Kenneth Quinnell, the uber-smart new media director for the Kendrick Meek campaign, recently asked a few of us in the blogging community for feedback on “on the candidate, the campaign and our new media outreach efforts.”
While I am sure Ken would have preferred for me to deliver my counsel privately, I wouldn’t tell him anything privately that I wouldn’t write on this blog. So here goes:
Let me begin by commending you for continuing to reach out to the new media community. I am sure the last thing you all need right now is more advice. In this situation, I am reminded of the scene where Caspar warns Tom not to say ‘I told you so’ which Tom promises not to say, but ends up doing so anyway.
It’s not that I told you so or that I am any more right than anyone else who has criticized the campaign. Actually, I agree with Adam Smith’s assessment that, quietly, Kendrick Meek had been running a solid campaign that no one seemed to be noticing.
I just don’t think a quiet, solid campaign is enough to win in these turbulent times.
That’s why it is so interesting to see how the Kendrick Meek Campaign has operated over the last month. It’s operated as if it finally really cared what Democrats, especially Democrats who don’t live in South Florida, think about the campaign.
To me, this failure to lock up all of the Democratic Party has been and is the Achilles’ Heal of Kendrick Meek’s campaign. There are 40,000 African Americans in St. Petersburg and just as many in Orlando and Tampa and those votes are not locked up. There are thousands of urban liberals along the I-4 campaign and those voters are not locked up. That’s why white Democratic elected officials like Bill Heller and Janet Long have yet to endorse Kendrick — because their constituents have yet to endorse him either.
Anther faction of the Democratic Party that Kendrick Meek has yet to lock up is the Netroots. And this was suppose to be his strength, especially with the signing of Kenneth Quinnell. Yet, despite Quinnell’s efforts and hard work, the liberal blogintelligensia is not firmly behind Meek. Sure, some of the most liberal bloggers are with Meek, but certainly not the majority. The Reid Report, Opinion Matters, Pushing Rope, Recreating Tampa, (my) Saint Petersblog…all of these sites have remained dangerously neutral.
And this neutrality has impacted the media coverage, or lack thereof, that the campaign receives. Whereas if you look at Marco Rubio’s campaign, it is all but fueled by the posts, tweets and words of the blogosphere.
So what can Kendrick Meek do about these two situations — just two of several — I don’t know. Certainly having Jeff Greene in the race was the best and worst thing to happen to Meek. Best because Greene’s candidacy seems to have inspired Meek to finally take off the gloves. Worst because Meek may end up losing the election.
In the end, I think the real problem for Kendrick Meek’s campaign is that Kendrick is listening to many of the same people that have lost election after statewide election here in Florida. In case, you guys hadn’t noticed, the Florida Democratic Party is not poised to have a banner year. With the exception of Scott Arcineaux and Eric Jotkoff, I don’t know if anyone in Tallahassee knows what the hell they are doing.
So, Congressman Meek, if you don’t do something dramatic now, when you are at 14% in the polls, about to be overtaken by Jeff Greene, you will end up losing. If not in August, then in November.
A few bullet-point suggestions?
Get out of South Florida and come to Tampa Bay. Now. Rent a hotel and stay here for a week. Not a day. Not a couple of events. But a week, at least. Camp out in Midtown St. Petersburg and inner Tampa and hammer home your base in the African American community. I know these neighborhoods and I know that, right now, you’ll only win them with seventy or eighty percent of the vote, not the ninety-five percent you’ll need to win in November.
While you’re in Tampa Bay, recognize that Tampa is not St. Pete or Pinellas. There are hundreds of thousands of voters in Pinellas and your indifference has ceded them to Charlie Crist.
Buy the blogosphere. Ten or twenty grand in advertising spread among twenty blogs would gain you a cadre of shock troops that you’ll desperately need in the coming months. I’ll make a deal with you. If you advertise on the other 14 major liberal blogs, you don’t have to on Saint Petersblog (unless you really want to), just so long as you do it.
Finally, never, ever get to the point in a debate where things turn in to an exchange of ‘Yo Mama’ lines, which is what occurred on Tuesday.