In the world of campaign management and consulting, one of the strategies that often yields yuge results is opposition research, or “op research” for short. Damning photos and comments made by candidates from decades ago seem to surface out of nowhere, but it’s not random. Investigators and researchers for campaigns scour many leads and resources trying to dig up dirt on opponents.
Apparently some campaign managers don’t understand this concept.
Case in point, former Ed Gillespie campaign manager Chris Leavitt, of consulting firm Red Maverick Media. Gillespie was Ralph Northam’s opponent for the Virginia governor’s race in 2017. Red Maverick are the guys who somehow didn’t do enough work on the op research front, otherwise they would have uncovered the now-infamous photos of Northam from his old yearbook.
Could you imagine how the Virginia governor’s race would have gone had these photos surfaced a month before the election? It would have been a slam dunk for Gillespie and Virginians and newborn babies wouldn’t be under assault by the Northam reign.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions, flow into the hands of Red Maverick Media to run campaigns. These guys are supposed to be professionals who produce solid results.
Here are just a few of the campaign finance disclosures from the Gillespie campaign showing the flow of cash into the hands of Red Maverick Media:
There was no shortage of cash for Gillespie, as he and Northam both raised and spent record breaking amounts of money.
Meanwhile, one of the other recent races that Red Maverick had their hands in was the Oregon governor’s race. Incumbent Kate Brown was considered vulnerable, and moderate republican challenger, Knute Beuhler, had been gaining broad appeal with centrists. Both raised and spent over $20 Million, with Brown eventually beating Beuhler by 7 percentage points.
Red Maverick Media was the recipient of over $2 Million from the Beuhler campaign and state Republican party.
And they lost.
Chris Leavitt also managed Gillespie’s US Senate race in 2014 and Mark Obenshain’s race for attorney general in Virginia in 2013. Both lost. On his profile page on Red Maverick, he does tout a few victories, but, with the exception of a state senator, those races were in Republican heavy areas where they would have won regardless of who the campaign manager was.
Granted, a lot of this money is just pass-throughs for big ad buys for TV, radio, print, billboards, and mailers, but you’d think they’d allocate more to other proven tactics, such as op research.
What would have yielding bigger results: $50,000 in another round of TV ads to people who are sick and tired of seeing political campaign ads, or hiring someone with investigative skills to find pictures of their opponents in black face and KKK hoods?
If Republicans are serious about winning, they need to stop worrying about hiring Certified Smart Guy™ campaign consultants who demand big paychecks, and more about implementing strategies to actually win elections and engage with voters.