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Jewish World Review Jan. 10, 2003 / 7 Shevat, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Political e-mailing comes of age | One of the most interesting lessons to emerge from the midterm elections is the power of massive e-mailing to effect outcomes in closely fought elections. In the first experiment of its kind, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) used e-mailing to win his closely contested race for reelection. The Huckabee experience should serve as a model for campaigns in the future.

The effectiveness of e-mailing in Huckabee's Arkansas race serves as a preliminary indication of the future transformation of politics from television to the Internet.

Locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Jimmie Lou Fisher, Huckabee found himself stuck at 50 percent of the vote, unable to budge higher as Election Day loomed. Pollster John Zogby, testing the waters three weeks before Election Day, found Huckabee leading Fisher by 50 to 40 percent, and there the race stayed for three weeks. In Arkansas, the undecided vote usually goes against the incumbent (in this case all of it did, in fact, go to Fisher), so Huckabee took no comfort from his so-called lead.

While both candidates were spending heavily on television and Fisher was pounding away with the usual assortment of negative ads, the race seemed in status.

Underscoring Huckabee's concern was the impending demise of Arkansas Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R), who was faring badly in his ultimately unsuccessful bid for reelection. Whatever Republican trend seemed to be gripping America, it had left Bill Clinton's native state behind.

On the Thursday before the Tuesday Election Day, Huckabee contracted with (my firm) to do a statewide e-mailing to a list of 545,000 people in Arkansas. Since Arkansas only has 2 million people, the e-mailing promised to blanket the state, reaching most of the Internet households.

The e-mailing featured a very detailed description of Huckabee's record as governor, broken down into categories like "crime," "education" and "family issues" for easy access by voters. The message, attractively presented, was pasted into the body of the e-mail itself to save voters from having to download an attachment.

The letter about Huckabee's record was signed by former Arkansas Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R) to give the message added credibility. The text of the e-mail was much longer - five pages - than would have been possible in either a TV or a radio ad, but gave the voter the option of browsing through to find the categories that most interested him.

The effect of the e-mailing was electric. Huckabee said afterward that "it might well have made the difference" in the election. Sent out between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday, the mailing sent a jolt through the tracking polling. Huckabee's vote share jumped to 53 percent while Fisher's fell to 37 percent. A few days later, Zogby confirmed Huckabee's 53 percent vote share in his published polls, and on Election Day the governor was reelected by a 53-47 margin.

While other campaigns have used e-mail, this is the first massive, statewide use of it to reach virtually all Internet households in a state.

The incredibly positive effect of the e-mailing campaign portends great changes in American politics. With network television viewing dropping further every year, political advertising over the tube is having less impact with each passing cycle.

Now, to hammer home an issue, political advertisers have, typically, to run more than 1500 Gross Rating Points to achieve what 500 points did 10 years ago.

E-mailing is the new front of political campaigning. It is also the ultimate answer to campaign finance reform. By lowering the cost of campaigning, massive e-mailing can - and will - reduce the price of running for office as the law of diminishing returns undermines the future of television advertising.

How does one use the Internet? How to stop voters from just deleting the messages? What information works best online? These are all the questions political consultants and candidates will ponder in the future. But the stage was set in 2002 by Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2002, Dick Morris