So I get a phone call in August…
Scratch that — let’s go to the end and paint by numbers.
On September 24th, George Allen wasn’t exactly hurting in southwest Virginia, but he wasn’t doing gangbusters there either. By October 25th, Allen had opened up a 38 point lead against Tim Kaine. Kaine’s favorables among independents dropped 5 points to 25.3%.
In Wise County alone, where Tim Kaine falsely claimed credit for helping build the recently opened coal plant, Kaine dropped 24 points, from 33.3% to 9.3% while Allen increased more than 20 points, from 51.9% to 72.2%.
Election night wrote a different story. Fairfax fell flat, RNC Victory simply did not play well with others, and as always the consultants won.
…so what made southwest Virginia so different?
So before you roll your eyes and go “aww crap… another fluff piece” — hear me out on this. Because the work that Marchi did in southwest Virginia — despite all the talk you hear about consultants pocketing the cash and getting the hell out of Dodge City before the walls come caving in — is textbook how-it-should-be-done grassroots campaigning the way conservatives used to do it.
Rewind the tape back to 2007. Americans for Prosperity — Virginia was a monster. I know, because while I was explaining away HB 3202 to a Richmond press corps that knew in their heart I disagreed profusely with the bill (ever wondered what it is like to be on the receiving end of Hunter Thompson’s hammer? that was me in early 2007, folks), Ben Marchi was out there having fun — smashing idols and turning out the mob to beat up on Frankenstein.
AFP-VA was legend back then. So when Marchi decided to
turn traitor go live in Maryland, it was a loss.
…until George Allen decided he wanted another shot at politics.
The bus tours came back. The crowds came back. The phone banking and the Tea Parties loyal to the old AFP structure started to stir.
Wanna guess who was hammering the phones?
Once GFA announced, folks began to fall in line. Not just grassroots, but loyalists and influentials, bloggers and elected officials, big money and small money.
Wanna guess who was making the connections?
So when the time finally came to make the decision between running a smashmouth grassroots campaign aimed at stirring up the base versus a light touch on women and independents, there was a great deal of talk about whether we should run on energy issues — coal in particular — as Allen is a total visionary (I kid you not — talk to Allen about energy policy; without hyperbole it’s truly visionary stuff) when it comes to energy policy.
The campaign chose… women and independents.
* * *
So I get a phone call in August:
Caller: “Hey Shaun, how’s it going?
Shaun: “Pretty good man, how’s about them Redsk–…”
Caller: “Dude, you know what I’m gonna do?
Shaun: “Well not particul–…”
Caller: “I’ve got a brilliant effing idea. We’re going to go into the coalfields and run up the numbers!”
Shaun: “Damn good idea. With who’s money?”
Caller: “Dude! I don’t need money! Just support…”
Shaun: “Rock on, man… but don’t you think everyone is sucking all the air out the roo–…”
Caller: “Dude — don’t worry about that. I’ve got it covered! Trust me!”
Shaun: “You really think we can run up the numbers in southwest Virginia?
Caller: “Hell yeah, dude!”
Shaun: “Enough to counterbalance the Dems in Fairfax?”
Caller: “Remember who you’re talkin’ to!
Shaun: “Good point…”
You know what the sad thing is? He was very nearly right.
…and what did this bastard do? He found the political equivalent of eight Americans… eight Joowish Americans ready to go into southwest Virginia and work the principles of an Apache Resistance.
The bottom line is, he found the recruits. Marchi even found the money.
…and then he kicked the crap out of the Obama For America machine. In union country.
What did he use? The tried and true methods of grassroots campaigning. He got off his ass, went in country, and clubbed the hell out of OFA the old fashioned way. Marchi practically demanded 100 scalps… and got ‘em.
Unfortunately, while Marchi did his job down in southwest Virginia, the rest of the state failed him… and failed George Allen. Had this guy had a fraction of what was spent on ads to implement a strategy across the entire Commonwealth… I hate to say it because I don’t like twisting the knife, but George Allen would be senator-elect right now.
The kicker? Marchi through American Committment did this with just a mere fraction of what the consulting class spent statewide.
* * *
When Ben Marchi left AFP-VA in January 2011, I reported it in Bearing Drift as the following:
I’ve known Marchi for a number of years. Everything he touches seems to turn either to gold… or a big baseball bat with a spike through it.
In fact, the workers deep in the Bearing Drift Vaults have video of this phenomenon in action:
You think we kid?
It’s about the political version of clubbing baby seals.
Now there’s a lead-from-the-front mentality we’ve lost, folks.
So while the rest of us are chumming it up at the RPV Advance — and some of you attending an excellent media relations seminar of your choice in Coral Reef D with Mr. Hoeft and yours truly on Saturday — remind yourself when you look at the agenda….
…we should be listening to guys like “Ben the Apache” Marchi.
RPV in all seriousness should bring Marchi back and do classes across Virginia. Force unit chairs to train. Get district chairs to understand the power of personal phone calls. Give major funders a reason to back the Republican grassroots political machine.
Deserve victory, folks. Run an Apache Resistance. As Morton Blackwell reminds folks, you owe it to your political philosophy to learn how to win.
Do this… and we will put Virginia back on the side of the angels.