Thanks and Campaign Debrief
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” ― Francis Chan
Shannon and I greatly appreciate the hundreds of volunteers and supporters who helped us throughout this campaign. Many of you flooded and lost your homes, yet gave to the campaign sacrificially with your time, money and prayers. Many of you gave of your influence to make calls, post to social media, walk neighborhoods, recruit volunteers and work the polling locations. We saw an amazing 20% of our funds come from friends.
Many of you who know me well, know that I am not accustomed to losing. Oftentimes in life, we must sacrifice our own self-benefit for the common good. I want to be clear regarding the strategic decisions our team made during the final days of the campaign which caused a massive shakeup during the final days of the election.
Kathaleen Wall Already Hit 51%+
Many of you saw that Kathaleen Wall spent around $6M of her own money on this race – a historic amount on a 4-month campaign. The most in the country, in fact. Additionally, she was endorsed by both Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz who both did commercials for her. Gov. Abbott allowed his block-walkers to campaign for Mrs. Wall. Strategically, WPAintel’s polling showed Kathaleen Wall exceeding 51% (winning outright and avoiding a runoff), and us as #2, just before early voting began and as she hit me with the first mailing of 2 attack ads. (She was trending towards 65%.) Our winning the campaign by getting into the runoff became secondary at that point – there wouldn’t even be a runoff. Her consultant, Axiom, was the best in the business.
If any of you understand game theory and being up against a stronger/smarter opponent, you know that it’s advantageous to be seen as erratic by that smarter opponent.
We made the decision to make sure Mrs. Wall didn’t win the race outright as the new primary objective, so we used the remainder of the race contrasting with Mrs. Wall. We had research showing she’d lose 66% of her voters if they knew she voted for “pro-choice Hillary Clinton in a Democrat primary” as she told the Houston Chronicle she did. That was the poll-tested phrase we used as the silver bullet. In the 10 days leading up to election day, we purchased 900 TV spots and radio ads, contrasting myself with Kathaleen Wall, using a version of that specific silver bullet phrase. We augmented that with a dedicated website and heavy social media messaging. This caused her polling to decline from over 51% down to 27%. Not only did she not hit 51%, she didn’t even make the runoff. Matt Wiltshire played the central role in bringing down Wall’s multi-million dollar campaign, and Governor Abbott’s help, to buy a seat in the US Congress.
Of course, we took heavy hits and lost voters by Mrs. Wall’s counter-attacks as well. We felt the attacks were unfair but appreciated the attention. It was mutually assured destruction. Best of luck to Mrs. Wall.
We were successful in this primary objective, but unsuccessful in that the votes leaving Mrs. Wall did not fall to us. Nearly all the 24% of votes she lost fell to Dan Crenshaw (or didn’t vote), as he went from 3% to 27% over 2 weeks. Michael Berry endorsing Dan around that same time also helped those votes fall to Dan. There were essentially little-to-no undecided voters left, so someone had to take them away from Mrs. Wall. With Dan beating Mrs. Wall by 145 votes, I am happy they all went to him and Berry endorsed him when he did. Those votes couldn’t have gone to a better place that had the strong campaign able to maximize their effectiveness to meet our new primary objective. (I suspect many of Dan’s voters were new voters that he brought into the Republican fold.)
The Effect of the Pay-to-Play Slates
In mid-January and early-February, we hired WPAintel to conduct independent, mixed-mode polling throughout the district of hundreds of likely voters. The results indicated, within a 4.5% margin of error, that Kevin Roberts was at 7% (January 15-16 poll) and then at 9% (February 7-8 poll). We projected Kevin to finish around 11%. When the elections were over, Kevin Roberts had won 33% of the vote. He had far less TV time, less radio time and less social media presence than either Kathaleen Wall or Rick Walker during that time. Kevin Roberts received the endorsements from all 3 of the pay-to-play slate mailers. I witnessed approximately 65% of early voters carrying these faux sample ballots into voting centers some days. (Kevin didn’t pay them with his campaign dollars, but his brother-in-law essentially owns 2 of the men who run them. Kevin didn’t technically pay-to-play.)
Kevin did a fantastic job going after Mrs. Wall’s voters as well via social media and TV.
The delta between Kevin, Rick and Kathaleen was these pay-to-play mailers. We believe the mailers gave Kevin a 22% increase in his results. Kevin’s name recognition was only 19% (6% of which was unfavorable), yet he ended up with 33%. We now know that these pay-to-play slates have approximately a 22% effect in Congressional races.
Appreciation for the Core Team
My wife, Shannon, was amazing throughout this process. While raising 3 kiddos and managing the post-flooding rebuild of our home, she also stepped in to serve as Deputy Campaign Manager. She is the most impressive person I’ve ever met in my life and I am eternally thankful to God for her.
Shannon’s amazing mother, Debbie Setliff, was a huge help by spending several weeks here in Houston to take care of the kiddos and support us.
A special thanks is owed to Victoria Watson who came in to manage the schedule and coordinate the campaign activities. Victoria is very impressive and out-worked the candidate.
Matt Wiltshire was our amazing Campaign Manager and a special guy who I could see in Congress himself one day. Matt was the master architect in bringing down the best-financed congressional campaign in the United States, which was also armed with Gov. Abbott’s help, in 2 weeks. He deserves respect and has mine.
Shannon and I will be praying about who to support in the coming days and will communicate that to you.
I congratulate my friends Kevin Roberts and Dan Crenshaw on their well-deserved success and getting into the runoff.
“I’d rather be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian.”
-Martin Luther, on bad candidates running for Congress (unknown source, perhaps not Luther)
“If incompetence is the disease of the novice, overconfidence is the disease of the expert.”
— Malcolm Gladwell, on this race