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View Diary: CT-Sen: Lieberman campaign comes unhinged (176 comments)

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  •  if that isn't a lesson, what is? (4+ / 0-)
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    zzyzx, mjd in florida, Kevskos, BB10

    The beltway crowd make terrible ads.

    •  Yeah, exactly ... (2+ / 0-)
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      Go Vegetarian, Da Buddy

      Hillsman is amazing. I don'tk now how he comes up with so many great ads. The Jesse Ventura action doll ad and the Nader/Mastercard ad are, well, priceless. Did he do the Wellstone 'I don't have any money so I am talking really fast in 30 seconds' ad?

      •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
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        Da Buddy

        That was Hillsman too.

        And remember the ads with the Musgrave lookalike picking the pocket of a soldier in Iraq?

        That was Hillsman as well.

        •  Also Paul Wellstone's 'Rudy and Me' ad (3+ / 0-)
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          sj, Da Buddy, The Other Steve

          A parody of "Roger and Me", done for the 1990 campaign (when Wellstone was a longshot, challenging incumbent Rudy Boschwitz).

          Quite possibly the best political ad ever made.  Brilliant, funny as hell, and effective as hell.  

          I Wellstone was the only challenger that year to unseat an incumbent senator, even though he was outspent, big time.

          One of the highlights of this year for me was chatting with Bill Hillsman, and having him compliment the creativity of one the efforts I helped with (DC Olympic Curling team).

          It was like having Babe Ruth compliment me on my home run hitting ability.   ;)

          •  Worked the 1990 Wellstone Campaign... (10+ / 0-)

            Late summer of 1989 I had a long conversation with Paul and some of his friends.  I had known him for about 20 years -- many a campaign for this and that all for good causes, and while I was pretty mainstream as a campaign manager for DFL legislative candidates, my heart was with Paul -- so I followed, and most folk thought I was utterly crazy.  But I thought it out, may have been deluded, but concluded that the one who could draw a distinction with Rudy Boschwitz was the one who could beat him.  Thanksgiving, 1989, I actually predicted the outcome between Dinner and Dessert.

            Virtually all the state legislators came out for Berg instead of Wellstone before precinct caucus, but I got into spending hours calling precinct goers, and felt the movement.  We won about 42% at Caucus, and in the first ballot at State Convention we picked up a point -- we got 43%.  But I had been calling people for 2nd and 3rd ballot votes, and it followed, we moved up.  Won our 60% for Endorsement on the 6th Ballot.  During the next week we did our first poll, and we had 17% name recognition among regular primary voters.  To say the least, we had a piece to go.  

            During the summer I worked to get state legislators to carry Paul's card when they door knocked.  Hard going.  They expected crash and burn.  Did not want to associate.  No money -- none at all -- None of the big time DC Progressive Organizations would cut a check -- and DSCC wanted essentially a wash -- Paul would buy a table at a fancy dinner, and they might cut a check for 7000 more than the check.  

            But then came along enough money to put Hillsman's "Looking for Rudy" on twice (it ran two minutes or so), and our numbers started rising out of nowhere. CNN thought so much of the ad, they ran it with commentary every hour or so.  Then the Republicans had a sex scandal -- the Christian Conservative Governor nominee had been nude swimming with the girlfriends of his daughter at about age 15 -- Legal affidavids had been filed on this.  Then the paper dug up evidence of his mistress who overlapped wife one, and wife two, and Boschwitz had to come home from DC and try to solve the problem.  First time round he failed, but he finally substituted a moderate Republican for the sexy Christian Conservative Nominee, and then the right of the party crashed on Boschwitz.  Arnie Carlson was indeed elected Governor that year.  

            But in the wake of the Republican Swim Party Sex Scandal and the Christian Conservative Mistress who overlapped Wife One, and Wife two, Boschwitz did his own stupid number -- he sent a letter to Minnesota Jewish voters making the case that Paul Wellstone was a Bad Jew, because his wife of maybe 30 years was a Baptist.  (Sheila was Paul's High School Sweetheart and they married during their first year in college.).  The letter made some other claims -- the suggestion that the fact that Paul's father's family had been wiped out by the Stalinists (Paul's Paternal roots were in Harbin on the Siberian-China border -- Jews there were mostly the remains of the exiles of the revolution of 1825 who got sent to Siberian exile) -- but according to Boshwitz there was somehow something less authentic about coming out of a Stalinist Purge than coming from a family that managed to early on get out of Nazi Germany. Five days before Election Day in Minnesota we were debating these claims.  

