Stick a Fork in Tom Campbell, His Senate Campaign is Done

Matt Klink
President, Klink Campaigns

Former
Speaker of the California Assembly Jesse Unruh once said, "Money is the
mother’s milk of politics."  Without money, given California’s large
geographic size, diverse population and multiple media outlets, a
candidate cannot communicate his or her message effectively and,
ultimately, cannot win.

In March of this year, I wrote a Fox and Hounds column where I highlighted Tom Campbell’s Achilles’ heel – his proven
inability to raise money.  I’ve also blogged on the subject numerous
times.  It’s hampered his two earlier U.S. Senate campaigns and it’s
why he dropped out of this year’s gubernatorial race.  

Yesterday afternoon, I set out to pen another column about California’s
GOP Senate primary, armed with fresh information that Campbell was,
indeed, losing ground to Carly Fiorina.  Or, flipping the message on
its head, that Fiorina’s message had taken hold.  My point in penning
the column was the same – that Tom Campbell cannot raise the money he
needs to win and that he has a credibility gap on fiscal issues. 

Carly Fiorina’s campaign, smelling blood in the water after being boosted by a Los Angeles Times/USC
poll showing her with a 15-point lead over Campbell, is pounding home
the credibility message with a new, hard-hitting ad campaign called
"Instead."  In the ad, clearly targeted at Campbell voters, she asks,
"Thinking of voting for Tom Campbell?  Even though he refused to sign
the Taxpayers Protection Pledge?"  The ad then goes on to highlight
Campbell’s past support for higher gas, sales and income taxes – the
equivalent of suicide in a Republican primary – and, ultimately,
concludes by asking Campbell voters to switch to Carly Fiorina.

In the Los Angeles Times,
there’s an article that boldly states, "Campbell pulls plug
on TV ads" further reinforcing my Spring premise that Campbell cannot
raise money.  It cites Campbell’s minimal campaign funds and says that
the candidate will rely on the Internet and phone calls to battle the
well-funded Carly Fiorina.  Mind you, Campbell’s television ad buy was
already minimal…but this announcement was nevertheless significant.

Two things are troubling about the article in specific and the Campbell
Senate campaign in general. The first is that campaigns typically
budget from Election Day backwards precisely so they don’t run out of
money in the all-important week prior to Election Day.  So, either the
Campbell camp was irresponsible to the point of negligence, or its
fund-raising efforts were so far short of projections that they
under-performed their low-end budget.  This cash "shortfall" is the
equivalent of a blinking red light indicating a campaign on its last
legs.  It also highlights – yet again – Campbell’s inability to
compete, much less win, against Barbara Boxer in a general election.  

The second concern is that one can always tell a failing campaign when
they spurn the most effective way of communicating with voters –
television – for less-expensive options – the Internet and telephones –
and then brag about it as if it’s "the solution" to their problems.
Had the Campbell campaign run an unconventional, grassroots campaign
from day one, his sudden strategic shift would be viable. However, Tom
Campbell has attempted to run a traditional political campaign since he
entered the Senate race…and he simply ran out of money.

The next week should bring few surprises.  Unless Tom Campbell has the
proverbial "silver bullet" to use against Carly Fiorina, expect that
her lead will hold – and likely grow – as more and more voters see her
face, hear her message and make up their minds about who is the best
Republican nominee for California’s U.S. Senate seat.

Whoever is ultimately selected, he – or more likely she – will have
passed an important test – but to capture the ultimate prize,
anticipate a hard-fought, nasty and expensive general election.  Carly
Fiorina appears to be up to the challenge.  Tom Campbell is not…but
that’s not a surprise.

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