Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Game of Themes: 2014

Behind every winning campaign is a winning campaign theme.  Who can ever forget "Make America Great Again" under Reagan, or more recently "Yes We Can" under Obama?  The utility of themes carries throughout statewide and local elections, particularly for executive positions.  Because I think that 2014 is going to be a very fun time to watch politics, I thought I would give my predictions on what themes develop amongst the presumptive Democratic candidates for Governor.

Anthony Brown -- As the Lieutenant Governor, Brown's choice of themes are significantly diminished.  Stripped of fluff and spin, he will be arguing that the last eight years of the status quo were good years for Maryland and, thus, voters should endorse more of the same.  I'm sure you already see why this will be troublesome.  While voters may accept painful moves during a down economy under the sitting Governor, I don't know if the legacy of such "hard times" can carry much appeal.  One thing Brown certainly has going for him is that a primary loss would be very embarrassing for Governor O'Malley as a requiem for his term of office.  As such, O'Malley and his war chest may find themselves in the mix until the end.

Peter Franchot -- In light of the way Franchot had distanced himself from O'Malley and the Democratic establishment, we can sum up his constituency in two words: "Disenchanted Dems".  Union workers that lost jobs.  Small business owners that feel squeezed by new taxes.  Fishermen and factory workers that have lost income due to increasing regulation.  A campaign theme under this rubric will be focused on how little the O'Malley administration did for existing jobs, as opposed to the "new green jobs".  I can imagine a campaign ad that uses the words "Let's get back to work."  This approach will either be a home-run or a strike-out.  Targeting disenchanted Dems may also be termed "targeting Dems that don't vote in the primary."  Then again, the party establishment is always over-conceptualized. 

Doug Gansler -- Gansler has had the good fortune of being near apolitical for the past six years.  Sure, he has taken controversial positions, such as his AG Paper on the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states, but he has not had to get his hands dirty in raising taxes or cutting programs.  What he has been able to do is posture himself as an advocate of the people.  You can already hear the full TV spot in your head: "As a State Prosecutor, Doug Gansler put dangerous criminals in prison and made your streets safe.  Then, as your Attorney General, Doug Gansler took predatory banks to court and returned a large settlement for struggling homeowners across the State.  As your Governor, Doug will..."  That's where things get a little shaky.  Gansler has enough money to make himself known, and even set the parameters by which people think of him, but it will be curious to see how he defines himself "as Governor."

Heather Mizeur -- Wait, who?  The Baltimore Sun and Maryland Juice put out posts yesterday suggesting that Delegate Heather Mizeur from Montgomery County may be considering a run at Governor.  I don't know much about Ms. Mizeur other than the fact that she is an openly gay politician and has stuck her neck out for important Democratic initiatives in the House of Delegates.  Maryland Juice suggests that she will represent a new brand of risk-taking forwarding-thinking politicians to whip up an excitable base.  I'm not sure if I see the state-wide party buying in, but this should be a campaign to watch.

Ken Ulman -- Ken's theme is already clear and he is already using it -- Innovation in Government.  When people think of Ken Ulman, he wants them to think of the future.  Broadband.  Columbia.  Healthy Howard.  Environmental innovation.  While many will discount Ken has being the "steward from Howard County", I think this theme has significant legs.  Despite the programs underlying the argument, it has universal appeal.  There will also be the competing theme that Ken is the only Executive in this race.  The Comptroller may beg to differ on that point, but in terms of holding a position most like "Governor", Ken wins.  Folks that say "politicians from Howard County don't have a chance" may ignore the time-line of things.  Columbia and ICBN will be in the news constantly come 2014...and who will be there cutting the ribbons?

No Links today.  Feeling a little under the weather.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!