Final verdict and detailed analysis on Dudley-Kitzhaber Race

This is a collection of different authors and input from campaign workers to critics to help give constructive criticism and a detailed analysis of the Chris Dudley-John Kitzhaber race. This report looks at what worked and what did not work. Please save this article in your computer and use it as a critical tool to help future candidates run for office.

It must be stated upfront that the Dudley-Kitzhaber race was the closest Governors’ race in 50 years. Chris Dudley brought new people, new donors and new face to the Republican party and left the party in a stronger position than when he entered. This leaves a good record of success stories and important mistakes that made up the campaign from which to learn from.

Section Break-out:

1. Perspective
2 Positive Elements
3. Negative Elements

PERSPECTIVE: Understanding the playing field

Any analysis of the race must start with the foundation of analyzing voter registration. In Oregon, Democrats hold a 200,000 voter edge over Republicans. With 9 out of 10 voters still voting party line this is still significant. Do not be deceived or discouraged by the 200,000 number because this voter registration is more erratic than you think. As recent as 2006, the standing Democrat to Republican voter difference was less than 63,000 votes. The current 200,000 advantage is a holdover from the unusually high Obama bump of 2008 and could vanish as easily as it was created depending on national events and what happens in Oregon.

National perspective:

The 2010 national Republican wave did hit a rock jetty at the West Coast. Despite a historic 60 seat swing the states of California, Oregon and Washington only witnessed a single GOP pick-up (Jamie Herrera in Washington). Oregon does have a higher percentage liberal base than the national average but those who identify themselves to pollsters as conservative still outnumber liberals by 10%. Complicating matters is the fact that Oregon has an extremely high Independent/unaffiliated voter registration. Even within Oregon Democrat and Republican voters there is a more independent demographic. The lesson for future candidates is that national issues and moods are less driving factors than in other states. For instance, Oregonians were more likely to tell pollsters that things were on the right track compared to the average national voter (fascinating for a state that is among the tops in unemployment).

No liberal third party:
On the ballot there were Libertarian and Constitution Party governor candidates that took some votes from Dudley yet there was no Progressive Party, Pacific Green Party or Working Family Party to take away Kitzhaber votes.

Hispanic Vote:
Traditionally, minority voters see a depressed turn-out in mid-term elections. The surprising exception to this rule has been Hispanic voters who voted in this election at same rates as 2010. Hispanics favored Democrats 64% to 40% Republican. But this trend was even stronger in the Western states of Oregon, California and Nevada. Many experts see the Hispanic vote as the key factor in the Nevada Senator Harry Reid victory and the 10% victory of Jerry Brown. In Oregon, Dudley trailed the minority vote by 42% to Kitzhaber’s 57%. Failure to ignore this obvious voter trend will kill future candidates who want to run for statewide office. This does not mean candidates need to embrace stereotypes or to jump head first into the immigration debate. Instead, candidates need to ask “What is your strategy to reach Hispanics?”. Do you plan to highlight areas where there are shared values? Are you willing to advertise in areas where Hispanics can actually hear the message? It was not visible that either Kitzhaber or Dudley did outreach to the Hispanic voter, but post election results scream its importance.

Get out the vote:
Democrats were able to get out more direct mail reminders, phone calls and personal door visits for voter turn-out than Republican efforts.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS:

The team has many great successes. As Moore information showed that polls revealed that Dudley outperformed Kitzhaber on who best improve the economy (+3%), improve schools (+3%) and to cut state spending (+24%). The Dudley television ads were all convincing, deft and skillful. The decision to launch ads within days of winning the May Primary garnered great attention and helped set dynamic energy in the campaign. For every Kitzhaber attacks the campaign had speedy responses. The televised debate was a source of anxiety for many political watchers, but Dudley came prepared and performed well. Dudley’s 20 point plan and other plans were substantive and numerous. The fundraising machine was impressive with Dudley raising a record breaking $9 million and outpaced Kitzhaber’s $6 million. You don’t break fundraising records or out-poll the experienced rival without a great candidate and campaign team.

Best slogan:
The campaign slogan “Join Oregon’s Comeback” was the most original in a decade. Far better than the tired and overused “take back” Oregon. Furthermore, with 3rd Century Solution’s Oregon Transformation Project, and Kevin Mannix’s Rejuvenation Project, the social conservative’s Restore Oregon conferences and the Yamhill County GOP’s Economic Revival meetings, Oregon conservatives were in serious danger of running out of adjectives — until Dudley came along.

