Election 2012 was a great night for Democrats across the country. The Mellman Group congratulates the victors and is proud that our strategic insights and dead-on accuracy played a role in this success. We are honored to have worked with a long list of stellar candidates and equally top-notch teams which helped increase the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate, elect more Democrats to the House of Representatives and win key gubernatorial and initiative campaigns around the country.
We emerge from this cycle with two records intact:
1. The Mellman Group has never lost an incumbent reelection for Senate or Governor
2. We have helped take away a Republican seat every cycle since our founding
We are also particularly proud to have reaffirmed our reputation for unparalleled accuracy. In the midst of all the grumbling surrounding poll accuracy, we were gratified once again to receive public “shout outs” from those following the numbers most closely. The New York Times’ Nate Silver, determined we were the only polling firm to display zero partisan bias in our results and ranked us as the most accurate campaign pollster from either party. National Journal’s Reid Wilson wrote, “Amid all recriminations over bad polling, one guy who hit the mark: Mark Mellman got tough calls in ND, NV Senate right.” And the Las Vegas Review Journal said, “Let the record show, pollster Mark Mellman was right on the money again…”
Of course, it all comes down to great candidates and great campaigns. We want to congratulate the many impressive leaders and campaign professionals who made this an election night worth celebrating.
Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp
At the beginning of the 2012 cycle, most pundits wrote off the North Dakota Senate race for Democrats. Even on Election Day, the New York Times’ Nate Silver gave us less than an 8% chance of prevailing. Nonetheless, thanks to an amazing candidate and the brilliant work of campaign manager Tessa Gould, media consultant Mark Putnam, whose ads were hailed as the best of the cycle, direct mail guru Joe Hansen, and one of 2012’s best campaign teams, Senator-elect Heidi Heitkamp ended up edging Congressman Rick Berg by just one percentage point, exactly in line with our final track and far off the margin predicted by other polls.
Senator Maria Cantwell
The Mellman Group has been honored to work for Senator Maria Cantwell since her upset of incumbent Slade Gorton in 2000. This cycle, Senator Cantwell won by a larger margin than any top of the ticket candidate in Washington in 30 years, thanks to her indefatigable work for her constituents and a wonderful team led by Rose Kapolczynski along with media master David Eichenbaum and direct mail whiz Joe Hansen.
Majority PAC Senate
We also had the great pleasure of helping Majority PAC, run by brilliant strategists Rebecca Lambe, JB Poersch and Stephanie Potter, re-elect two incumbents and win an open seat.
Senator Claire McCaskill
While many public polls showed Senator Claire McCaskill (MO) losing ground to Rep. Todd Akin in the final days of the campaign, our polling correctly predicted her eventual 16-point victory and with the advertising wizardry of David Smith and AJ Lenar at GMMB and guidance from Marc Farinella, we helped Majority PAC disqualify Akin in the minds of Missouri voters.
Senator-elect Tim Kaine
Though Senator-elect Tim Kaine (VA) started out behind in our polling, our team which included outstanding ads by Dixon/Davis Media Group, helped turn the election around and produce a victory in this expensive and hard fought battle.
Senator Sherrod Brown
We also congratulate Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) who overcame more than $40 million in outside spending to win reelection with a comfortable share of the vote. We were proud to work with Majority PAC and Jay Marlin of SKD Media whose wonderful ads brought home the clear faults of Brown’s opponent and helped to reelect this great Senator.
We were thrilled to have the opportunity to help the DSCC IE team, under the expert leadership of Martha McKenna, send two Democrats to the U.S. Senate.
Senator Jon Tester
We helped reelect Senator Jon Tester (MT) in one of the premier Senate races in the country, which also benefited from the artful work of Shorr, Johnson, Magnus.
Senator-elect Mazie Hirono
The DSCC-IE team aided Senator-elect Mazie Hirono (HI) in her victory over Republicans’ top recruit, former Governor Linda Lingle, to become the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Senate.
Every senate campaign owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the DSCC for the strategic guidance and extraordinary leadership provided by Executive Director Guy Cecil and Chair Senator Patty Murray.
U.S. House of Representatives
Congressman John Barrow
Congressman John Barrow topped everyone’s list of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents. Georgia is tough enough for a Democrat without being moved into three new districts in eight years. Our early polling showed that there was indeed a path for victory, but it would take an incredibly disciplined effort. Congressman Barrow and his Chief of Staff Ashley Jones responded by running what was recognized by Hotline as “the best-run campaign of the year”. We were proud to be part of such a highly touted team – including Erica Walters who produced fantastic mail, field expert Chris Galloway and media star Steve Murphy who developed the ad campaign rightly hailed by the Washington Post as “one of a kind”. Together we turned this uphill battle for a “lean Republican seat” into a victory that surprised everyone but those of us who worked for it.
