Friday, October 28th, 2016

I don’t want you to vote for me


The Van Hollen campaign (you know, the only successful state-wide campaign the Republicans ran this year) is taking a little flak for their campaign tactics. It began with Casper at Ask Me Later reporting he heard the Van Hollen camp “distributed flyers in Madison right before the election indicating that those who voted for Van Hollen did not have to vote for Green.”

Spivak and Bice followed up with their column today misstating the facts,

What do you do if you’re the Republican candidate for attorney general and stuck at the top of the ticket is a guy who is going nowhere fast?

Abandon your party’s gubernatorial candidate by urging voters to split their tickets.

That’s what Attorney General-elect J.B. Van Hollen did on the eve of the election last week. His campaign slapped together a leaflet aimed at supporters of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, proclaiming: “You can be a GOOD DEMOCRAT and VOTE AGAINST Kathleen FALK.”

Not the type of pitch that will earn you brownie points with your party. Aw, but what the heck, Van Hollen won, making him the only Wisconsin Republican to win a statewide seat.

It turns out the Van Hollen campaign didn’t “abandon” the Green campaign. They did a targeted mailing to confirmed Doyle supporters saying it was okay to be a Democrat and vote for Van Hollen. The flyer did not mention Doyle (other than one Doyle statement critical of Falk) or Green, but only referred to Kathleen Falk and JB Van Hollen.

As Brian Fraley e-mailed me (and others, taking time away from his victory laps) when I brought the controversy to his attention,

We targeted Doyle donors who were already likely to go to the polls.

We distributed flyers that said you could be a good Democrat and vote
AGAINST Kathleen Falk. We included quotes from Democrat law
enforcement professionals who supported JB.

We distributed about 1,000 of these in the twenty four hours before
the election in Dane, Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties and only put
them on the doors of homes that had a Doyle sign in their yard.

I think the election results proved that the winning coalition needed
to include independents and Democrats. That’s why
was such an important part of our campaign. We were not turning out
Doyle voters, but we were not going to dismiss Democrat voters who
voted for Doyle or Baldwin or Sheriff Clark, either.


I’m not sure why Spivak & Bice considered the flyer significant, and judging from their follow up blog post (“…decide for yourself whether the Green Team has a legitimate beef or is just being whiny”) I think they’re wondering, too.

The Van Hollen campaign made a very clear effort to attract Democrats as well as independents and Republicans. Because as Willie Sutton* would’ve have said had he been a political campaign consultant, “That’s where the votes are.” It’s not news at this point, and it should be no surprise.

Looking at the Van Hollen campaign’s choices, what were they supposed to do? Hand out flyers begging Democrats not to vote for them?

* Probable Arthur Miller fan Bill Christofferson corrected me (see comments). Willie Sutton was the bank robber, Willy Loman was the salesman.

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