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How a conservative PAC is using different messaging to support Ted Budd
Americans for Prosperity Action targets base with one message, while swing voters get a significantly different one
I live in something of a house divided. I’m a registered Republican, and solidly conservative. My wife, on the other hand, is unaffiliated. That means our mailbox gets awfully full this time of year, as Election Day draws near.
In fact, we received two mailers from American for Prosperity Action supporting Rep. Ted Budd in his race for the U.S. Senate over the weekend, landing at the exact same time. One was addressed to her, the other to me. Together, they present a fascinating glimpse into the messaging the political class believes will best resonate with the base, versus swing voters. It also shows how mailers with similar images and topics can be designed for different goals.
First, the mailer addressed to her.
This is purely an economic message, driving home record inflation and tying it directly to the rising costs of groceries, gas and utility bills. It’s a potent political issue, and nearly identical to the message Budd used in the debate against Democratic opponent Cheri Beasley, with one major caveat: It only weakly attempts to tie Beasley to President Joe Biden.
Biden’s name appears just once, and I missed it the first few times I read the mailer. Likely, the consultants who drafted the mailer recognize that many of the people who will receive it voted for Biden in 2020. While they may not love the guy, his name isn’t toxic. Inflation, though, is a core pocketbook issue that is likely to resonate with suburban voters.
In this mailer, Budd is someone who sticks up for North Carolina families. The messaging is personal, and designed to draw a clear contrast between Budd and Beasley and seeks to persuade voters.
Now, let’s look at the mailer sent to me.
While there’s plenty about inflation on here, it’s not the core message. This mailer centers on the feeling of a record percentage of voters that America is on the wrong track. It uses language — like “extreme,” “activist,” and “progressive agenda” — that wouldn’t resonate on a mailer sent to an unaffiliated voter. It’s a thoroughly depressing message, but well-aimed. In this mailer, Budd is someone who stands in the way of a downward spiral. It’s not personal, instead focusing on the big picture.
Interestingly, Beasley’s name does not appear anywhere on the mailer — nor does Biden’s. Perhaps for a conservative voter, there’s no need to draw a contrast or attempt to tie Beasley to the unpopular president. Her party affiliation is enough to do that. No contrast is necessary; the ad is all about energizing the base and getting out the vote.
See an interesting political mailer? Send it my way: firstname.lastname@example.org.
5 things of note
N.C. food stamp applications double. In another sign of major trouble in the economy, North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services reports that applications for food stamps have doubled over the past year. The state is now seeing 76,000 applications each month, double the rate of last year, according to data provided to WFAE. In Mecklenburg County, the local Department of Social Services can't keep up — and a huge backlog is growing.
Absentee-by-mail ballot requests decline from 2020, but way up over 2018. COVID is largely over and done with, and so are absentee-by-mail ballots — mostly. About 27,000 absentee ballots had been cast statewide as of mid-week last week, according to data from the State Board of Elections. That compares with more than 478,000 cast by the same day in 2020. However, it's also more than four times the roughly 6,000 total from the 2018 election. About half of this year's absentee-by-mail ballots were cast in Wake, Mecklenburg, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford and Buncombe counties. Candidates in these areas may consider a limited effort to target these voters, but anywhere else it's not likely to be meaningful.
Democrats haven't abandoned Cheri Beasley. While national Democratic PACs are pulling out of some key Senate races (like Ohio), they are still pouring money into North Carolina on behalf of Senate candidate Cheri Beasley. The Senate Majority PAC is reportedly starting a $4 million TV ad buy, going negative on Ted Budd on the abortion issue, the AP reports. That’s the focus, even as leading Democrats worry that they’ve become too single-track on that issue.
Is Jeff Jackson proposing federal funding for teacher salaries? In Sen. Jeff Jackson’s district, social media users are being flooded with ads for the Charlotte attorney’s run for Congress. Every single last one has the same message: Raising teacher pay.
Now, that’s a pretty typical message in a run for the N.C. Senate. But for Congress? It’s a little head-scratching.
The Longleaf Politics website will return. I’m working hard behind the scenes to resurrect the Longleaf Politics website. Hopefully, it will be ready to launch next week. The plan is to make the website the home of more evergreen guides and explainers while the newsletter remains dedicated to more time-sensitive news of the day. Stay tuned!
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