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July 06, 2006

Confidence

Posted in: 2006 Election,Joe Lieberman,Ned Lamont

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The Lieberman/Lamont debate will be broadcast on CSPAN at 7pm EDT/4pm PDT (and also, according to Kos, MSNBC).  If the universe conspires to cooperate with my plans, I’ll be picking Matt Stoller up at the Hartford train station at 6pm and we’ll be covering the event live from the Lamont War Room.

I’ve been around Ned quite a bit now and have tremendous faith in his sincerity and the straightforward way he comes across.  Nonetheless, Lieberman is the much more experienced debater and he needs to go for a knockout punch tonight.  Most people acknowledge that despite the Emergency Plan B that Joe is clinging to, if Lieberman loses on August 8 all the momentum is going to be with Ned.  I would have to say the advantage is probably with Lieberman tonight.  But I know Ned will be inspirational nonetheless — if you haven’t seen him speak before make sure to tune in.

If Ned in fact does the unimaginable and scores a "W" on the 8th against an 18 year incumbent, it’s going to be in large part due to the amazing  staff he’s assembled around himself (sign of a good manager). I’ve sung the praises of his campaign manager Tom Swan and the superb interface between the campaign and local bloggers managed by Tim Tagaris.  Now the Christian Science Monitor has a great article up on Bill Hillsman (who I also met at that 4th of July barbecue), who is doing Ned’s ads:


His humorous riffs on Jesse Ventura’s image in 1998 helped stage one of the most stunning upsets in American politics. The former prowrestler and radio talk-show host managed to defeat two of the gopher state’s most established politicians and win the governorship as an independent. And in the 2000 presidential race, Hillsman helped portray Ralph Nader as the candidate of the people – versus the monied special-interest class – in a parody of the MasterCard "Priceless" ads. (Promises to special interest groups? $10 billion. Finding out the truth? Priceless." The "priceless" image showed Nader working over a pile of documents.)

This campaign season, in addition to Lamont and Mr. Friedman, the former "Texas Jewboys" lead singer, he’s working for Christy Mihos, a wealthy businessman who bolted the Massachusetts GOP this year to run for governor as an independent.

Underdogs are his speciality. Candidates with little name recognition or money often have to take risks to get elected, and that makes them a natural fit for Hillsman’s whimsy. A sign in his airy, spacious offices here says "the only safe thing to take is a chance." It’s a directive he takes seriously. "When you work with [the kind of] candidates I generally do, who oftentimes don’t have a lot of resources, you have to do something distinctive," he explains. "If you’re doing the same thing as everyone else, it’s just not going to be effective."

While mainstream political consultants bristle at what they consider Hillsman’s arrogant swipes, no one denies his effectiveness.

"He can work really well with unorthodox candidates," says Steven Schier, a Carleton College political scientist. "The Wellstone and Ventura races were very close, and Hillsman’s advertisements cut through the media clutter and garnered attention."

As Kos notes, Hillsman’s success record may have put him on the outs with the DSCC and DC insiders:

Hillsman has been shut out of the DC consultant world for years. This year he told me he was moving up in the world because the DSCC had called him to say they wouldn’t use his firm this year. "In the past, they didn’t even bother with a phone call", he laughed.

The beltway mafia doesn’t like Hillsman at all.

It’s great that the Democrat Incumbency Organizations force people like Bob Doyle onto campaigns contingent with their support (Doyle’s candidate was deemed ineligible to appear on a May 2 ballot because Doyle failed to collect 50 signatures he needed to qualify.  Sweet.).  Meanwhile guys like Hillsman and Steve Eichenbaum, the media consultant for Feingold’s brilliant 1992 "miracle campaign," continue to be blackballed.

Good on Ned for recognizing talent and being willing to buck the wisdom of insiders who seem to do a crackerjack job of losing.

See you at 7:00. 


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