Candidate Mistake free:
Dudley did nothing wrong nor said anything wrong. No scandals, no criminal record, no lawsuits or egregious gaffes on the campaign trail that. Dudley turned out to be the sincere and honest soul that the campaign described him as.

Kudos to Kitzhaber:
Before we blame each other for the losses we shouldn’t be so short-sided as to miss that the Kitzhaber team ran a well executed campaign. The candidate is an excellent public speaker and doesn’t make that many mistakes in public.

Polling:
The polling firm, Riley Research, was one of the rare polling firms that showed Chris Dudley behind when national polls were showing a lead. Local pollsters have a strategy that is tailored better to Oregon and can sometimes produce more accurate results. Future candidates, please consider a local firm like Riley Research or Moore Information.

NEGATIVE:

Communication:

Chris Dudley is a great communicator – when in private. In larger public settings he was always enthusiastic but never perfect as other statewide candidates from either party have been. You could tell that he always put his entire heart into it but it came across as forced. Communication is why Allen Alley beat Dudley in both the Dorchester debate poll and in the KGW-TV Primary debate straw poll which provided a good barometer on how people rate their speaking abilities (as opposed to how they would vote).

Experience qualifications gap:
Moore information polling showed that Dudley could not breach the experience gap. It is not just that Dudley had no experience, it is that he had no experience against a man who held the office twice. A Moore Information poll showed that this was an 11% penalty for Dudley. The experience issue became so hot that some people chastise the consultants for recruiting Dudley in the first place. In fact, it was Dudley who worked on the idea for years and recruited his team once he decided he was going to run. When Dudley entered the race there was no one in the race but Alley who came with no elected experience (although much excellent political experience). From this vantage point deciding to run carried risk due to the experience issue but was justified by the playing field. Future candidates need to realize that a risk is a risk when aiming for the top seat first.

Experience-Knowledge gap:
Dudley had the right answers to the policy questions (give the campaign a round of applause). This issue became more tricky when people wanted more detail to common questions. This may not be an issue for the public, but for editorial boards it was a pressing and critical issue. Editorial boards pounced on this and it reflected in their numerous Kitzhaber endorsements and their overly negative words on Dudley. When the Register Guard stated that Oregon shouldn’t take a” gamble” with Dudley, it became potent weapon for the Kitzhaber campaign. Future candidates need to know that previous political experience doesn’t just give a candidate knowledge, It gives the candidate time to understand the spirit and nature behind issues and problems. This is why a well experienced candidate can talk about issues she has no knowledge of because she understands firsthand the nature similar problems and can cross reference. When it comes to star power driven candidates both Jesse Ventura and Sonny Bono did serve as mayor before running for higher office. Ronald Reagan spent at least 12 years, Jack Kemp 10, and Bill Brady spent 4 years in public political activism and involvement before making their first run for office.

Issue attachment:
Through TV ads and direct mail the Kitzhaber tagged Dudley to direct issues saying he would tinker with minimum wage and would cut schools by cutting taxes. Both statements are not necessarily effective but since Dudley did not return the favor by specifically mentioning what Kitzhaber would do, these messages became more important. The Dudley campaign was successful at broadcasting the horrible things that happened during the Kitzhaber era but lacked the final personal connection of things Kitzhaber personally did. If the campaign were to mention how Kitzhaber signed into law various government waste examples or taxes then you are more closely tying the problem to the candidate with specific examples. It is not enough to say that the economy suffered under a candidate – explain what votes caused the problem. Upon surveying undecided voters who voted for Kitzhaber these voters communicated that they liked Dudley but could not mention a specific example of what he would do. Neither could they cite what Kitzhaber would specifically do! So the matter always fell towards experience which favored Kitzhaber. The campaign did discuss what Dudley would do but never strong enough to carry over.

Out-of-State Consultant Curse:
The overuse of out of state consultants and staff was a serious handicap for the campaign. It was an inside joke that when you visited the campaign headquarters you entered a sprawling oversized building filled with a dozen people you have never seen before and you knew you would never see them again (because they leave the state after the election).

