

Will it work?  A new Gallup poll of voters nationwide is fascinating.  Gallup asked what people think about the President coming to their town to campaign for a local candidate.

Among Democrats, 48% say, a presidential visit would make them more likely to support a candidate.  That's what Murray is hoping to do--energize her base.

Meanwhile, among Republicans, it's exactly the opposite.  71% say, they'd be less likely to vote for Obama's candidate.  No surprise there and not a big problem for Murray as she wasn't counting on the Republican vote anyway.

But here's what's interesting:  Among independents, 12% say an Obama visit makes them more likely to support a candidate but 39% say, less likely.  That's the downside of inviting Obama--the risk of turning off some independent voters.

What's the Republican strategy?
As Murray was with the President, Rossi was touring a manufacturing plant in Kent and making the rounds of TV stations.  "You know, we just do our own things," he told us.

Rossi says he has his own strategy, but what is it?  There are several possibilities.

Potential strategy #1: Don't be tempted to do what Democrats do.  Veteran Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly says this year, getting out the vote is a problem for Democrats, not Republicans.  "The Republicans are already charged up, I went to a tea party candidates meeting in Bellingham Washington in July, 340 people were there," Connelly says.

Potential strategy #2:  Don't take on baggage from other Republicans.  Remember when Dave Reichert brought in President Bush?  Democrats used that picture over and over.  Rossi could invite Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, or Sarah Palin, but that might not help his appeal to independents.  "It takes a lot of effort to work events around individuals like that," Rossi says.

Potential strategy #3:  Keep the focus on Rossi.  If nothing else, Rossi is completely disciplined about sticking to his talking points--in his commercials, debates, or on the stump.  "Dino Rossi says what he wants to say, talks what he wants to talk about, and that's all," Connelly says.

Potential strategy #4:  Some stars are more useful raising money.  Coming in for Rossi today is Elaine Chao.  President Bush's former Labor Secretary is hardly a household name.  But she is able to draw a select group of donors to an International District fundraiser.

Potential strategy #5:  Be cautious with the press.  Rossi did bring a pretty big star to Bellevue--former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.  But his exposure to reporters was limited to a conference call.  Likewise, Rossi's campaign brought in Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, but kept press interviews to five minutes.  "They could have made their case, but I think there is a sufficient hostility toward the mainstream media, or the lamestream media as Sarah Palin calls it, that they don't see any use for this sort of thing," Connelly says.

Even if Rossi did invite some Republican stars, it would be hard to compete with the President.  Rossi says his campaign is going to get out the vote in other ways, including use of phone banks, social media and quick campaign stops in small cities to keep his base energized.

Two very different strategies from the Rossi and Murray camps.  With the volatile polls showing just about 3% undecided, these are crucial decisions because the election outcome will hinge on who bothers to vote.