By Craig Robinson
With 40 days to go before the November election, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) once again finds himself in a vulnerable position in his lively 2012 rematch with Ben Lange according to a confidential memo authored by a Lange advisor and obtained by The Iowa Republican from a third-party not directly connected to the Lange campaign.
“This is a single-digit race with Braley well below 50 percent,” states Cody Brown, Lange’s advisor and author of the memo. “Ben is winning among voters who have an opinion of both candidates and his name ID and favorables are the highest they have ever been.”
The Lange memo provides onlookers with the first window into the state of the Lange-Braley rematch since neither the campaign has released polling data.
The memo also notes the importance of the Romney campaign’s performance in the district, an issue previously raised by The Iowa Republican. Today it was revealed that Paul Ryan will return to Dubuque on Monday, a good decision by the Romney campaign and one they should continue to build upon.
Lange is also prepared to announce his best fundraising quarter of his campaign career, according to the memo, outperforming Braley’s prior two quarterly reports. This would put Lange’s fundraising total for the quarter over $320,000, an impressive haul for a congressional challenger in Iowa.
“Braley is vulnerable and we are poised to strike,” the memo concludes.
The Lange campaign confirmed the authenticity of the memo, but declined to discuss internal campaign communications.
Date: Thursday, September 27, 2012
To: Staff & Associates
From: Cody Brown, Lange Campaign Advisor
Subject: State of the Race: 40 Days
The purpose of this memo is to provide a strategic assessment of the ‘state of the race’ between Ben Lange and Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA) with 40 days remaining until Election Day.
From the beginning, we projected this race would be won or lost by a few thousand votes. In other words, it would be a dogfight. Nothing has fundamentally altered this projection. In fact, September polling confirms it. This is a single-digit race with Braley well below 50 percent. Ben is winning among voters who have an opinion of both candidates and his name ID and favorables are the highest they have ever been. Bottom line – Braley is vulnerable and Ben is poised to strike.
The environment in which we are currently operating is markedly different from last cycle. Redistricting chopped Braley’s voter registration advantage in half. Over half the district is new to Braley, which mitigates against his traditional advantage of ‘incumbency.’
The environment remains favorable for a credible right-of-center, fiscal conservative like Ben Lange. Voters believe we’re on the wrong track, they do not trust incumbent politicians, and Braley is on the wrong side of every major issue. As a result, Braley has no choice but to distort Ben’s positions, distract from his own record, and divide the electorate (as we’ve seen in his last two TV ads).
The presidential race continues to be a significant factor outside of our control. It is impacting nearly every facet of both the Lange and Braley campaigns, including voters’ moods and perceptions, our ground games (e.g., phone banking, canvassing, voter ID, GOTV, etc.) and the air wars (e.g., inventory, messaging, noise, etc.). This has inevitably exposed both campaigns to certain risks, which we must continue to manage.
Our campaign shares a strategic interest with the Romney campaign – they need to perform well in IA-01, the critical swing district in Iowa. Romney does not need to win the district, but he cannot afford to get blown out and expect to make up sufficient ground elsewhere. We must continue to do everything we can to support efforts of our national strategic partners.
Braley has landed on the wrong side of every major issue, a natural result of his longstanding inner struggle to reconcile his deep desire to openly advocate his leftist ideology with the political reality that he represents a right-of-center district. Braley has historically managed this tension by advocating and voting for his radical views in Washington while concealing his record in Iowa.
(Braley has even sought to reconcile these positions doctrinally through what he terms “populism,” a movement made famous most recently by George Wallace, who the New York Times described in 1972 as the most successful modern populist and who had racism as his base of appeal – not exactly a movement Iowans would find particularly appealing.)
Braley will continue to do everything he can to deflect attention from his own record and continue lying about Ben’s positions on the issues. We must continue to expose the truth about Braley’s record to allow voters to make an educated decision about whether Ben or Braley would better represent their values. We have made progress, but we have more work to do.
From the beginning, we knew Ben would not match Braley dollar for dollar since our campaign relies on Iowans to fund our campaign while Braley receives over 80 percent of his contributions from outside the state of Iowa. But we also knew we could not get outspent five to one like we did last cycle and still be successful.
That is why we put in place the finance plan that we did – to cut this gap to a more competitive level. Ben is now on the cusp of reporting his best quarter ever, outpacing even Braley’s April and July FEC filings. Ben has done an excellent job of raising the resources we need to compete. We must continue to stay goal-focused.
VI. Air War
Unlike other congressional races in Iowa, we have only one major media market dominating our district. The Cedar Rapids DMA reaches 86 percent of voters and broadcast TV costs approximately $50 per point, one of the cheapest markets in Iowa. This has allowed our campaign to wage a sustained paid advertising campaign, an important component of our overall strategy (but not the only component). We are in a solid position heading into the month of October.
Braley’s media firm, founded by Obama’s advisor David Axelrod, is formidable and should not be underestimated. Braley’s cash advantage has allowed him to reach more voters more often on multiple media markets and on cable. But, at the same time, Braley’s media team operates with a high-level of predictability and they have missed key strategic opportunities thus far, which have been noted.
Our communications activities have been solid, garnering as much earned media coverage as possibly any other congressional race in Iowa. We have focused our time and attention on those media outlets who have been willing to give both sides a fair hearing, mostly in-district papers and stations.
Unfortunately, we are also fighting certain media outlets who are either aligned ideologically or politically with Braley, or who are simply suffering an acute form of ‘Political Stockholm Syndrome’ with incumbent politicians like Braley. But these are factors outside of our control and we must continue to stay focused on working with reasonable and honest reporters who have the courage to report the truth.
VIII. Ground Game
As stated above, our paid advertising is an important part of our strategy, but it is not the only part. We have invested a good deal of time, energy, and money into our ground game, starting with the single most valuable asset of any campaign – the candidate’s time.
The challenge for Ben is not persuading voters. When his message reaches voters, he tends to convert them. The challenge for Ben is simply whether he can reach enough voters prior to election day – either on air or on the ground. In this regard, we have made good progress.
To date, Ben has held hundreds of events around the district, moving from house to house and town to town. In the process, we have recruited thousands of supporters, left thousands of yard signs in our wake, and recruited hundreds of local county leaders and precinct captains to support our efforts.
Our other voter contact efforts are proceeding as planned in concert with the Victory program. We have already knocked tens of thousands of doors and have made phone contacts in the hundreds of thousands. We must continue recruiting activists to pound the pavement and to fill the call shifts.
Absentees are, once again, a challenge around the state for Republicans – an unnecessary reality, but a reality nonetheless. We must continue to provide the maximum support to our strategic partners to ensure the absentee program is a success.
Braley, on the other hand, is reaffirming a key lesson from 2010 – he is not a good campaigner. His campaign schedule is extremely light and he does not appear to particularly enjoy meeting with voters. In fact, his campaign appears unable to organize and drive turnout for his own campaign events, preferring instead to piggy-back on other preexisting events. The press hype surrounding Braley, particularly coming out of Des Moines, has vastly overstated his campaign abilities and we must continue to exploit this fact.
Overall, as a result of Ben’s leadership, our campaign is better positioned heading into October than even our original forecasts projected. We have achieved nearly every strategic objective to date while the Braley campaign has stumbled and missed several strategic opportunities. The presidential race is a significant factor and we must continue to support our strategic partners. Braley is vulnerable and we are poised to strike.
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