Our Take on the Midterms

With the 2018 elections behind us, it's time to reflect on what happened, what didn't happen, and what it all means for our country going forward.

(1) Pay no attention to the spin: Democrats were the winners.

Donald Trump went into full media-narrative combat mode Wednesday to convince us that it was a good night for Republicans. And in a few races it was. But overall, Democrats were the clear winners Tuesday night, taking back the House with a strong margin as well as many wins in key state races. We also padded our bench with fresh new talent for elections to come.

(2) The "Blue Wave" rhetoric lost us the expectations game.

Election Night pundits made comments about how the blue wave "crashed early", and it was underscored by a few disappointments in the Senate and in Florida. But the expectations pundits had were frankly ridiculous. Beto O'Rourke and Stacey Abrams weren't long shots, they were full-court shots, and they both hit the rim. Democrats won plenty of races they wouldn't have in most years, including House races in Kansas and Utah.

(3) The real victories were in the statehouses.

The period of redistricting after the 2010 Census and midterms had a devastating impact on our party's performance these last eight years. Taking back the U.S. House of Representatives was important, but the long-term victory will be the flipping of 6 state legislative chambers and several governor's mansions. But we're going to need more statehouse victories in 2020. Besides defeating Trump, this should be our top priority moving forward.

(4) There's a geographic divide over #MeToo.

On the coasts and in urban areas, the Kavanaugh hearings were seen very differently than they were seen in the South and the agricultural Midwest. Their votes against Kavanaugh cost Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly their Senate seats. The one Democrat who voted for him was re-elected in West Virginia. Throughout October, we heard even Republicans in coastal states take Ford's side and even Democrats in rural states take Kavanaugh's. While we're far from understanding this divide, we see it clearer than ever.

(5) There's a clear realignment taking place.

Every election cycle, political scientists like to ask themselves if a "realignment" in the electorate is underway, and it happens basically anytime a chamber or office changes parties. But it really does seem to be happening under Trump. Rural districts across the country have been gradually going red over the last few decades, but until recently many could still reliably elect Democrats. Now suburban districts are starting to consistently go to Democrats. Most surprisingly, southern suburban seats, like those around Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas, flipped blue last week. Higher education levels in a district used to correlate with higher Republican support. Now it's the opposite. This may be the most significant legacy of Donald Trump.

"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"

"As a new candidate, HSG Campaigns was so helpful to my campaign. They helped coach me and show me how a campaign should be run, and they produced great mail and other media to support me. HSG Campaigns knows how to win!"

— Marisol M. Uribe, Board Member-Elect, Montebello Unified School District

We have been proud to work with the Monetebello Teachers Association over the years, as well as their endorsed candidates in 2018. Among them was Marisol, who took first-place in her first election last week. The Montebello Unified School District has had its share of problems these last few years, which is why we are proud to have helped elect an educator and reformer. Good luck, Marisol!

What We're Reading

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"I am excited to be starting my first podcast in 2019. One of the podcasters who got me interested in the medium was Mike Duncan, whose book comes from the many notes he compiled for his History of Rome podcast.

The book focuses on the generations that came before the fall of the Republic, and the politics of that time (which eerily mirror our politics today): '...rising income inequality, dislocation of traditional ways of life, increasing political polarization, the breakdown of unspoken rules of political conduct, the privatization of the military, rampant corruption, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, battles over access to citizenship and voting rights, ongoing military quagmires, the introduction of violence as a political tool, and a set of elites so obsessed with their own privileges that they refused to reform the system in time to save it.'"

- Dave

Thank You, Dave!

If you have worked closely with HSG Campaigns in the past, you have probably worked with our Managing Director, Dave Broker, who is moving on after ten terrific years at our firm. Dave has been a tremendous asset to us, and I wish him all the best of luck moving forward.

Dave will soon be launching a podcast about the Industrial Revolutions and the world-upending impact they've had on our society, our politics, our work lives, and all other facets of our lives. He's a smart guy with interesting stories, so I am really looking forward to hearing it!

If you would like to receive information about the Industrial Revolutions Podcast when it becomes available, please click here to email Dave and let him know.

Thank you, Dave!

- Eric

Where We are Getting our Mid-Term Coverage

With less than a week to go, all eyes are on the mid-terms and the potential the Democrats will take back the House. We wanted to share what we are reading and listening to in order to stay informed about this election. 

