Last week, each of the two main candidates for the 2014 GOP Senate nomination in Virginia released videos designed to increase positive perceptions of the candidates. The rival campaigns’ videos reveal starkly different approaches, and highlight each candidate’s strengths.
Ed Gillespie. First out of the gate was frontrunner Ed Gillespie on Thursday, who released a video highlighting significant support at the College Republican Federation of Virginia Convention last weekend in Richmond. The event itself was not terribly impressive in terms of turnout, but the production values around this video make it look like it was, and it reveals some very sophisticated media talent.
Ed’s speaking focused on the race against Mark Warner and Harry Reid. One of the highlights was support from Mark Obenshain, himself already immensely popular among Virginia CRs. Overall, the effect was of a polished, well-run, optimistic campaign focused on winning back a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.
Shak Hill. Yesterday, Shak Hill’s campaign released a video taken of him giving a speech at the Million Vet March back in October. As you may remember, this was the civil disobedience event mounted by veterans groups during the federal government shutdown last fall protesting the “Barrycades” place around the World War II Memorial and other federal monuments as a means of needlessly increasing the pain associated with the GOP’s standoff with the president.
Shak’s speech was pure red meat for conservatives, capitalizing on the widespread outrage at the president’s tactics that came at the direct expense of the dwindling number of WWII veterans and their ability to visit the memorial erected in honor of their fallen brothers. It was well-delivered, and well-received, and highlighted Shak’s ability to command an audience, as well as his military background. Production value? Not much, but also not inconsistent with the ad hoc, “indignant protest” vibe of the whole event.
Observations. Both of these videos represent their respective candidates well. Both play to the candidate’s strengths. For Ed, that means displaying a well-oiled campaign machine, and a bright, optimistic vision focused on a very specific electoral goal. The video tells the viewer that we can trust this guy to run a good campaign, and that he’s ready to make the necessary contrast with Mark Warner. Shak’s video, by contrast, plays directly to the conservative base, appealing to the foundational principles that undergird the Tea Party and liberty movements, while pulling at the patriotic heart strings of ordinary voters. This video tells us that Shak knows what message wins in a Convention, but doesn’t necessarily comfort those who wonder how well this message will translate to the General Election.
In other words, these videos provide a visual manifestation of the analysis we provided in our last update on the U.S. Senate race, essentially that each candidate’s challenge will be to move out of their respective comfort zones. For Ed this means convincing the base he’s truly one of them, and for Shak that means overcoming fears that he’s not electable in a race against Mark Warner.
Granted, it’s still early, and this is just a comparison of two videos, and not necessarily the overall thrust of each campaign (see “Ed Gillespie Makes Appeal for Tea Party Support” for a countervailing example). Still, to the extent these videos reveal the campaigns’ current mindsets and communication priorities, they show that neither campaign has yet fully internalized what needs to be done to win both the nomination and the General. These videos don’t move the needle for either candidate.