Thursday, September 18, 2014

How a Republican Wins an Election

Harold L. Gullan. Toomey’s Triumph: Inside a Key Senate Campaign. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 2012.

The author analysis Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race that was won by U.S. Rep. Patrick Toomey. Gullan noted then that Toomey successfully showed enough voters that he and them had enough shared values even if they did not agree on all the issues.

Pennsylvania is a state with a history of being an “unpredictable swing state”. Toomey had an advantage of having a dozen campaign aides who were “young and energetic”.

Toomey’s general election opponent, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, had prior risen to the post of Deputy Chief of Naval Operations. When a new Naval Operations Chief was named, Sestak was replaced by someone loyal to the new Chief. Critics of Sestak incorrectly claimed that Sestak had been “dismissed” with incorrect hints he may have been insufficient in his job. Sestak then ran for Congress and defeated incumbent Curt Weldon.

Toomey was a local political activist who ran for Congress in 1998 when the Democratic incumbent didn’t seek reelection Toomey won by ten percentage points. He served three terms. Toomey is pro-life, wants to reduce gun restrictions, is against gay marriage, and favors oil drilling Toomey challenged incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican Primary. Toomey lost.

Toomey then worked as President of the Club for Growth. When Toomey ran for the Senate in 2010, he opposed government bailouts for any reason, including those for the Wall Street investors and banks he used to defend when he was with the Club for Growth.

Toomey easily defeated Peg Luksik, a conservative ideologue, in the Republican Primary. In the Democratic Primary, Sestak defeated the incumbent Arlen Specter, who had switched parties to run as a Democrat.

Sestak sought to rebrand himself from a liberal to a pragmatist. Sestak lost ground politically when he claimed the White House offered him a job if he would not run against Specter, yet he refused to provide any details on what could have had criminal ramifications. Sestak trailed in most polls and this “job gate” as the press called it hurt his image.

Sestak also lost ground when he called for more “accountability and transparency” in Congressional earmarks for special projects for their states. Critics argued why Sestak didn’t make the issue easier by pledging not to accept earmarks.

Television advertising was critical in the race. The author notes he preferred the “creativity” of Toomey’s ads over Sestak’s.

Toomey’s lead in the polls widened in August. Toomey was seen by more voters as more mainstream and Sestak was seen by more voters as being more extreme. Sestak’s attempt at rebranding himself was not as successful as he wanted.

Toomey concentrated campaigning more in the heartland of Pennsylvania while Sesteak concentrated on increasing support and voter turnout in the southeastern part of the state which supported him more strongly then in the rest of the state.

The author observed that Toomey’s staff and consultants were good in their analysis of what to do throughout most of the state. The author further observes Toomey spent campaign funds well on television advertising. Toomey also benefited from some anti-Obama sentiment that hurt Democratic candidates.

The author notes Sestak ran a “tireless, well-organized campaign” but Toomeys team was “simply more energized”. Negative TV ads were run by both sides. Negative ads can create modest shirts in political opinion yet in such a close race that may have made the difference for Toomey.

Toomey won by just 50.7% of the vote to 49.3% of the vote for Sestak, according to the State Department’s final official vote tally.


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