Post-Mortem from Within Camp Moran

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Believe it or not, I still have people I can talk to within the (former) Brian Moran campaign. Increasingly, the consensus I'm hearing boils down to a few main points (note: this is pretty much in their words, not mine).

1. The Moran team's failure to develop a message for the campaign in 2008 created an opening for McAuliffe to get into the race. Even to the end of the campaign, Brian's compelling personal story was barely touched on, a real disservice to a worthy candidate.

2. The decision for Brian to resign from the House of Delegates was controversial among the campaign's advisers. Those pushing hardest for Moran to resign his seat were those with a direct financial interest in the campaign spending more money on mail and TV. I'm told that Moran feels he was poorly served by several of his top advisers.

3. The decision to resign was also a big mistake, as it robbed Brian of his bully pulpit from which to lay out a progressive agenda, was not well received in his home district, and probably ultimately hurt his fundraising with the Richmond lobby who wanted to contribute to the minority leader, but were not interested in placing bets on a three-way primary.

4. The Moran campaign was astonished at how much their relatively small negative TV ad buy damaged McAuliffe. In retrospect, many inside the campaign (and I'm told even Brian himself) believe they should have focused much less on Terry, a candidate they believed had glaring negatives (and which they also believed didn't take a lot to explain to voters), and instead diverted more of that time, money and energy into getting out a positive message.

5. Since Moran had never really had a contested race in Alexandria, he didn't have a local campaign organization in place, instead relying on the moribund local party to ensure his successor would hold the seat for the party. When that race was so nearly lost, there was a great deal of concern, frustration and some anger with the campaign from Alexandria Democrats. The last-minute effort to draft organizers from other local electeds should have been done a year earlier when there was a chance for Moran to build a GOTV operation throughout NoVa and not just in a few precincts in Alexandria City.

6. Having Brian Moran go so negative personally was a mistake, basically turning into the 2009 equivalent of the 2004 Iowa "murder-suicide" by Dick Gephardt vs. Howard Dean (with John Kerry and John Edwards the beneficiaries). This time it was Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe, with Creigh Deeds the beneficiary.

7. The decision to not compete in the "sign wars" at the Connolly straw poll was a mistake, particularly since the campaign touted its victories at other Fairfax County straw polls throughout the race. Having Brian attend an event where McAuliffe had enough signage to make it look like McAuliffe headquarters, with no signage of Moran's own was embarrassing and a real failure of the campaign to protect the candidate. Same thing for Shad Planking: "if you're going to concede the sign wars [at Shad Planking], don't go." [Note: one Moran source said, bluntly, about the Shad Planking: "that thing is for wing Democrat should go to that except Mark Warner or Jim Webb"]