Failure to Communicate
Departure of Michele Bachmann's New Hampshire staffers shows the importance of keeping in touch.
Last week saw some serious shake-ups in the New Hampshire campaigns of three Republican presidential candidates.
It started early in the week when Matt Simon resigned as Gary Johnson's New Hampshire communications director. He gave no reason for his departure, but it came on the heels of Johnson's seven-day bike tour of the Granite State.
Then, mid-week, word spread that Andrew Hemingway, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, a local Tea Party group, had resigned to join Newt Gingrich's team as its New Hampshire director, giving the former House Speaker's campaign a local presence it had sorely been lacking.
But the biggest news came on Friday, when word leaked out that all five of Michele Bachmann's paid campaign staffers had quit en masse. That led to a rather embarrassing exchange where Bachmann's national director denied they had quit. The New Hampshire staffers then issued a joint statement Monday explaining why they felt the need to leave, which the national campaign again attempted to discredit.
The campaign shuffling highlighted the need for a strong grassroots campaign, as well as the importance of listening to the people on the ground.
Had Bachmann listened to her New Hampshire staffers, for example, she might have chosen not to avoid the state for three months, just as her poll numbers were on the rise here.
“It’s important to listen to the people on the ground in the state," said Chris Buck, former New Hampshire state director for Thad McCotter. "Ideally, what you want if you’re running a multi-state operation, you want state directors to be directors. What the national campaign should be doing is articulating a national message strategy and setting the budgets in line with what they expect to raise, stepping back and letting each state operate autonomously.
"This is the way businesses do it," he added. "I don’t think that happened in the Bachmann camp. They didn’t even hear from the national team for the majority of the month of September. That’s not effective communication.”
“When it comes to the Granite State, if you’re going to run a real campaign, you’ve got to run a national campaign," said Pat Griffin, a senior fellow at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute for Politics who worked on campaigns for both George H.W. and George W. Bush. "Not just people sitting in headquarters, but you’re able to hire strong grassroots activists. People who run campaigns in these states know all the counties in Iowa and New Hampshire, and can help you own that."
Buck and Griffin said they think Simon's departure will have little impact on Johnson's campaign, as the candidate hasn't been able to get any traction in this race anyway. But they both said Hemingway will be a huge addition to the Gingrich campaign.
“Hemingway for Newt Gingrich’s campaign is a good get,” Buck said. “He was instrumental in putting on the Twitter debate, and Newt is a social media guy, so I think it’s a perfect fit. I expect with Hemingway on board that we should see a surprise out of Newt Gingrich. I don’t know by how many points, but I definitely think Newt now will do better in New Hampshire.”
“Having Andrew Hemingway as a spokesperson in the state will be helpful," agreed Griffin. "It suggests that (Gingrich) is not on a book tour, but he’s seriously going to stay in this thing, if for no other reason, because he wants his voice to be heard.”
Except for all of the campaign additions and subtractions, last week was a pretty slow one by first-in-the-nation standards. Patch kicked off its Primary Patch at The Draft conversations with the candidates series, sitting down with Fred Karger on Friday. Conversations with the other GOP candidates are slated for the coming weeks.
Several candidates, including Karger, Jon Huntsman, Buddy Roemer and Rick Santorum, were in state to file paperwork with the Secretary of State to run in the New Hampshire Primary. And Mitt Romney stopped by Bill Gardner's office yesterday. Ron Paul filed by proxy, and Vice President Joe Biden stopped in New Hampshire to file for his boss, President Obama.
Several other candidates, including Gingrich (today), Chris Hill (Thursday) and Rick Perry (Friday) are scheduled to be in state to file this week. Paul also has several stops planned Thursday and Friday, including a speech to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning.