No Message? No Theme? No Dice.


Blam! I don’t care, I still love this commercial…

KETV has a story about some post-election analysis being done via the UNO Communications Dept. Now we’ll assume that much more was discussed, but Channel 7’s headline (on their website) is “Panel Says Negative Ads May Have Cost Ricketts Election“.

Well now.

Let’s get a few things out of the way:
The turkey ad did NOT turn the election for Ben Nelson.
(Though ask 10 people to name a “negative” ad from this election and all 10 will name that one.)

The fact that the turkey ad and any number of others ran non-stop did NOT turn the election for Ben Nelson either. Heck, Nelson spent $7.5 million himself. Ya think that was all for stickers and yard-signs? Nellie had a raft of negatives ads over the airwaves as well.

And it’s not that Ricketts didn’t have a strong enough resume either. You can certainly argue that he didn’t, but candidates with much much less than Pete Ricketts have succeeded.

Here was the problem with the Ricketts’ strategy, in a nutshell:

What was the Ricketts campaign theme?
No answer?

Ok, what, in a sentence, was the reason Ricketts gave for not-re-electing Ben Nelson?
(Beyond “Ben is a Democrat, I’m not.”)
Still silent?

What was the Ricketts message for sending Pete to DC?
(And don’t give me the “Nebraska values” thing either.)
We’re hearing crickets.

That’s because there WAS NO THEME to the Ricketts campaign.

You wanna know Nelson’s? That’s easy. He said it the DAY AFTER the primary:
Wall Street Pete.
Totally moronic. Insipid. Sophomoric. False.
But catchy? Yup.

And even more than that, Nelson POUNDED Ricketts with it. So that even if you didn’t believe it, you at least knew what Nelson’s message was. And you repeat it enough times, people will begin to believe it.

So there were a million (or was it twenty million?) other reasons why Nelson won / Ricketts lost. But the biggest problem for the Ricketts campaign was that they never established a theme/message for why-elect-Pete, why-fire-Nelson.

One good point that was finally reiterated by the McCook Daily Gazette, was that the negative ads didn’t work, because Ricketts didn’t have the credentials enough to attack someone who already had a strong standing in the state. And while true, this only addresses the negative aspects of the campaign. The problem was there never was a message that defined Ricketts’ campaign.

Of course there were lots of other problems as well that we won’t get into now (maybe later). And we’re sure the Dems are giddy about this even being discussed (though a look at the NDP message board the day after the election showed that they are as happy and united as a Pelosi-Hoyer-Murtha car-pool).

And we’re not even saying that had Ricketts had a message, he would have won. But we are saying that without that message, pushed by the Hagel-Linehan-Doug McAuliffe Team, Ricketts never even got out of the gate.

(Oh, and Nancy Hultquist, people stopped asking “Where’s the Beef?” in the 80’s…)

18 comments

  1. Uncle Wiggily says:

    Well … I never intended to vote for Nellie under any circumstances, but win, lose or draw, I think the Turkey Shoot ad was one of the funniest things I saw during the whole campaign.

    Anyone who couldn’t get a chuckle out of it is just too damned partisan for their own good.

  2. nepolwatcher says:

    Sweeper:

    Did you know Pete ran 55 ads and more than half were attacks on Nelson? (AP report). Comparitavely, Nelson ran around 30 ads and only 1/3 could be considered negative. Saying Ricketts supports a national sales tax (he does) and privatization of Social Security (he does) and that he took millions in bonuses while laying off workers (he did) in my book is not negative – but those ads are includednin Nelson’s tally (albeit not a scientific study, just my own tracking.)

    You are right, Pete had no message. And that’s the point isn’t it? For $15 million, Hagel, Linehan, Moenning, and McAuliffe could muster up nothing but personal attacks on Nelson, his family, and highly respected Nebraska busineses and leaders. They should give Pete his money back – and if Pete runs again – though I have no idea how you come back from a spanking like that – he should have his PIN code changed.

    And, kudos to you for recognizing that the Johnson-Cady-Struble team developed a simple memorable and effective message and had the discipline to stick to it no matter what. That’s experience, talent, and brilliance. The other side was no match.

    PS – I thought the turkey ad was funny too (despite its unoriginality and intellectual property ripoff) but there is no doubt that it hurt Pete more than Ben. and the 1/10 of a second image of a dead giraffe also hurt Pete more. its just a fact – ask anyone on the street.

  3. Anonymous says:

    for once you are right.

    ricketts had no message and no message discipline. score one for jessica moenning – the worst campaign manager ever to grace a ne senate race. (seriously, the next candidate to hire this dead weight should be rejected by voters for their bad judgement.)

    of course it doesn’t speak highly of petey that he didn’t know the importance of a message and couldn’t have communicated it with $30 million.

    by the end, it was just attacks from the now pathological linehan-hagel wing who cared less about helping pete than smearing nelson. and nebraskans showed on nov. 7 what they think of that ….

