Chris Murphy must implore his campaign staff not to suck anymore

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I’ve had a ringside seat for the toxic unraveling of relations between the Murphy campaign and my colleague John Dankosky.  Obviously, I’m a little biased, but — even factoring for that — it’s quite something to watch a candidate who desperately needs every break he can get talk his way out of an hour of free airtime. In the process, the Murphy campaign has managed to convince Dankosky, who oversees the whole radio station, that they cannot be trusted to keep a match.com date, much less a media appointment. I mean, they didn’t just poison the Where We Live well. They poisoned their whole relationship with WNPR in a campaign they appear to be losing with 30 days left on the clock. They pay people in campaigns to make media relations go smoothly.

I think it’s time to start talking about what an ineptly run campaign this appears to be.

Let me just ask you this. Set aside the question of whether you like him or plan to vote for him. Do you think Chris Murphy has been successfully introduced to the voters of Connecticut?

Do you associate him with one or two marquee issues?

Do you have a strong mental picture of him that is not based on Linda McMahon ads about him?

Can you think of a moment, any moment, in this campaign in which Murphy appeared to score a decisive point?

Did he respond effectively to the attacks on him?

Was he prepared for the specific challenges of this campaign?  (One point I’ll be making in a column this weekend is the way Murphy and the Democrats seem not to have their own plan for hosting damning video evidence  about the WWE. Instead, they have been like persecuted gypsies, fleeing from platform to platform, hoping one of them will have the courage to host unpalatable WWE content in the teeth of threats from WWE lawyers. Murphy and the Democrats needed to fight and win a court case — a year ago — about whether pieces of those videos are now essentially news content subject to the basic principles of fair use.)

I could go on.  Some of the problems were impossible to avoid. Connecticut has never seen a candidate like McMahon — one who could keep spending without surcease through two election cycles and one who did not have to make the usual hard choices about how best to direct her finite resources. McMahon can literally afford to spend money on stuff that might not work, because she’ll still have an Aladdin’s cave to use for stuff that will.

But some of Murphy’s problems seem to arise from bad campaigning. He always seemed like a fairly adroit and appealing politician (although perhaps we overestimate him because of 2006, when Nancy Johnson was more of a sitting duck than most people realized). The problems he’s having look a lot like the problems of a candidate who is not being handled well.  His campaign manager is Kenneth Curran, whose prior credits include Murphy’s 2010 House race and the 2007 campaign of Eddie Perez. It is too late to fire Curran; and, anyway, competent campaign managers are not sitting around with nothing to do right now, unless they are also facing indictment. Given where things stand right now, even Bobby Valentine would be a jump start.

Campaigns are, among other things, meme wars. One of the reasons Wednesday night was a disaster for President Obama was that an anti-Romney meme — “Mitt can’t do anything right.” — had acquired a life of its own and then abruptly blew up. Similarly, one of Murphy’s very few advantages was the meme that goes (or went): “Linda is afraid to answer questions, but Chris isn’t.”  I myself have trafficked in this very meme. I don’t really feel like I have a firm basis for saying that right now.

Sunday’s debate will give Murphy a chance to turn things around a little, but Linda McMahon will not, I predict, accommodate him by pooping her pants on camera. She didn’t completely stink against Blumenthal.  She’s had time to improve.

Murphy can still win. I think. The last Republican senator from Connecticut was Weicker, and he got in the first time in 1970 because of Tom Dodd’s censure. That’s how big the Democratic advantage is here. Before that it was Prescott Bush in 1952, who may have benefited from the fact that a Democrat (named McMahon!) died in office.

Murphy and his staff may be sailing into history right now, in all the wrong senses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Chris Murphy must implore his campaign staff not to suck anymore

  1. Richard

    In general I agree Murphy’s not appearing on WNPR is odd but it also reads like there is some background there.

    In McMahon’s case it is forgiveable and an accepted form of campaign strategy when dealing with a percieved unfriendly. Putting WNPR and MSM in the bozo bin and running as a persecuted populist is a bit cartoonish but it has proven its worth on stage and in campaigns. It fits the “Two Tribes Go to War” mentality of WWE. $100 million later and she’s actually gotten good at campaigning.

    Let’s face it: Murph is weak on two types of calls: those asking for the money he’s delivered to the 5th and Litchfield County; and those asking him about the legislaiton he’s written and gotten passed.