1) FiveThirtyEight

I don’t think I should have to say this, but if you aren’t reading FiveThirtyEightand Nate Silver, you really should. Their blend of data journalism, models, and a mathematical view of the situation cuts through the noise and punditry that dominates the vast majority of the news. With a model for the House, Senate, and governors races you can see both how the races are shaping up, as well as what factors are creating the environment. 

2) Upshot's Live Polling?

Interested in how polling actually works? The Upshot has been polling races and producing results in real time, letting readers watch and see exactly what is going on. If you are the type that reads a lot about polls but doesn’t fully understand what they mean, take a dive here.

3) The Press Box Podcast

There is no doubt the news media is having a major impact on the election. Every week Bryan Curtis and David Shoemaker breakdown the press’s reactions to major stories and what that reaction means. You cannot understand the election without taking a long look at how stories are being covered.

What We're Reading

This week Mike is recommending "The Presidents Club" by Nancy Gibbs.

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"This book is a detailed history of the relationships between American Presidents, including before, during, and after their presidencies. We learn about Dwight Eisenhower’s influence in helping Ronald Reagan enter politics, the rivalry-turned-friendship of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon’s secret role as a foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton. The book is a great read for lovers of history and is filled with fascinating stories of serious diplomatic missions, stealthy political maneuvering, and amusing club reunions."

- Mike

3 Questions Every Campaign Should Be Pondering Right Now

The #BlueWave2018 has reached October, which means we're in the homestretch. Successful campaigns will have made the big decisions ahead of time. Nevertheless, there are always October surprises, budget adjustments, and other factors to carefully consider at this very moment.

Every Democratic campaign, big and small, should be pondering these three questions right now...

1) Will there still be a "Brett Bounce"?

Several polls during the Kavanaugh confirmation battle noted that the controversy was exciting Republican voters about turning out in November. Democrats (including women planning to vote for Democrats) were already extremely enthusiastic before the troubling revelations about the newest Justice came out. But almost losing a Supreme Court seat seriously angered the Republican base. Will that trend continue now that he's been confirmed, a month ahead of Election Day?

2) When it comes to GOTV targeting, how low-propensity is too low this time?

Make no mistake, Democratic turnout this year will be high for a midterm election. Voters who normally don't come out will come out, especially if encouraged by a well-executed GOTV program. But is it worth it to target a voter who has never showed up for a non-presidential race? What about a voter who hasn't voted a single time in the last four cycles? And what about 3/4 voters? (Voted in 3 of the last 4 general elections) Should they be considered a lock and removed from the GOTV list?

3) Do we have our spending priorities right?

This is a question we ask toward the end of every election cycle, but this year especially. It's the first Democratic wave year where digital advertising is a major budget item. New innovations like over-the-top (OTT) distribution are making up for the decline in TV viewership. Easily-accessible ideology models have made direct mail targeting better and better. And of course, the big question: Do we focus our resources on persuading independents, or do we need to focus more on turning out angry, non-midterm-voting Democrats?

Of course, we don't have any blanket answers to these questions. Every campaign is different and will need to approach these questions in a way that best fits their situation.

"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"

"Over the years I have worked with HSG and seen their work on heated campaigns. Time and again, I am impressed with their ability to deliver strategic messaging with high-impact visuals. Eric Hogensen is keenly aware of how to use his political mind to communicate with voters in a way that works."

— Chris Larson, Wisconsin State Senator, District 7

What We're Reading

This week Eric is recommending Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward.


"This is required reading for everyone. Woodward's track record speaks for itself and is reflected in his readable, well-researched account of the first part of the Trump presidency. Relying on firsthand accounts and steering clear of the pure gossip, it's an important reminder of just how extraordinary this moment is."

- Eric

Need Help Answering the October Questions?

We're here for you! Reach out to us today to see how HSG Campaigns can make a difference to your campaign in the homestretch!

3 Tips for Using Affordable Videos for Your Campaign

Only a few years ago, videos were a medium that only large, TV-focused campaigns could afford. That's all changed. Videos are incredibly captivating, and thanks to several new services, producing them and getting views is easier than ever before.

Here are our 3 tips for using inexpensive videos for your campaign.

1. Pick a service for creating simple videos. 

There are many options to choose from. 30Second Explainer Videos creates short, animated videos for businesses, but the Whiteboard style also works great for candidate campaigns. There are also several companies (RocketiumAnimoto / AnimakerShowbox) that allow you to create your own videos in-house, even if you don't have any experience with editing. These cater well to social media feeds.

