Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

NRCC Moving Targets

In House on May 28, 2013 at 10:17 am

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) just launched a new early attack campaign against several presumed Democratic targets, but their message delivery medium is rather unique. The Committee is testing a theme that we will hear often, but their first communication foray is not via television or radio as we’ve become accustomed.

Against four incumbent Democratic House Members — representatives John Barrow (D-GA-12), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Ron Barber (D-AZ-2), and Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) — the NRCC is beginning the process of relating the IRS scandal to the members’ vote for Obamacare.

The message moves throughout the assigned district attached to a vehicle or series of vehicles as a billboard-style advertisement. It simply identifies the member with picture and calls attention to their vote for Obamacare by highlighting their support in giving the Internal Revenue Service control over healthcare. As we know, the IRS is currently embroiled in an investigation over their practice of targeting conservative groups.

Since the investigation is likely to go on for some time, we can expect to hear much about the IRS’ major role in administering the Obamacare law throughout the election cycle. Since IRS officials have already admitted that the government enforcement agency unfairly targets conservatives, the NRCC is quickly beginning to test the message. If it resonates, and early indications seem to suggest that people are troubled by the agency’s actions, this issue is likely to become a major focal point all the way through the 2014 elections.

The four selected members are an interesting group. Rep. Barrow, fresh from his announcement that he won’t run for the open Georgia Senate seat, is an obvious choice because he represents a strong Republican seat (Obama ’12: 43.6 percent) and the mid-term turnout model is more likely to cut against a Democratic incumbent.

Rep. Kirkpatrick is another obvious choice. Winning in 2008, she lost her seat in 2010 but came back in a much different post-redistricting CD against a new opponent. Though she won the 2012 election, her victory percentage was only 49 percent.

Rep. Barber is another close winner, obtaining just 50.4 percent of the vote. He is expected to face a re-match with retired military officer Martha McSally. The fact that two of the four project test members are basically from the same geographic area is surprising, however.

The most eye-opening targeted choice is Rep. Peterson. Though in a heavily Republican seat, in fact the second-most Republican district in his state of Minnesota, Peterson continues to win easy re-election campaigns. While President Obama could only attract 44.1 percent in 2012, Peterson romped to his 12th congressional victory with a 60-35 percent margin. The strategy here is to test a safe Democratic member in a district that should elect a Republican in order to see just how far this issue will move the political needle.

The NRCC approach may prove to be effective. The moving billboard idea does attract some attention, begins to associate their target with not only his or her vote for Obamacare but with giving more power to the IRS, and for a much smaller expenditure than running early television and radio. This is merely step one of what we know will be a long process of tying the IRS scandal to individual House members.

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