At first impression they were always friendly but after that they were cold, indifferent and became famous for never returning phone calls. When one county Republican Party needed Dudley material for a 7,000 door drop effort the campaign wouldn’t give an answer, then wouldn’t return phone calls and then said no. Another well-known person offered to put up 20 large sign locations on high traffic areas, but the campaign ignored those calls before saying they were not going to do large lawn signs (which was sad because the person was willing to put up his own money to make it happen!). A businessman wanted bumper stickers to put on a fleet of cars and he was told that the campaign wasn’t doing bumper stickers. Social media was unimportant to the campaign as local bloggers were unable to convince the campaign to add them to their media list. Event organizers couldn’t get people from the campaign to show-up at their events where campaign material could be showcased. Conservative writers who wanted help in finding out more negative information on Kitzhaber were told that the campaign wouldn’t help in any way. Those who set up their own anti-Kitzhaber websites and do their own anti-Kitzhaber efforts were frowned upon by the campaign. Scores of people who wanted to help were made to feel useless, stupid and a waste of the campaign’s time. As a result, the campaign easily shut out an entire army of volunteers. These volunteers represent a genuine Get-Out-the-Vote drive the very drive that Republicans are always complaining about never exists.

Oregon Republican percentage turnout was only 5% higher than Democrats which was less than the national average. Volunteer phone banking was significantly down (for a mid-year election) in the large counties in the Metro area where voter returns are critical. One partial reason for this depressed voter mobilization might have been the detachment volunteers had with the campaign. If there is no volunteerism, door walking, bumper stickers, large lawn signs, and social media then what is the campaign all about? If the only way ordinary people can help is to send money for TV ads then you are squelching the organic energy that feeds and motivates voters and volunteers. It must be said that many activities listed above that were ignored were later picked up by the campaign, but it was too late as the doors had already been slammed in volunteer’s faces. In large campaigns, there can often be a struggle between consultants (brain power) and grassroots (street power). A good campaign has good diversity and representation of both sides.

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  • The Bill Post Radio Show

    Ted Piccolo at NW Republican has already nailed all of this and his latest piece is more evidence that the Dudley campaign was DOA from Day One.

    http://nwrepublican.blogspot.com/2010/11/chris-dudley-just-another-victim-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FNWRepublican+%28NW+Republican%29

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Id agree with a lot of this, especially the “Issue Attachment” section.

    This was the one utter mystery of the Dudley campaign. Why in the world did he not attach personally the many liabilities Kitzhaber had?

    For about the past two decades – particularly with Supreme Court appointments, we have seen the lack of a public past as sometimes a plus, whereas an extensive background can be a liability. The most notable example of the latter would be the Robert Bork appointment, with David Souter as a famous use of the strategy of non notability.

    Dudley did gain some of the advantage of not having a public life, but with it obviously comes the accusation of lack of experience. Where Dudley really failed was in not taking advantage of his situation yet accepting all of its liabilities.

    This was hardly a mystery scenario for the campaign. From day one the experience issue was known. Where was the counter to this?

    Why was there no focus on Kitzhabers most notable quantity, his record number of vetoes? Tying Kitzhaber to these would have done a lot on the experience gap. Why was there no focus on the Oregon Health plan and the tremendous failures there? During Kitzhabers terms the economy nationally was relatively good, yet Oregon lagged behind. Why was Kitzhaber not tied to this?

    Running a positive campaign is all well and good, but frankly it simply doesn’t work. We saw this in Clinton/Bush and Obama/McCain. Holding back on pointing out your opponents liabilities is a losing strategy.

  • Beaverton Working Guy

    This article begins with saying good things about the candidate and the campaign and how much good could be learned from the effort and then way at the end lists a litany of things so terribly wrong with the campaign that it suddenly becomes obvious why Dudley lost in a year in which Republicans should have taken this office..

    When you add to that the fact that Mr. Dudley voted for Obama in 2008, which was a clear indicator that he was not really a Republican, you have little chance that the base will be inspired or that the fringe Republican voter will go to the trouble of casting a ballot.

    Candidates who are not really Republicans but run under the R label often can raise a lot of money from certain donor bases, but they cannot inspire the rank and file. Such canddates steal the soul of the party and leave it running on cash. No heart, just cash. That was the Dudley campaign.

    Hopefully the Tea Party will sufficiently increase in Oregon so as to insure that the next Republican gubernatorial primary winner has enough Republican credentials and qualifications to win back the governorship.

  • valley p

    From my perspective, a well done analysis.

  • Coyote

    Whoa… Really?

    There were maybe a handful of things to take away from this piece, however there is enough that is completely wrong that I find myself questioning the good parts.

    First of all, Dudley WAS recruited by his team to run for governor. When that happened it interrupted a recruitment process that was in the works to get him to run for the Oregon Senate. That interference took place at the behest of the Republican Governor’s Association and when Dan Lavey/Bob Tiernan became involved the full court press was put into place.

