When I ran for Congress in 2018, my campaign developed a highly effective Social Media engagement platform for polling the electorate on relevant issues ranging from gun control to the Gateway Tunnel project. By engaging hundreds of voters daily and reaching thousands with a single question of the day, we were able to develop a predictive voting model which determined the Primary results within 2 percentage points in a five way race. Yes, I knew well in advance of Election Day, that I was going to fall short of any big win.
Using the same applied methodology from 2018, we can predict that out of an approximate turnout of 335,000 voters this November, the only votes that are of critical importance to either campaign – the ones who are definitively undecided – equal 25% of the 225,400 non-Primary/General only voters or 56,000 whom we have aptly identified as Persuadables. You can bet that Mikie Sherrill’s campaign, having the distinct advantage of incumbency, has already spent significantly on identifying these voters down to their IP addresses. If the election were held today, the Persuadables would break 3:1 for Sherrill. The hope of the Becchi campaign is that they will be able to quickly identify this non-conforming, politically moderate voting block and make the case that Sherrill is not the advertised moderate who is willing to work across the aisle in the best interests of the diverse 11th, but a progressive liberal who votes along the Democratic party line 91% of the time.
Who are the Persuadables and where do they live? 68% live in Morris County; 13% Sussex; 12% Essex; 7% Passaic. They self identify as socially moderate, fiscally conservative, incomes >$100,000, 62%/38% Female/Male, have a love/hate relationship with the President AND are more likely to vote Republican. While that seems like obvious bad news for Mikie Sherrill, it is not. They identify with Sherrill as being one of them, they like her military service, her family and hold her character in high esteem. They value her communication platforms – social media, direct mail, personal appearances (town hall forums), TV interviews and constituent relations. They voted for Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen in 2014 and 2016, but voted for Democrat Sherrill in 2018.
In order for Rosemary Becchi to persuade the Persuadables, she must (1) establish herself to be a very positive, strong but reasonable, hands-on, get-things-done candidate who DOES NOT align herself with the far right (2) draw a distinct contrast between the Persuadables’ moderate perception of Sherrill and Sherrill’s actual voting record – arguing how she [Becchi] will restore political balance to the 11th – saving it from the influences of the far left fringe and (3) show how she will return dollars from Washington to the district, save jobs and businesses and oppose new Green Deals. The Becchi campaign must initially avoid any negative advertising (unless supported by surrogate groups) until the Persuadables accept her candidacy in a positive light.
To be certain, it is a tall order for any Republican challenger to beat Sherrill. She is a well funded, rising star in the Democratic Party, and has a two year head start in identifying, understanding and communicating with the Persuadables. The good news for the Becchi campaign is that the Persuadables are open minded and willing to listen to what fixes she has to offer to what they perceive to be a broken government that can no longer govern effectively. The other welcome news for Becchi is that the cost of reaching these 56,000 Persuadables is considerably less than taking a buck shot approach to advertising to all 335,000 voters. Very targeted social media, email/texting, IP geofencing and Zip-Street Targeted Direct Mail are most effective and low cost approaches to reaching them as opposed to the high cost of traditional TV advertising. Undoubtedly, Sherrill has the money to be everywhere. The Becchi campaign must pick wisely where they spend.
Prior to Becchi entering the race, most national Republican influencers and pundits from the RNC to Special Interest PACs have written off the 11th to a Sherrill victory in November. Becchi’s campaign can now make a very compelling argument to that group of opinion leaders that she already has the funding in place to reach the most important deciders of the 2020 election – the Persuadables.
Patrick Allocco, a former aide to Gov. Thomas H. Kean, was a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th district in 2018.