Monday, June 4, 2012

The 2014 Governor's Race: David Craig's PR Push

Pivoting from the Democratic side of the 2014 governor’s race, it’s time to focus on Harford County Executive and GOP gubernatorial hopeful David Craig.

As I blogged previously, I attended a bloggers session with the easygoing Craig, who asserted that he was running for “something” in 2014 but played coy about his eventual ambitions. 

Since then, that question has largely been answered: He’s running for governor in 2014.

Previously, Craig’s pre-campaign was a fairly low-key affair, consisting of the aforementioned bloggers’ event, quiet stops at various political and campaign events, and a push to train and recruit GOP candidates across the state.

But over the last 10 days, it seems that Craig’s nascent PR operation has made a deliberate attempt to ramp up operations after months of relative silence.

Earlier today, I listened to WBAL Radio as Craig called upon the governor to allow each county, rather than just Prince George’s County, to determine its own fate with respect to gambling.

Then, over the weekend, Craig put out this statement criticizing the governor as he visited Maine to participate in Democratic Party events:

Governor O'Malley Visits Maine
County Executive Craig Clears Through
the Smoke and Mirrors of the O'Malley Administration

(Bel Air, MD) - - As Mainers meet Governor O'Malley, they will undoubtedly be impressed by his charm, his wit, and his seemingly impassioned speeches about helping the middle class. Marylanders have fallen victim to that trap too. But voter beware, because as our experience in Maryland has shown there is little substance behind that campaign persona.

Despite criticizing his predecessor for not looking out for the middle class, Governor O'Malley has become a champion of extremist liberal policies that have crippled the progress of Maryland's working families. I dare say that for the past six years of the O'Malley administration,Maryland's middle class has been under attack.

It is clear that Governor O'Malley is out of touch with reality when he tries to claim that his tax policies only impact the wealthy.

Like coastal MaineMaryland's Chesapeake Bay is home to many watermen, who make their living by waking up early and working hard all day. These aren't the so-called wealthy that Martin O'Malley claims he is targeting. They are honest, salt of the earth people struggling to get by and make an honest living. Yet Governor O'Malley proposed tripling the registration fee they pay on their workboat.

No one has been impacted more by high gas prices than middle class Americans in rural and suburban communities, who have to commute every day to make a living. And, while the amount that a worker clears in his weekly check continues to decline, Martin O'Malley proposed increasing the cost of getting to work by adding a 6% sales tax on gas on top of the normal gas tax that is currently levied.

In 2008, he increased our sales tax by 20%. Increasing the sales tax is regressive; its impact is felt hardest by the middle class and low-income earners. Any parent who is responsible for the household shopping knows how that their job gets harder when prices go up, but O'Malley didn't care.

 He proposed adding a tax on adult care when more and more families are struggling to take care of their aging parents.

The trend is clear. Time after time, the O'Malley administration has resorted to solving its financial problems by making them the problems of our working families. And the impact of these actions are hurting Maryland. People are leaving Maryland to get away from its unbearable tax burdens. And it's not just millionaires that are leaving, middle class families are opting to move just across the state line to Virginia or Pennsylvania to save money.

According to a recent column in the Wall Street Journal, "a family of four earning $250,000 a year can save $6,000 a year by relocating across the Potomac River to Virginia." In my County, families often choose to move north the Pennsylvania, where homes are more affordable due to a lower property tax.

Maryland's tax burden is so unbearable that leaving Maryland is considered a smart move to preserve income in retirement. It is a sad state of affairs when a retirement coordinator, from the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System (a state government agency), starts his retirement planning seminar by advising you to leave the state when you retire to save on taxes.

But it is prudent advice that many people are forced to heed.

Martin O'Malley paints himself as a progressive champion of the middle class; reality is that he will stop at nothing to fund the pet projects of his liberal special interest friends. Just ask a Maryland waterman, a commuter at a gas pump, a mom shopping for children, or a retiree looking to move away from the place they've called home, who Martin O'Malley's tax policies have been hurting. The answer will be clear: the middle class.

As a political writer, I have very definite opinions as to the effectiveness of this statement. But I’m more intrigued about two other aspects of it.

First, according to the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the release, it came out of the Craig campaign “Saturday afternoon.” The version I quoted above was emailed to Craig supporters on Sunday – kind of a repurposed version of the original presser, I’m guessing.

But, the details of the governor’s campaign trip – which eventually included four states, including Maine – were reported as early as May 21st by the Washington Post.

Everyone who has ever worked on a campaign knows you don’t put out a press release on a Saturday afternoon. Therefore, I wonder why the Craig team waited so long before they decided to seize the opportunity presented by O’Malley’s political travels.

To me, this has afterthought followed by last minute scramble written all over it.

Second, I’m wondering why the release played up where O’Malley was headed as opposed to where he was coming from: A quaint little place called New Hampshire.

Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It has great skiing, a picturesque fall season, and hosts a little event called the New Hampshire Presidential Primary every four years.

I see a missed opportunity here.

The message here should have been that Governor O’Malley rammed higher taxes through the legislature and went on the road to campaign, including a visit to the state presumably hosting the first presidential primary in 2016

Using newspaper parlance, they didn’t bury the lead…they forgot it altogether.

This nuance apparently was not lost on Annie Linskey, the Sun reporter who blogged about the release, who wrote:

Craig's statement went out Saturday afternoon, as O'Malley wrapped up schmoozing with the New Hampshire Democratic party at their Manchester convention. The governor was set to head up to Maine this afternoon to keynote their fundraiser.
Am I making too big a deal about this? Perhaps. But Republicans get so few opportunities to score political points in Maryland that I hate to see them squandered.

Anyway, Craig’s is a young campaign, both organizationally and staff-wise. For example, Josh Wolf, the campaign’s Political Director, is in his early 20s. I remember how not ready for prime time I was when I was that young.

So, while some mistakes are inevitable, Republicans in Maryland do not have the luxury of making too many of them. Moving forward, I’m interested to see what Team Craig does next.

At least I learned one thing from the release: People in Maine are called Mainers. I’d have gone with Mainees myself, but I digress. 

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