    Bizarre year. Had Murphy sat tight in 2012 and Bysiewicz sat tight in 2010 to run against McMahon this year things might be entirely different.

    Is Dankovsky sure he wants to air his “Dance for me Monday or I’ll cut you off forever Fredo” policy? That may be reality but sounds a bit too catty.

    Does anyone know what McMahon really did when served the State of CT? That’s what fascinates me. It would seem the perfect counter to some of Murphy’s ills and yet it seems to be of not interest compared to Trish Stratus. I think there’s a huge disconnect between the stuff Democrats like to campaign on (Trish Stratus) that appeals to their base and the things normal people want to hear.

  2. Gman

    As tempting as it was to jump for Joe’s seat, Murph leapt too soon…he’s a good Congressman but McMahon knows all about salt in the eyes and all those other great cheating wrasslin’ moves. He’s gonna have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to win. Obama will still likely carry CT, but she may be the surrogate token of disaffection.

  3. Paul

    Why the cheapshot at the staff? The fact of the matter is that Murphy’s shortcomings are his own. Not his staffs. Not being honest his staff about the foreclosure allowed him to miss a good Clinton “I feel your pain” moment to connect with voters. A campaign heavy with consultants (look at the fec filings) means a campaign without clarity (see Kerry, John). Murphy’s pitch has always been that he is the political genius- he can’t hide behind his staff now.

    As for Curran – if I’m Murphy I probably want a guy who won an election a month after the candidate’s house was raided. Seems appropo with his own home troubles.

    1. W Bush

      Paul, folks in Hartford would vote for a three-eyed green glob if asked so I don’t feel Murphy’ s manager is the magician here although I understand your snark.

    2. cmcenroe Post author

      Because I’ve covered a lot of campaigns and I know how much staff matters.
      Easiest example: ask yourself if Clinton could have won in 92 without Carville-Begala-Stephanopoulos.
      But any campaign, really, is about staff in a huge way.
      Candidates as a rule don’t know how to run a campaign. That’s not what they’re good at.
      The main job of this campaign was to introduce Murphy to the other four cong. districts. They didn’t do it.

  4. Centrist

    It has come to the point where I’m asking myself if Bysiewicz would have done worse against McMahon in terms of a general campaign strategy and direction.

    The whole point of Murphy winning decisively over Bysiewicz in the primary was the general appearance he would be a stronger (or less vulnerable) candidate the Democratic base got. Over time however, the enthusiasm and active interest in Murphy is sagging among independents, and even some Democrats.

    Like Obama after his first debate, Murphy needs to wake the *bleep* up! He’s failed to define himself as Blumenthal did, allowing McMahon to define his character instead. Now he (or his campaign) has, in my opinion, made it worse by isolating himself from a program where he could clearly define his policy, his politics, and his persona. This paranoia that he could be set up on WNPR by ‘planted McMahon supporters’ seems like a hollow argument. This is a distinct cutting of one’s nose to save their face moment, and now Murphy can only rely on a poor debate performance by McMahon and a strong party-line voting block to win. By all means though, he’s lost a lot of enthusiasm from me.

  5. Don Pesci

    Mr. Murphy very likely can reply to Mr. Dankowsky in the accents of the mafia Don: Nothing personal, it’s business. An major appearance so close to the debate would not have served him well strategically. You don’t want to show too much of your hand before the big play. Mrs. McMahon is dreadfully under estimated, especially on issues. She doesn’t have to win the debate. Mr. Murphy does. If she leaves the room standing, with a minimum of wounds, she survives to fight another day. She has the best ground game in the state, and her grey matter has been so devalued, mostly by implication, that a strong showing may amount to a knockout blow.

  6. Connor Hollister

    Frankly, I think his campaign did him a solid. I have heard Chris on the air at your former station, and frankly, he is awful. He cannot articulately or convincingly answer any sort of question short of a softball lobbed by a 9 year old. I just don’t think Chris is that smart, and I suspect McMahon will pummel him on Sunday.

    My 2 cents.

  7. W Bush

    Colin, you forgot the nag in sheep’s clothing who for all intent and purposes, is our glorious republican Senator from CT.

  8. peter brush

    Do you associate him with one or two marquee issues?
    —————————————————-
    No. But, I don’t associate Mrs. McMahon with any either, and the vacuity of her campaign hasn’t hurt her chances. I have no idea whether the Atty. Congressman is running a good or bad campaign, but it may be that the electorate in our state is not interested in the issues. Heck, it may be that our electorate is hostile to discussion of the issues. A consultant might rationally advise a hack pol to avoid the downside risk of issue discussion when there’s little upside potential. In any case, I can say in all honesty that a “debate” between these two is must-not-see tv.

