Panel examines campaign process
by Amber Cox
What it takes to run a campaign was the focus of a panel discussion Friday, Feb. 13.
The Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics held an in-depth three-part panel examining the different aspects of the 3rd Congressional District’s 2008 race between state Sen. John Adler (D) and Medford Mayor Chris Myers (R).
Adler defeated Myers in the November election. It had been approximately 50 years since a Democratic congressman was elected to represent the 3rd District in Washington, D.C.
The panels were led by Benjamin Dworkin, director of the institute and a political science professor at Rider.
The first panel involved the campaign managers. Adler’s was managed by Mark Warren and Myers’ by Chris Russel.
Dworkin’s first question for the panelists addressed the issue of Rep. Jim Saxton’s decision to step down and not run for another term.
“Adler thought he would be running against Saxton,” Warren said. “We had different revenue streams available to us after he stepped down.”
Russell described it as a “complete surprise,” and said that no one thought that Saxton would step down.
Dworkin then asked the panelists about how a campaign is run smoothly.
“We wanted to be well-funded,” Warren said. “We felt that the independent leaders learned about [Adler] from us initially. We needed to break into the independents and reach more people.”
Because Myers was not expected to run, not many people knew who he was, so that campaign had to take a different approach.
“We tried to engage him [Myers] and draw out Sen. Adler,” Russell said. “We went everywhere. I don’t think any place was off limits.”
Dworkin then asked Russell about the primary that was held on the Republican side.
“We raised and spent $1.2 million on the race,” Russell said. “We went in to the general [election] hurting with money.”
The tables were then turned when Warren was asked about his fundraising methods for Adler.
“Fundraising is a people business and John Adler is a people person,” Warren said. “People give to a candidate they believe in. Nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd and nothing attracts money like money.”
The second panel involved the media consultants, Steve Ayscue for Adler and Ed Traz for Myers.
The ad commercials that were run by each campaign were shown to get all of the people in the audience up to speed.
“We did a lot of things that were conventional, but we also turned conventionalism on its head,” Ayscue said.
Myers’ campaign had to do things a little bit differently because it did not have as much money as the Adler campaign.
“We didn’t have the luxury of doing a lot of different things in this campaign,” Traz said. “We certainly didn’t have the resources.”
Traz also went on to say that the Adler campaign had a lot of help from President Obama’s campaign. The Myers campaign, however, did not get much help from Sen. John McCain’s candidacy.
The final panel involved the pollsters, Drew Lieberman for Adler and Russell again for Myers. The original pollster for the Myers campaign could not get out of a previously scheduled obligation.
Dworkin asked the participants about the original Benchmark polls.
“The Benchmark showed that both candidates were relatively unknown quantities,” Lieberman said. “It’s hard to move numbers in the poll without broadcasting.”
The Myers campaign decided not to do a Benchmark until September.
“We knew over the summer what our strength was,” Russell said. “When we had our poll and we were ahead, we released it. I’m really happy with the campaign and what we did with it.”
Lieberman said that the importance of polling is that it allows people to “keep track of everything that is going on in a race.”
Dworkin asked how each pollster felt the races were run and how they felt going into election night.
“I felt like we had a chance,” Russell said. “We ran against some pretty great odds. I felt like we ran the campaign the best we could. We ran a great race.”
Lieberman had similar feelings about the campaign.
“I wasn’t confident that we won until the polls were closed,” Lieberman said. “I was confident that we did everything we could do and confident that it was going to be a very close race.”