Campaign kickoffs vary widely in scope, grandeur

Timing can also be key for prospective officeholders

Mike Wiser
Published: June 3 2013 | 3:41 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 4:08 pm in
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It can be as elaborate as a 12-county barnstorming tour or as subtle as a 140-charter tweet, and it’s certainly more art than science.

Both crucial and cliche, the candidate announcement is the public start to every spectacularly successful and heart-wrenchingly horrible run for office.

So, what’s the strategy to making the perfect run-for-office announcement? Theories abound, and Iowans will certainly get to compare styles and strategies as more folks with an eye toward 2014 make their moves for political office.

“The consultants would say there’s a science,” said Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford, who remains skeptical that much more matters than organization.

“The same is true in politics. You need to have an organization already running before you make it public. ”

The buildup

That seems to be the path Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has taken. His campaign account has remained open with more than $1.4 million on hand at the last reporting period six months ago. He’s hired at least one full-time campaign staff, but he hasn’t officially announced that he’ll seek another term.

“Branstad doesn’t have any concern about drawing a serious primary, so he will announce when he’s ready to roll out the rationale for continuing the progress he and (Lt. Gov. Kim) Reynolds have made in office,” said Dave Kochel, a Republican strategists. “He knows that voters aren’t really paying attention to 2014 yet, so I assume he’ll announce much later than lesser-known candidates.”

Contrast that to Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley of the 1st Congressional District. Braley announced his intention to seek the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin just days after Harkin announced his plans to retire.

Kochel said Braley jumped in “way too early,” but since the announcement, the congressman has been in full campaign mode traveling the state, picking up endorsements — including Harkin’s — and freezing out potential challengers.

“There’s a risk in announcing too early if a candidate announces and then goes silent,” said Sam Roecker, an associate at Link Strategies.

“Candidates should use the time between their announcement and the more hectic months before an election to define themselves by talking with voters, securing endorsements and building a grass roots network.”

Braley clearly is using the playbook described by Roecker. So is Democrat Brad Anderson, who also worked at Link and announced in January that he would run for Iowa secretary of state.

Social media

Anderson’s likely opponent is incumbent Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who announced his intent to seek re-election via the microblogging site Twitter.

The re-election announcement, however, was the second part of a less than 140-character tweet in which Schultz first said what he was not running for.

“I am humbled by all of the encouragement to run for Senate, but I love serving Iowans as Secretary of State ... I intend to run for SOS,” he tweeted last week.

In that venue, Schultz followed in the keystrokes of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who announced he would run for re-election to the House, instead of try for the Senate seat, in an email followed by a tweet.

Jeff Link, eponymous proprietor of Link Strategies, said there’s one consideration that should trump all others.

“The worst timing is announcing your plans before you know why you are running or what you want to accomplish,” he said.

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