    1. cmcenroe Post author

      Brushmeister, true dat, but and most people have this mental linkage: Linda/job creator. Who knows what it means or whether it’s valid. It’s there. Murphy has no such meme about him.

  9. equality 7-2521

    This is a most frustrating race. It’s almost as if Mac has black mail on the Murph, maybe she has a wrestling job for him or she has a little clown car filled with four burly bare chested employees following him around 24 hrs a day. Who can figure. This is a strange campaign.

  10. Fuzzy Dunlop

    Colin, it occurs to me that fair use may not be the problem… The WWE material is, in many cases, so offensive (ie Vince forcing a woman to stip and making her bark like a dog) that it likely violates most network’s decency standards and, at a minimum, could not be aired outside of primetime. This presents its on problem, as a big demographic Chris needs is suburban moms, who are watching daytime tv or whatever their tots are watching; You cant very well run a commercial of Eugene being humiliated by the Great Khli in a block of commercials on Nick jr. or in the middle of The Price is Right.

    1. cmcenroe Post author

      Actually, Fuzz, I think you COULD make a commercial with some of that material. At the very least, you’d want the option in your back pocket.
      But the fair use problem is pretty clear from the way the Dems kept posting this stuff on hosting platforms only to have it taken down when the WWE threatened the platform. You can’t conduct a social media campaign if you can’t point out the content.

  11. George

    Democrats, Mr. Murphy and Mr. McEnroe included, feel entitled to this Senate position. When faced with a tough opponent, they whine and falter.

  12. klm

    I think nearly everyone would agree: no to all your questions. I really don’t like to vote for people who do incredibly inept jobs campaigning. the only possible way he might save the election is that the alternative, sending McMahon to DC is so ridiculously absurd.

  13. peter brush

    Murphy has no such meme about him.
    ———————————-
    I agree that the Job-Creator theme is lame, not that more jobs is/are not a good idea(s). Nor, that I watched, but I like it a great deal that Mr. Mitt intimated that the function of government has something to do with the Constitution. Jobs will be ancillary benefit if only the gosh darned pols down in d.c. would have a lot more modesty, and adhere to organizing document.
    In truth, the complaint that pols don’t talk issues is a bit phony. We know what the argument is, what it has been since at least 1933. We have one party increasingly dedicated to Government in the interest of Social Justice. In the other corner a party representing those who recognize that even if the social justice deal were working, it’s driving us broke.
    I’d be open to discussion of going back to States choosing Senators without benefit of direct popular expression. Don’t know how precisely it worked prior to amendment of Constitution, but how about Malloy nominates and Nutmeg legislature confirms. Reduction in clown candidates, and campaign finance off the table.

  14. peter brush

    What’s amply clear is that we don’t need these endless campaigns. Wish, in this respect, that we were to have a parliamentary arrangement. Call the election, and get it over with next month.
    But, don’t get me wrong. Regardless of how many forests she cut down to send me cardboard propaganda every other day for the past decade; she’ll get my enthusiastic vote. The party thing still does matter. Obamacare has to be shredded.

  15. Richard

    In lighter news, US-Rep Dr. Paul Broun (R) from Georgia is running unopposed. No Democrat would dare run against him. One listen and its easy to understand why: “Evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell”. Broun sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    This shouldn’t surprise anyone: Missouri Rep Todd Akin is also a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

  16. John R. McCommas

    QUOTE “Do you think Chris Murphy has been successfully introduced to the voters of Connecticut?” UNQUOTE.

    Yes I do and we have concluded that he is a finger-sniffer.

  17. Todd Zaino

    Murphy a man of Change and Hope
    If he wins I won’t be able to cope
    Liberal feelings linger
    Let’s all give Murphy the finger
    To vote for Chris more than proves you’re a dope

  18. Nora

    I get at least 3 MacMahon ads in my mailbox a week, all obnoxious. I honestly know very little about Murphy but being inundated with that negative campaigning (which always includes a statement that HE is running a negative campaign), has turned me off to her more than I even thought possible. But you’re right. If Murphy was running anything approaching an effective campaign, I’d have a better reason than ‘she’s pissing me off’ to vote for him.

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