    This analysis also pivots from “qualification” to “experience.” There is a difference. The Moore poll did not say that the voters penalized Dudley for lack of “experience.” No it was lack of “qualifications.” Big difference. And as I said in my analysis it was a cynical move on the part of those people who pushed Dudley into the governor’s race, instead of a State Senate race.

    One other big factor, and not necessarily Dudley’s fault, was the GOTV effort that the Republicans were up against. And the Democrat GOTV effort was funded by… wait for it… BIG BUSINESS. The Democrats took the huge corporate contributions to back-fill their campaign efforts while they could then use their Union money to kill the Republicans in GOTV.

    Again…the reason that big business found that they needed to give huge amounts of money to the Democrats was a result of the way the “certified smart” people play the game. And that means “certified smart” (r)epublican campaign consultants.

    Again, as I said in my post, note that the Dudley campaign “underperformed” down ballot races. How can that be?

    What was the reason that some, apparent Republican voters, around the state found it necessary to split their votes?

    Until that question is dealt with head on (and it encompasses more than Dudley himself) Oregon Republicans are not going to get the correct answer.

  • “”

    Certain that precinct voting would have made a major difference and likely favored Dudley.

    Pity, all powerful Multnomah County’s overbite seems a match for Lena the Hyena. http://comicsareseriousbusiness.blogspot.com/2008/08/thoughts-on-basil-wolverton.html

    • bytheway

      Multnomah does not always vote this way

  • eagle eye

    It was the remark about the waitresses. Otherwise he would be the new Governor.

    • valley p

      In an election that close you could take any single factor and make it decisive if it cost a few thousand votes. I agree the overpaid waitresses remark cost him at least that many votes. In fact, I was at a nice restaurant a few days before the election and talked politics with the waitress and she brought up the Dudley faux pas. She was voting and encouraging others to do so.

      All of which goes to the larger problem republicans have running around calling working people overpaid, unemployed people lazy, and old people getting SSI basically being welfare recipients who should work until they are 80. Its not a majority view, I can assure them of that much.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Was his failure to answer the ad effectively a problem? Yep.

      Did he say anything bad about waitresses? Nope.

      I cannot believe you are still on about this. He never made the comment you say he did.

      You guys believing your own press is why you guys just got your butts kicked everywhere but the west coast.

      Its also a big part of the reason you lost your super majority in Salem.

      Keep on dreaming!

      • eagle eye

        To idiot: he said what he said, it was used against him to great effect, he didn’t have an adequate response. It cost him the election. Whether it was fair or not, others can judge. The voters already did.

        • browser

          You tried, eagle eye, and they just don’t get it. Reams and reams of self-criticism from Pick-a-Low and Oregon Catalyst, and they haven’t figured out the basics: propose huge tax cuts for the wealthiest, and diss poor minimum wage workers, and you lose Multnomah, Lane, and Benton counties by very large margins. And even lose Washington county. They lost because they are Republicans with tired Republican answers. At best, the Oregon Catalyst analysis at least notes polling that shows when asked that voters couldn’t say what Dudley would actually do. Kitzhaber’s campaign was generally vapid. Stop dissing the working poor who can’t afford health insurance, and the Rs might actually have bamboozled enough folks to win.

  • Sol668

    You lost because this is Oregon…

    If dudely could have carried all of rural oregon by the same margin kitzhaber carried multnomah

    Dudely would be governor today

    The problem you conservatives have in this state is simple, the red areas aren’t nearly as red as the blue areas are blue

    I don’t forsee the newly radicalized GOP returning to the progressive roots of men like McCall, packwood and hatfield any time soon, and as such little chance of the GOP winning a state wide race

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >The problem you conservatives have in this state is simple, the red areas aren’t nearly as red as the blue areas are blue

      You just hit the nail on the head.

      Id totally agree with that.

  • Matthew

    The Democrats picked the “right” candidate in the primaries to win this election, whereas the Republicans did not. Allen Alley would have done better and possibly won. Too bad Pixelworks left the state leaving him in an awkward situation…

    • Sol668

      Do you think it matters to Native Oregonian progressives like me, if your candidate was alley or dudely? Really?

      You put forward the most moderate person you could…a more conservative candidate would have been beaten by a larger number

      just look at the senate race for wyden…was his opponent not conservative enough?

      • Rupert in Springfield

        Zounds – Again, I would totally agree with you.

        Alley wouldn’t have done any better.

        Dudley was a good candidate for the state and ran a campaign that was no more and no less flawed than Kitzhaber.

        Republicans have two choices to win in this state.

        1 – Run an uber moderate candidate where there is essentially no difference between him and the Democrat.

