Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Battle of the Surrogates: Bill Clinton versus Rick Santorum


As the 2013 Virginia Gubernatorial Race heads for the finish line, time is running out for the candidates to fire up their campaign workers and volunteers. One classic campaign tactic is to deploy surrogates into the field to campaign alongside the candidate. These surrogates are more than mere endorsers--they tend to be political celebrities capable of drawing crowds and firing up the campaign workers right before the start of Get Out The Vote weekend--the last three days before the election and Election day itself--known in campaign shorthand as "GOTV."

Ken Cuccinelli's chosen GOTV surrogate is failed Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is recruiting Tea Party religious conservatives to volunteer on Cuccinelli's behalf from Friday November 1st through Sunday the 3rd.


Terry McAuliffe has answered Cuccineli by recruiting former two term President of the the United States William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, also known as "the Big Dog" and "the Explainer in Chief" to barnstorm through Virginia for four days to inspire his campaign workers before they embark upon a four day "GOTV" weekend that begins Saturday November 2nd and ends when the polls close on Election Day, November 5th at 7:00 P.M.

Each surrogate reflects the strengths and limitations of both candidates. Cuccinelli--currently down in the polls--is hoping for high turnout among his own Tea Party Republican base and relatively low turnout among Democrats to help him pull off an upset win--hence the choice of an ideologue like Santorum, who might motivate the Tea Party base, even if he turns off political moderates.

McAuliffe, on the other hand, must build a coalition of more moderate voters from a wide variety of voters who have a historically lower rate of turnout. Bill Clinton may be the best political stump speaker this nation has ever produced, and his appeal stretches far beyond the Democratic base. Clinton is a Democratic "two-for" because he fires up our base and appeals to many moderates and independents as well.

The outcome of this race may very well depend on the effectiveness of these two surrogates in turning out and firing up volunteers to do the work of getting out the vote.

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