  4. Street Sweeper says:

    And before we start calling things “facts”, the “half of Ricketts ads were negative” report comes from an AP story, QUOTING Nelson’s spokesman.

  5. nepolwatcher says:

    Sweeper – nice call on the “facts.”

    Pete Ricketts did this all campaign long – using quotes from people in stories and attributing them to the paper. The World Herald’s paid Ricketts employee obliged them on a weekly basis – printing some crazy charge and quote that appeared ina television ad 24 hours later.

    Its clever isn’t it. But in your world its OK when used on Nelson but out of line when used on others – I guess.

  6. Street Sweeper says:

    Wait, now you’re suggesting the OWH was on RICKETTS’ side???

    Maybe you need just a little break from all this polwatching you’re doing…

  7. nepolwatcher says:

    Sweeper – I’m no more tired than you must be after an afternoon of scrubbing gutters, but i digress.

    You didn’t respond to the point – its OK for Ricketts to twist news into fiction but not Ok for others to do it to him?

    And as far as the OWH goes, their reporter covering this campain should show up as a contribution for Ricketts. If you dont think so, find one story post-primary that was tough on old Petey. Just one will do.

  8. Street Sweeper says:

    Well that would be an editorial, as opposed to a “story”, now wouldn’t it? But if you think this is a “positive” story about Ricketts, I don’t know what your perception of negative is:
    http://www.omaha.com/index.
    php?u_pg=1673&u_sid=2276806

    The OWH has been a PR machine for Nelson, throughout the campaign, and spinning it otherwise is a joke.

  9. nepolwatcher says:

    Sweeper – I said post primary not post-election. Find a negative Ricketts story between May 9, 2006 and November 7, 2006. You cant.
    The one you posted was after the election – and the beginning of the OWH trying to kiss Nelson’s ass for winning despite their coverage.

  10. Street Sweeper says:

    The pro-Nelson articles in the OWH were non-stop. And there wasn’t a single mention of Ricketts without a dollar amount of what he’d spent after his name. Your suggestion that the OWH was pro-Ricketts is ridiculous, and EVERYONE knows it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    sweeper – if it’s so obvious, then you should be able to find an example. the fact is that owh forwarded ridiculous charges by the ricketts camp and never debunked their blatant lies. the coverage was a joke and clearly was influenced by both lazy “he said, she said” reporting which always benefits those most inclined to make stuff up and by a paper that had a pathological need to have this be a close race. too bad for them that never materialized both because of nelson’s stellar record and a subpar gop candidate and campaign.

  12. Street Sweeper says:

    polwatch, I don’t know what your axe is to grind, but here’s some news: Every single editorial written by the OWH, including the endorsements and any other commentary was sickeningly pro-Nelson. I’m guessing that even YOU would admit that. And any time there was a Ricketts allegation in a story, your boss got his opportunity to deny it, no matter true it may have been. End of story.

  13. nepolwatcher says:

    SS- Im not grinding an axe. But the OWH was was decidely on Pete’s side on immigration, on the Nelson “effectiveness” argument, on property taxes and on the National Sales Tax – in each instance chastising Nelson sometimes repeatedly. But I’m not talking about editorials – I’m talking coverage. They were the only news outfit to cover that press conference called by the felon that is the Sarpy County GOP chair. The OWH was the ONLY news outlet to print Pete’s silly “groundwater pollution” attack. They were the only media to cover the Behlen attacks – and never went back to debunk them as they did with most Nelson attacks. The paper took sides in this one – the newsroom took sides. It was amazing to watch.

    I think the only reason Nelson got under 70% was the OWH owns the voting machines! (that was sarcasm FYI) Oh, and still waiting for that example of a negative Ricketts NEWS story – Jessica help Sweeper please.

  14. Street Sweeper says:

    First of all, the Sarpy GOP Chair is a nineteen year fire captain and is well respected by members of both pol parties — including Ben Nelson who appointed him to a position on a local Emergency Planning Commission.

    And as far as “the only ones to cover” certain stories? What do you think newspapers do? TV and radio literally don’t have the time to hit every issue. Papers do and should. And while it’s tragic that you think your boss’s transgressions should be swept under the rug, it’s responsible that they’re brought to light, and EVERY TIME Nelson was given the opportunity to respond and usually was given the benefit of the doubt.

    Oh and guess what: The Lincoln Journal Star covered all those stories too.

    And on your infantile suggestion that there was no “negative” Ricketts story? Well let’s see: The OWH published every piece of CRAP about the Ricketts property tax accusations. Every single story listed what he had spent thus far on the campaign — whether it had any bearing on the story or not. The continuing story of how the President wouldn’t come in for him. But you’re probably right that the paper never ran a story that said, “Pete Ricketts is the devil” since the paper isn’t run by the NDP press office, even though you’re publicly WEEPING about this.

