In October of 2009, Eaton River Strategies was approached by the Republican minority leadership in the Maine Senate about the prospects of consulting on the upcoming 2010 elections. The leadership had recruited a number of A line candidates and the overall atmosphere for 2010 was trending Republican after the ACA and consistent with the history of mid term elections. Even so, with Republicans holding 15 seats in a 35 seat chamber, and not having enjoyed a majority since 1999 the prospects for success remained slim.
Working with the leadership team, ERS devised a new more individualized and comprehensive approach to local campaigns that was a departure from previous campaigns. It had long been the established protocol that the caucus ran as a whole using similar tactics, similar advertising and similar timing.
When we took over, we believed that in order to win in Maine the caucus needed to make several fundamental changes to the approach to campaigning. First, they needed to recognize that one size fits all does not work in Maine or anywhere. They needed to embrace and commit to the enormous task of meeting with an devising individualize campaign plans for all 35 candidates. These plans needed to take into account that radio might work better in one district over another and that each candidate is different and needed their own identity.
Second, the leadership needed to commit to employing field staff that could act as campaign staff for the candidates and make sure they properly employed the data available to them in a way that helped them target voters more effectively. We hired 6 field staff and took them out of the office and put them in the districts where they could make a difference.
Lastly, we departed from the notion that money should be spent at the end of the campaign in an all out deluge of messaging. We set up candidates to be on the air and in the mail boxes on the day that early voting commenced 5 weeks out from the election in order to set the tone of the campaign and define themselves. Similarly, the caucus also launched early advertising that attacked the Democratic candidates before they had the opportunity to define themselves. The strategy worked as it took the Democrats 10 days to begin to respond by which time Republicans had already cycled through two rounds of messaging and begun to pull away.