Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What's Behind the Early Start for Political TV Ads?

Political TV advertising seems to have started to flood the airwaves earlier than normal for the midterm elections. Before blaming the Citizens United decision and big-money PACs, consider these four other trends cited by Elizabeth Wilner of Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group on a recent Political Wire podcast. First of all, the early start is not a new trend, she points out; political TV advertising, in volume and expenditure, has been starting earlier and earlier for the last three election cycles, as advertisers use the lower-rate period to define and attack opponents and catch voter attention. The Citizen's United (and McCutcheon) decision, which unleashed spending by outside groups and individuals, is just one factor; hot issues, such as the Affordable Care Act, and party strategy, such as the battle for control of the Senate, have sparked some early TV ads, too. Campaigns are also beginning to push their online and social media efforts in non-digital channels; even in the 2012 election, few TV ads promoted a digital presence, but more early TV spots are appearing to feature Twitter hashtags and urls at least, Wilner noted. Finally, groups outside of the parties and candidates are also trying to jump in early with a more positive spin than the attack ads that turned off some voters in 2012 -- if only to woo the electorate into accepting the negative ad blitz that is likely to follow as election battles heat up come fall. For more on Wilner's remarks, see The Week article at http://theweek.com/article/index/261387/whats-behind-the-surge-in-political-tv-ads

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Midterm Campaigns Focusing on Women Voters

Both Republicans and Democrats are setting their sights on women voters in this year's midterm elections. An "enormous portion" of advertising will be "devoted to persuading women or repressing the women's vote," said Elizabeth Wilner, senior VP of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence, in a recent Ad Age article. In Congressional races, Democrats hope to continue their previous edge with women voters by adding equal pay, minimum wage and other pocketbook concerns to the reproductive choice and access to contraception issues that gained them female support in prior elections. Democrats are even hoping to use the GOP's critical focus on the Affordable Care Act to their advantage since "in most households the person in charge of health care is a woman," as Ms. Kantar noted, and those women may like aspects of "Obamacare," such as free mammograms and allowing children to stay on parental health policies until they are 26 years old. Republicans are countering by showcasing their female candidates and supporters, and by using a less biting, more emotionally positive tone that strategists think will be more appealing to women this time around. For examples of actual campaign ad tactics, go to http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/political-advertising-enlisted-war-women/293243/

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Direct Mail Still Key Tool in Conservative Fundraising

How are conservative campaigns raising money in the first quarter of 2014? Direct mail take bow. A recent Washington Post story looked at the top PACs in terms of fundraising, with a special focus on the National Draft Ben Carson Committee, which raised nearly $2.4 million -- more than half a million more than Ready for Hillary. Carson is an African American former neurosurgeon whose views on social issues and "Obamacare" are favored by the far right. The Draft Carson PAC also spent $2.44 million, with half of that going to mailing list rental and a direct fundraising agency. Why go for direct mail when it is cheaper to harvest donations online? For strong candidates and super PACs, the big initial investment builds a donor list that will be leveraged for funds and votes in future, and costs are cushioned by wealthy supporters. It's a lot riskier investment for long-shot candidates, but conservatives need to tap older voters, who are reached via mailbox rather than online, notes the Post article, so minorities and tea-party-affiliated Republicans (like Carson) are taking a chance on direct mail. Asserts Base Connect, a direct mail agency for conservative candidates and causes, on its website: "Direct mail fundraising is not the fastest way to raise money, or the least expensive. But over the long run, when certain conditions are met, direct mail has repeatedly proven to be the most effective and reliable vehicle for raising money." Many conservative hopefuls are betting on it. For more, see the Post story at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/17/the-draft-ben-carson-super-pac-raised-a-massive-amount-of-money-over-the-last-three-months-how/

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

'Dark Money' Flooding Into Midterm Elections

Even as the Senate Rules Committee holds hearings on the rising tide of election spending by nondisclosing groups -- 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and 501(c)(6) trade associations -- the 2014 midterm elections are shaping up as a record-breaker for such "dark money" spending. So far in the 2014 midterm cycle, three times more dark money spending has already been reported to the Federal Election Commission than at the same point during the 2012 presidential campaign, reported an analysis by nonpartisan political-spending watchdog OpenSecrets.org at the end of April. The 501(c)(4) groups include Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity, while 501(c)(6) groups range from the Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute to the Koch-network's Freedom Partners. In the 2012 election, these 501(c) organizations, which do not claim politics as their primary purpose and which do not have to disclose donors to the public, spent more than $310 million overall. At this point in the 2012 elections, dark money spending was at an all-time high compared with the same point of any previous election cycle, totaling about $4.4 million -- six times more than spent in the 2010 midterms at the same point. But that's peanuts compared to the tally to date for the 2014 midterms, where dark money is already at $12.3 million. For more of the analysis, go to http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2014/04/how-2014-is-shaping-up-to-be-the-da.html