Congresswoman-elect Annie Kuster
In New Hampshire, Annie Kuster reversed the result of her closely fought 2010 election to earn one of the state’s two House seats in a race the pundits ranked as no better than a toss-up. We offer our congratulations not only to Congresswoman-elect Kuster, but also to the outstanding team behind her including campaign manager Garrick Delzell, media greats Jason Ralston and John Lapp, and direct mail consultant extraordinaire Paul Ambrosino.
We are also pleased to have helped secure victories for two new members of the House Congressman-elect Dan Kildee (MI-5) and Congresswoman-elect Tulsi Gabbard (HI-1) whose hard work earlier in the year positioned them to win last week. Kildee’s victory exemplifies Sun Tzu’s advice about winning the war before the battle is engaged. Kildee’s assiduous and effective work in politics a nd public service enabled him to prevent a Democratic primary – and put him in a strong position for his ultimate victory in the general election last week. Tulsi Gabbard won the November general election for Congress – but the real victory was her stunning come from behind win in the primary in August. Four months before the primary election, a Star Advertiser poll showed the largely unknown City Councilwoman, trailing former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann by 45-points. Working closely with Tulsi and her team, we helped develop a message focused on her background as a distinguished combat veteran and defining a clear contrast with her much better known opponent. We were honored to be part of a terrific team, put together by an outstanding candidate, with an amazing future ahead, that included Campaign Manager Max Glass, Devin Bull, EMILY’s List’s Peggy Egan, Joe Trippi, Sterling Clifford, Thomas Rossmeissl, Thomas McDonald, Joshua Morrow, Mark Nevins, Chris Esposito, James McCoy and Barbara Tanabe. We also congratulate our longtime clients including Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-2), and Congressman Sander Levin (MI-12) for their re-elections.
Governor-elect Jay Inslee
With Washington State voters in a decidedly sour mood after long term Democratic control of the state house, and a so-called “moderate” Attorney General running for the Republicans, many pundits expected Democrat Jay Inslee to have trouble capturing the governor’s mansion. Under the masterful direction of Ken Morley, the DGA’s Elisabeth Pearson and the creative brilliance of Dixon/Davis, we assisted the Our Washington IE team in developing a powerful message that refused to accept Rob McKenna’s self-definition and tied him to unpopular Republican positions, helping lay the foundation for an Inslee victory.
Governor-elect Steve Bullock
In Montana, we knew the biggest challenge for Steve Bullock in this “toss-up” race was overcoming the state’s GOP tilt in presidential years. We were fortunate to work with the top flight Jet-Pac IE team led by DGA strategist Dan Sena and advertising wizard Harper Lawson of GMMB, and also including media legend Frank Greer and the mail team of Ed Peavy and Mike Dorsey of Mission Control. Together we took the lead in defining Hill’s connection to special interests and a state sales tax – an identity Hill never escaped. We also took the somewhat unusual step for an IE of adding a positive ad for our close, featuring outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer. In the end, Bullock won despite a double digit loss for the President at the top of the ticket.
In Maryland, a terrific triumvirate of Sara Rayme, Tom Russell and Craig Varoga led the For Maryland Jobs and Schools coalition to victory in the most expensive political campaign in state history. We helped the team, which included the always brilliant Jim Margolis, Anson Kaye and Jon Summers of GMMB, develop a winning strategy, despite over $40 million in spending by a West Virginia casino afraid of the competition.
In Michigan, we are proud to have worked with a terrific team that included Renee Walker, media great Doug Heyl, and President Al Garrett and others at AFSCME Michigan to overturn Michigan Public Act 4, the state’s controversial Emergency Manager Law. Despite strong support for the law by Governor Snyder and corporate special interests, and a tiny budget, our message highlighting the anti-democratic nature and potential for abuse helped win the day.
We also extended our long, proud history of victories on ballot initiatives in California. Passing tax increases is no easy feat. But working with the very best-Scott Day of the California Teachers Association, Ace Smith, and our colleague David Binder, we were able to help pass a tax hike that will begin to put California on sound financial footing while preventing more devastating cuts to education and public safety.
We are also proud to have assisted general consultant extraordinaire Gale Kaufman, Dixon/Davis Media and David Binder to defeat Proposition 32 in the face of profligate spending by two millionaire siblings and deceptive ballot language that made the anti-union initiative appear to be campaign finance reform.