        2 – Run a PR campaign well ahead of any race and any candidate being named to educate why maybe a change is in order.

        If republicans want to get anywhere in this state on ssues that matter to them it will take a hell of a PR effort to convince the public. When that effort starts with a campaign, its already too late.

        Frankly I would advise Republicans to run no candidate for statewide office for the next few years. Take all that money that would have been spent on campaigns and use it for PR.

        • valley p

          PR? If you have a Public Relations campaign, then you would have to have something to sell. So with no candidate, you are left with trying to sell a set of ideas. Lets try this out.

          Republicans (non RINO ones anyway) think Oregon should:

          Cut spending on everything except prisons
          Jack up tuition at state universities and ccs even further
          Break public employee unions
          Deregulate businesses
          Stop building mass transit
          Stop building bicycle stuff
          Cut taxes for businesses and rich people
          Increase clearcut logging anywhere there are trees
          Forget about clean energy. Its a waste of hard earned money and anyway global warming is a scam.
          Eliminate the minimum wage
          Criminalize abortion
          Repeal the death with Dignity Act
          Refuse to implement Obamacare
          Lock more people up for whatever
          Pass an Arizona-like driving while Latino bill
          Deport all illegal aliens immediately, no questions asked

          Did I leave anything important out Rupert?

          OK…so try building a PR campaign in a place like Oregon around a set of goals like that and you will get laughed out of the state. In Alabama or Texas or Utah, its a winning program. Not here.

          Dudley came close for 3 reasons.
          1) He was a moderate on social and environmental issues
          2) It was a republican wave year and a deep recession, blamed on the incumbent party
          3) He successfully painted Kitzhaber as responsible for every problem Oregon presently has

          It may be a long time before the stars line up like that again. If you had bothered to nominate a moderate R with even a smidgen of governing experience you would have won. But take the wrong lesson. By all means take a few decades to work on selling your program instead. Your odds of winning a statewide election are not going to improve any time soon as more millennials and Hispanics populate the state and Tea Party geezers start dying off. Time is not on your side, or at least not on the side of that set of policies.

        • Sol668

          If republicans want to win in this state….try offering the dominant political viewpoint something…

          But you won’t, chained to the national party and increasingly the radical tea party….picking on waitresses, blaming the poor and unemployed, essentially bullying anyone who’s not a wealthy business owner…pushing a christian fundamentalism more at home in the bible belt then on the west coast

          really you have to wonder why you lost? Like I said, put forward a new Tom McCall, you’ll have my vote…

      • Ralphie

        I don’t think Alley was more conservative than Dudley. More experienced, yes. He actually worked in a business, was a CEO, worked for a governor on the other side. Multnomah county would have given him a few more votes. I’m non-affiliated, and refuse to be Republican, so I never got to vote for him.

        • Sol668

          Here’s the other problem you conservatives have….being a CEO, yeah not really all that popular in multnomah county…..while alley’s “business experience” might appeal to conservatives who seemingly feel like mussolini that government should be run by business men, and for the interests of business alone…its yet another liability in multnomah county….dudely at least had the outsider aspect going for him….

          Instead of another “pro business” candidate, try running a Pro Oregon candidate…several posters have mentioned the minimum wage gaff as problematic…why? These are your CONSERVATIVE beliefs! Let the free market work! If the problem is dudely let the cat out of the bag…..I suggest that its not your candidates that have problem in oregon but your ideas….

  • bytheway

    It was a great campaign effort and I found it exciting getting behind Dudley. The Lavey-Tymchuk team almost pulled it off. If they were not on it the election would have been worse and the mojo Dudley brought would not have been there.

  • You Missed the Point

    Above is noted that Dudley underperformed the down ballot races. Why? Because many down-ballot Republicans also had the Independent (IND) label next to their names on the ballot. They were also the nominees of the Independent Party of Oregon, which seemed to pull in about 5% of the vote.

  • bytheway

    You are right. There is no mention of the Independents in this report. or not much. Independents is the next wave. It will not be blue or red.

  • Kingston

    Then give Independents a new color

    • valley p

      They have one, purple. But the problem is that most “independents” are not unattached. They lean heavily blue or red and usually vote near party line. Its a pretty small number, about 10% of total voters, who are the true “swingers,” and most of them are not engaged enough in politics to form a party that reflects their core beliefs, even if they had any.

      The 2 part system is imperfect, but it tends to represent most people’s views. A 3, 5 or 12 party system is no more representative at the end of the day. It is just more fragmented, and allows fringe groups with a single agenda to control governments (see Israel for an example).

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