    On immigration — What the Nelson position of “build a bigger fence” shouldn’t have been challenged???

    Nelson’s “effectiveness” got its own freaking pro-Nelson follow-up article!!!

    And the b.s. property tax or sales tax issues were properly allowed responses by Ricketts because they WERE b.s. (though EVERY Nelson statement was dutifully printed).

    It cracks me up that you’re convinced that the OWH should have just printed the Nelson and NDP releases on these (that I’m guessing you wrote) without any reply from the other campaign.

    And then the one place that DOES allow opinion — the Ed pages — were OWNED by Bennie, but you pretend like this never happened.

    I can understand that you expected the OWH to be your mouthpiece at every turn — since they certainly were in the Ed pages (come on, say it out loud for all of the reasonable people to hear). But enough of your whining that you think your press office somehow got the short end of the stick.

  15. nepolwatcher says:

    SS – did the turkey go down wrong or something? Um, its called “balance” when one side is given one sentence to respond to a ridiculous attack. That would be about all the OWH did for Nelson – print the dumbest attack but give Nelson’s spokesperson the opportunity to say “it aint true.” And, Ricketts got every opprtunity to respond to attacks on him. That’s not what I’m talking about, but you clearly miss the point.

    Let me ask you: Why is it “negative” to print the money Ricketts was spending? I thought it meant he wasn’t beholen to special interests. Was it not true?

    Again you miss the point – the OWH even printed a story based on Ricketts research that attacked Nelson and his family and even quoted the Ricketts folks as saying “we have no proof.” That’s the point. The OWH – one reporter in particular and we all know who SHE is – printed every blasted false attack – even the ones they said they had no proof of. Then within 12 hours its in another Ricketts attack ad – “The World Herald said…”
    I already pointed out the OWH editorial page’s hostility toward Nelson. No need to re-plow that acreage despite your ignorance. That goes back further that the day Karl Rove inspired Ricketts.
    But all that being said – Senator Fraud:Vandal:TaxCheat:unethical:Nepotism:Hunter whipped this talking checkbook and rightly so. The OWH was at best a non-factor in everything other than ad content for Petey.

    Oh and s till no examples of the neagtive stories on Ricketts – that’s because they dont exist. That’s three times you couldn’t identify one. (what you mentioned above is just generalities – Ricketts did challenge his taxes – a story broken by Omaha TV not the OWH and the President and none of his surrogates ever did come in for Ricketts – the truth is not necessarily a negative.)

    I know of nobody – save Chuck Hagel who wants the OWH to be their mouthpiece – hell, even Ricketts has more credibility than the OWH.

    Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you gave thanks that Ben is still in DC representing you!

  16. Street Sweeper says:

    Well, I’ve given specific examples, and you choose to ignore them, no matter how you like to keep re-defining the term. Obviously you’re bitter over your press releases not getting printed. So go ahead and type the reporter’s name. Why are you afraid? And come on, Nelson employee, you can say it to the blog, just once, “Nelson got ridiculously biased editorial coverage from the OWH.”

  17. Anonymous says:

    oh jeez sweeper your examples are blatantly false. i’ll debunk one for free. the “pres not coming for ricketts” story was the fault of strategy morons moenning and linehan, who kept on publically insisting he would come long after it was clear that he wouldn’t (they ended up getting lucky that smith sucked so much the pres had to do a pity visit to ne).

    this wouldn’t have been a story at all if it hadn’t been endlessly hyped by dumb and dumber who repeatedly said bush (or cheney) would come. it was a natural follow-up to ask, “uh, when?” but that gives no credit to owh reporters who can’t write two sentances without them being dictated by jessica and her boss, linehan.

    furthermore, it is the laziest possible reporting to say, “ricketts charges x”, “nelson rebuts y”. ricketts had absolutely no evidence of any wrong doing connected with behlen, or his kid. but owh dutifully reported the charges in he said, she said stories that simply raised doubts without answering any questions. if the reporters had a modicum of self-respect, they would independently verify or debunk charges but that was too difficult. this type of lazy reporting always favors the camp willing to say the most ridiculous crap and in this case that was hands down jessica “worst.campaign.manager.ever” moenning.

  18. Street Sweeper says:

    Our examples are solid and points, repeated ad nauseam for you kids, still stand.

    We’d also like to point out how stupid this Nelson staff argument is in the first place: So we’re to understand that Moenning and Linehan ran the most incompetent campaign EVER, YET they were able to keep an OWH reporter (and obviously her editors) hypnotized by Pete Ricketts, even while the OWH Editorial board were on the side of Ben Nelson the whole time (which, while Nelson staffer doesn’t want to talk about, readily admits).

    No doubt the “Smoking Man” is involved in this somehow as well…

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