            One cannot imagine how this nasty hit Sheila -- and how it totally knocked off Paul.  What helped was just thousands of Minnesotians who came forward and proclaimed the value and possibility of good mixed marriages.  As an observer, I never knew so many Lutherans were long and lovingly married to Catholics, or how many Minnesota Jews had their own marriages or their childrens' marriages to proclaim.  We had Norwegians attesting to the value of being married to a Swede -- and both of them to Danes.  For Boschwitz -- it was the biggest backfire one could imagine, and I actually suspect it may have put it away for Wellstone, though one will never really know.  But having come from 17% Name Recognition AFTER THE ENDORSEMENT, to the verge of victory, and then having to go through five days of idiot bigotry about a 30 year successful marriage -- one can never never forget.  The day after the election -- actually about 7AM the morning after, I came to understand as a result of being a semi-participant in a phone call, that Senator Lieberman could not understand why the Jewish Letter had not been an asset. He just didn't understand that what with Boschwitz's 11 million in the bank (10 million spent) and Wellstone's having no access at all to DSCC money or any other liberal money, Bill Plant had said on CBS that Minnesota had somehow elected the most liberal Senator in the US Senate.  (The Boys thought they had it fixed, I guess.)  And Lieberman knew about the letter -- why didn't it work?

            It is into this mix that you drop Bill Hillsman, an Alumni of Carleton College who knew Wellstone from his student days, but had not actually been one of his students, but who had started an advertising Co. in Mpls -- one with a progressive edge -- and who was willing to talk even when Rick Kaplan's checkbook showed double zeroes.  Hillsman was a realist -- how much TV advertising would really cost, and one of his recruits for production kept calling Paul "The Product" just so as to irritate him given what Paul actually thought of TV ads and all that rot.  But they got some stuff in the can, and eventually we raised enough money to pay to put it on a couple of times, and then CNN rebroadcast it, and then the stations were overloaded with calls asking when the next ads would be broadcast -- and eventually we sold video of the ads to raise money for more TV time.  

            I know all about not getting money from the DSCC and all the DC or Beltway Liberals.  You know what -- we won anyhow, and we did it for a little over a million dollars against Boschwitz's ten or eleven million.  Now it can't be done everywhere this way -- and unless you are authentically one of and for what Paul called the "Little Feller" -- you can never do it.  

            Progressives need to know a lot more about this 1990 campaign and how it worked to elect an unconventional Democratic Progressive and Populist opponent to a well situated and rich Republican -- because knowing how to do this is what is in our future should we be anywhere near successful.  There is much and will be much more written about Wellstone (who remains unique) -- but if you can get your hands on "Professor Wellstone Goes to Washington: The Inside Story of a Grass Roots US Senate Campaign" by Dennis McGrath and Dana Smith, U of Minnesota Press, 1995., you will have your hands on the biography of that successful campaign.  Each state is different -- each state produces its own sort of potential candidates.  You can't follow it as a pattern.  

            The point of Hillsman's Jesse Ventura ad in 1998 was that he turned the guy in the ring (the Wrestler in his tights) into Rodan's "The Thinker" as a video morph.  Paul had issues with Ventura -- much of it about Wrestling, because Paul was a Greeko-Roman style champ while Jesse was the Commercial knock-off.  Hillsman did great ads for both.  Anyhow -- all this is part of the Liberal Progressive culture -- it is just one of our good and great stories.  There are many more.  


            •  Sara, sorry to but in, (0+ / 0-)

              but yours is a great post, informative and humorous.

              Thank you.

            •  Excellent story (1+ / 0-)
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              You are 100% right -- Dems need to hear this story.  If we spent a lot more time trying to replicate this creative strategy, and a lot less time whining about Diebold, the Mainstream media, etc., etc., etc., we would have a much better chance of winning back the senate.

              1990 was an amazing race, and the Rudy and Me ad was incredible.   I even heard Frank Luntz one time say it might be the best political ad of all time.  When you can get a GOP messaging genius saying that -- you know you've done well.  

            •  It's a great story. (0+ / 0-)

              I never knew Paul Wellstone -- only his record -- and that from a great distance. But I still cried on the day he died, as death tore the final pages from that record.  

              You can still watch the 1990 campaign ads though:

              Looking for Rudy

              Fast Paced Paul

              The grass is greener where it's watered.

              by decon on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 06:15:56 AM PDT

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            •  Sounds right to me (0+ / 0-)

              I was in Minnesota for that campaign and you remember the facts as I do.

