NICK CLEMONS: Campaign objective--win 50% plus one. We won by just under 10,000. To get there we employed a very aggressive earned media strategy, an unprecedented field program, and a paid media program that kept us competitive with the Bush campaign.
Earned media focused on Bush's failings in Iraq (we had several military families participate in very compelling events), his economic policies that were counter to NH values (people in NH did not really see a tax cut, and small businesses were hit hard by increasing cost of healthcare and cuts to the SBA), and the fact that healthcare costs were increasing so rapidly that people were being priced out of the market. We used a good mix of real people conveying their stories and national surrogates to get our message out. Our press team of Eric Schultz (Kerry) and Kathleen Strand (Party) were exceptional--keep your eye on them, they will no doubt be players in big campaigns in the future.
Field program consisted of a massive door-to-door and phone effort that resulted in over 500,000 contacts between May and November. The field team benefited from having more active volunteers than I have ever seen on a campaign before. The field team did an exceptional job in recruiting and maintaining volunteers and by election day itself, we had over 5,000 volunteers on the ground. The field program also complemented our message by focusing week to week on delivering in person, the message we were hammering with on TV and through earned media.
The paid media in the state was due to John Kerry's awareness that a lack of TV and radio in NH through the summer and early fall was what did in Al Gore in 2000. He made the commitment early to win NH, and that meant staying competitive with broadcast media. The DNC even went up in Boston at the end of the campaign, something B/C '04 never did. We knew, given the exceptional air cover from the national campaign, that we had the tools to win the election on the ground.
In addition to winning the state for Kerry, we were also able to help elect John Lynch governor, win two new state senate seats, and 26 more house seats. November 3rd was a very bittersweet day for my staff and I, given the level of success we saw in New Hampshire.
Its hard right now for me to think of any serious shortcomings of the campaign in New Hampshire. We were provided with the resources we needed to win, we were allowed to run the state from New Hampshire (a critical point to a state that has a legendary independent streak), we had exceptional staff and volunteers, and John Kerry had the message that resonated more with the voters of the state. Were there day-to-day annoyances and mistakes made along the way? Absolutely. But as I look back the shortcomings of our campaign were minor and we had no institutional roadblocks that prevented us from doing our job.
Looking at the results, there were several interesting things I noticed.
We won or stayed close in many places where Democrats traditionally get
trounced. The towns of Rye and Stratham in the seacoast area both
went for Kerry, even though they normally go big for Republicans.
In the southern tier, Amherst and Hollis were so close they could essentially
be called draws, even though this is the heart of GOP country (no Dems
in the legislature from these towns). The reason I think we won in
these and other traditionally Republican areas is that George Bush did
not represent the kind of Republicans that NH GOPers normally support.
This state is socially moderate and fiscally conservative, and they viewed George Bush as socially conservative and fiscally--out of control (after all, this is the home state of Warren Rudman). It also helped that John Lynch ran a disciplined campaign with a moderate message that coincided with that of John Kerry. There was no message friction at the top of the ticket, and when a Republican voter considered voting for Lynch, they also considered Kerry, and vice versa.
As far as key players in the campaign, none were greater than Jeanne
Shaheen. She knew that New Hampshire was winnable, and no doubt made
our lives easier by ensuring we had what we needed in New Hampshire.
She is also still the most effective in-state surrogate, both with voters
and the press. Joe Keefe, former state party chair and congressional
candidate, is among the most respected Democrats in the state and was an
excellent talker on behalf of the campaign. Mike Vlacich, who has
moved over to Governor Lynch's staff as deputy chief of staff, ran the
coordinated campaign like a well-oiled machine and our work with that coordinated
campaign was seamless.