Third time is a charm. We are proud to have been named 2013 “Pollster of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants –the third time we have been honored by our peers with this award. It was one of three major Campaign Excellence awards The Mellman Group received during the ceremony:
– Pollster of the Year (Democrat)
– International Campaign of the Year for Israel’s Yair Lapid/Yesh Atid Party
– Initiative Campaign of the Year for our work on Maryland’s Question 7
lster of the Year (Democrat)
For us, this cycle was about come-from-behind victories and accurate numbers. It is always nice to win, but particularly when experts and other polls say we can’t. We were gratified to have our accuracy recognized not only by Nate Silver of the New York Times, (who identified us as the only pollster with zero partisan bias and the most accurate campaign pollster), but also by Doonesbury.
While winning upsets, we also maintained two key records: We have never lost an incumbent reelection for Senate or Governor and we have helped take away a Republican seat every cycle since our founding.
Here are a few examples of the victories for which we were honored and the teams that made them possible.
International Campaign of the Year
The AAPC’s “International Campaign of the Year,” was bestowed for our success with the Yesh Atid Party in Israel that made history by moving from its founding to becoming the second largest Party in the Parliament in one year. Not one person on the party list had ever held a seat in the Knesset. Yet, Party Chairman Yair Lapid became “one of the most powerful political leaders in the country, leveraging…a populist message that resonated,” according to the New York Times. From the party’s conception to victory, The Mellman Group served as Yesh Atid’s general consultant, strategist, and pollster. A story in The Times of Israel on The Mellman Group’s participation was headlined, “The Kingmaker’s Kingmaker” and it was widely recognized as an historic campaign that changed the face of Israeli politics.
Ballot Initiative Campaign of the Year
The Mellman Group was honored to be a part of the “For Maryland Jobs and Schools” named “Ballot Initiative Campaign of the Year”. A terrific triumvirate of Sara Rayme, Tom Russell and Craig Varoga led the coalition to victory in the most expensive campaign in state history. We helped the team, which included the always brilliant Jim Margolis, Anson Kaye and Jon Summers of GMMB, John Jameson and Mike Muir develop a winning strategy, despite over $40 million in spending by a West Virginia casino afraid of the competition. Question 7 faced an uphill battle, with a Baltimore Sun poll five weeks out showing us 15-points down in this clash of titans. Achieving a victory for Yes was a daunting challenge, yet, this team pulled it off.
Three of the other special campaigns highlighted in our Pollster of the Year award:
Heidi Heitkamp’s victory in North Dakota was equally impressive, and led by an outstanding Campaign Manager, Tessa Gould, who was named AAPC’s “Campaign Manager of the Year”. At the beginning of the 2012 cycle, 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 Tessa, media consultant Mark Putnam, who was honored by AAPC as “Most Valuable Player of the Year”, direct mail guru Joe Hansen, and one of 2012’s best campaign teams, Senator Heidi Heitkamp edged Congressman Rick Berg by just 1-point, exactly in line with our final track and far off the margin predicted by other polls. The campaign was declared Best of 2012 by both the Rothenberg Political Report and The Washington Post.
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. Congressman Barrow, an amazing Member, 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 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 almost everyone.
In New Hampshire, Annie Kuster reversed the result of her closely fought 2010 election to defeat the GOP incumbent and earn one of the state’s two House seats in a race the pundits ranked as no better than a toss-up. Congresswoman Kuster proved to be a fantastic candidate and she fielded an outstanding team including campaign manager Garrick Delzell, media greats Jason Ralston and John Lapp, and direct mail consultant extraordinaire Paul Ambrosino.
Again, we are so grateful to all the candidates and colleagues who made these and other victories possible.