              In 2000, I was teaching non-linear editing to some kids who wanted to do some ads for Nader. I told them to go ahead and try.  When they were done, they threw a party.  I suggested they invite Hillsman.  And wonder of wonders, Bill shows up.

              Needless to say, the students acted as if the Ad God had blessed them.  Not only is Hillsman a genius, he is a kind and generous man.

              Nothing is fool-proof to a sufficiently talented fool

              by techno on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 06:48:10 AM PDT

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    •  Don't use 'Beltway' when you mean 'bad' (5+ / 0-)

      Not to jump on this (and John DE, this certainly ain't meant as a slam on you personally) but... lumping in all the "beltway" crowd is a pet peeve of mine.

      Making good ads has nothing to do with being inside the beltway or outside the beltway.  The two best TV ad guys I know are Bill Hillsman and Bud Jackson.  Bill is in MN, and Bud is in DC.  They both rock because they are creative as hell, fantastic guys, and they really care about the causes and candidates they promote.   Oh, and their ads WORK.  

      I know this seems a small point, and it's easy to just use the shorthand "beltway," but here's why this is more than just a question of semantics:  

      1. It completely distracts from the real problem.  The problem isn't that the Dems keep hiring beltway consultants, it's that they hire BAD consultants.  Eliminate DC consultants from the map, and guess what?  We'd still have the real problem in tact -- no accountability.   We need a mechanism for tracking good and bad work, and letting candidates know about it.  
      1. It gives the rest of the country a free pass.  Using the shorthand "beltway" completely absolves any non-DC Dems from actually doing anything to solve the problem.  Instead, it just gives them the ability to shout, "hell yeah" and pat themselves on the back, newly assured they're okay because their zip code doesn't start with "20."  Guess what America -- we don't grow these guys in DC, you send them here.

      Again, I know it's just a small point, and I don't mean to make a mountain of a mole(capitol?) hill, but... we have to focus on the real problem if we want a solution, not the bumper sticker shorthand that makes us feel good.

      •  Annoys me too (1+ / 0-)
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        "DLC" and "DC Beltway" have become shorthand for the intellectually lazy to denigrate anyone they don't like, irregardless of actually sharing DLC positions or residing in the DC area.

        Take the Busby race. After she lost, post after post bashing her for letting the DLC DC Beltway consultants ruin her race. But Tester, he didn't do that. He didn't let DC run his race into the ground. He's his own man, etc, etc. The problem?

        Well, for one, her media consultant, Kully, is based in Seattle. But I guess it's easy to confuse Washington State with Washington, DC when there's a irrelevant point to be made.

        And for two, he also did the Tester race. Whoops. Maybe he was only on the DLC "Lose the Campaign Fund" for the Busby race? Or something.

        But the point is that loser DC consultants ran Busby's race into the ground!

        Yeah, there are bad consultants in DC.  There are also lots of bad consultants in your very own hometown, running local races you don't care about into the ground every year. There are also lots of bad/lazy candidates that blame their consultants for their loss. And finally, there are lots of races that were going to lose anyways, even if they had the best candidate and the best consultants.

        But let's blame the DLC and the Beltway anyways....

        Because it's easier than thinking.

        --- My opinions are my own and not my employer's.

        by Aexia on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 05:57:02 AM PDT

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        •  Agree with the... (0+ / 0-)

          Beltway part but don't lump the DLC in with that.  The DLC is an independent organization that imo has to much influence and thus mentioning it as a bias in someone’s argument is fair game.

          •  DLC has become shorthand here for (1+ / 0-)
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            anyone who disagrees with me on an issue, irregardless of whether that person is a member of the DLC, shares more than a couples stances with the DLC or whether the DLC has even taken the position being ascribed to them.

            The DLC is a bogeyman. When was the last time you heard about the DLC outside of the context of some pissing match with Dean or the netroots? They'll cease to be relevant once people here learn to STOP TALKING ABOUT THEM.

            --- My opinions are my own and not my employer's.

            by Aexia on Tue Jun 27, 2006 at 06:29:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Also, a massive work avoidance device (1+ / 0-)
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              Maybe there are some legit complaints with the DLC, but frankly, most of the time I've seen people post about them, it's just been a massive work avoidance device.   It's much easier to attribute all kinds of bad things to them, than to take responsibility for doing work.  As if every time a Dem loses a race, it's because there's a DLC guy hiding in the grassy knoll.  

              It's part of the list of things that people would rather spend time whining about (Diebold, the mainstream media, insiders, etc.) instead of actually working.

              I also hate the word "corporatist" because it sounds so whiney, but that's just me...   :)

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