2. Plug your videos into social media. 

Whether you are doing expensive, professionally-produced videos meant for television, or affordable explainer videos like the ones described above, you need to be advertising them on social media, particularly YouTube and Facebook. Services like HootSuite can help. Boosting the ads to your target audience is easy and, for local races, is one of the best ways to raise your name ID.

3. This can't wait until the last minute.

Developing your social video plan early will allow you to tell your story to voters over the course of several weeks. Plus you'll want to get registered as a political advertiser with Facebook right away. The process takes several weeks, so you'll want to start it at least a month before Election Day!

"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"

"Eric and his team have helped us win several tough campaigns. The direct mail and campaign literature they produced was visually striking and effectively conveyed the messages and values we wanted to express to the voters. I highly recommend HSG Campaigns for organizations that want to have an impact in the next election."

—Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary-Treasurer,
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor

What We're Reading

This week Dave is recommending "California: A History" by Kevin Starr.


"Raised in Wisconsin, I never had an opportunity to learn much about my adopted home state of California growing up. In 'California' Starr provides a solid, easy-to-read survey of the state's history from the early days of Spanish exploration all the way through to Jerry Brown's second administration. I definitely recommend it to my fellow transplants." 

- Dave

How Did Andrew Gillum Win?

Florida’s gubernatorial primary brought perhaps the biggest upset of the year, with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pulling off a surprise win that almost nobody saw coming. With polls predicting a 3rd place finish, how did Gillum manage to pull off victory?

1. He Created Clear Contrast: 

Gillum's story wasn't just inspiring, it set him apart. He's the son of a bus driver and a construction worker, the first in his family to attend college, and (would be) the state's first African American governor. Compare that to his main opponents, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine, or Jeff Greene, who all came from privileged backgrounds. And compared to second-place finisher, the super-centrist Graham, Gillum's strong progressive credentials gave Democratic primary voters a clear ideological choice.  

2. He Didn't Fear the Label: 

Earning endorsements from the likes of Bernie Sanders sets you up to be labeled a "socialist" by Republicans, but Gillum feared not. Progressives have long argued that staying in the middle doesn't win general elections. You can't win if you don't inspire the base. Enough Democrats felt comfortable with that argument to nominate him. Both conservatives and progressives will have ample reason to vote now.

3. He Brought in New Voices:

From what we can tell so far, the reason Gillum surprised pollsters is because he built a coalition of under-sampled voters - namely people of color and Millennials. Re-creating the Obama coalition, he boosted turnout and has obvious energy going into November.

"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"

"I know firsthand the high-quality work HSG Campaigns has done in Los Angeles and across California. Eric Hogensen and his team have a talent for creative communications, strategic targeting, and innovative campaign practices. A Democrat running for office in California should definitely consider them for their campaign."

—Eric Bauman, Chair, California Democratic Party

“What We’re Reading”

This week Mark is recommending "The Physics of the Impossible" by Michio Kaku.

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"Have you ever read science fiction and thought 'man it would be cool to own some of those gadgets'? What if I told you that many of them are not only possible within the laws of physics, but likely to be developed? Michio Kaku takes you though classic science fiction gadgets, phasers, force fields, lightsabers, and many more, and explains how they might be developed. An amazing read for anyone who is curious about the future of technology and just how weird advanced physics can get."

- Mark

How to Message the Mueller Investigation

With a guilty verdict in the Paul Manafort trial and guilty plea from Michael Cohen the Mueller investigation is picking up steam and can no longer be ignored (despite what the President wants), so it is important to note how to message around it for upcoming elections.

1. Firing up the base: 

The Democratic base is rabid and ready to do anything that is against Trump. Any messaging that talks about the Mueller investigation is being eaten up. This is a prime opportunity to pick up volunteers and donors. People want to do something, so give them something to do. Tell young potential volunteers that they can get involved and actually do something that will put a stop to this mess.   

How the Wisconsin Governor's Race Shapes Up

The primary in one of the most hotly contested races has come to a close, and since we worked on it, let’s unpack the state of the Wisconsin governor’s race. There are many Democrats saying defeating Walker is major a priority, so this is an important one.

1. Tony Evers comes out of the primary in a position of strength: 

Evers emerges from the primary relatively unscathed, and he's a clear favorite according to the polls. One poll last month showed him defeating Scott Walker by double digits as the Democratic nominee. Walker has always been a polarizing figure in Wisconsin, the same cannot be said about Evers.