Vicky Hartzler

The Associated Press named it “Missouri’s Story of the Year” in 2010.  NRCC Chairman, Congressman Pete Sessions, called it “one of the most brilliant campaigns” he had ever seen.  Politico awarded the campaign with the distinction of Top 5 Political Ad of 2010.

What were they all talking about?  Vicky Hartzler’s defeat of 32-year incumbent Congressman Ike Skelton.

TSG Senior Associate, Nathan Adams, was lauded by Congresswoman Hartzler for leading the campaign to victory.  The defeat of the Armed Services Chairman occurred thanks to a focused message, hard-hitting television and radio ads, and a commitment to selling the race to donors and House leadership.

Vicky Hartzler faced a daunting task when she announced that she would run against Ike Skelton, the House Armed Services Chairman who had served Missouri for 32 years.

Hartzler, a former state representative, had been out of elected office for 9 years.  A month after her announcement, a state senator announced that he was going to run and a few months later, state party officials attempted to get her out of the race.

Adams was undeterred.  He assembled a senior fundraising team and put Hartzler on a schedule that was committed to raising money during the day and old fashioned grass roots campaigning in the evening.  Hartzler’s message was simple, “The people need to send elected officials who will restore fiscal sanity to Washington D.C. and a state senator that proposed the largest tax increase in Missouri’s history is not the person to send.”

Adams told the Springfield News-Leader that, “Vicky Hartzler is the most dynamic candidate I have ever worked for.  She is sincere and genuine and people connect with her in a way that most candidates cannot.”

Closer to Election Day, Team Hartzler executed a media campaign that was based on the campaign’s vote model.  The campaign bought heavy television and radio in the Jefferson City and Springfield media markets, while flooding the Kansas City market with direct mail, capitalizing on Hartzler’s existing name ID.  The campaign tossed in two direct mail pieces district-wide and on primary election night, Hartzler cruised to a double-digit victory.

In the general election, Adams developed an extraordinary fundraising strategy.  Adams had to ensure that Hartzler would have the finances necessary to run a winning race.  In essence, his challenge was to convince Missouri business leaders to invest their personal dollars into a race that many believed was unwinnable.  The answer was to develop a business plan that gave those investors clear measures and benchmarks.  Adams developed a business plan built on district demographics that showed that the seat was actually a Republican seat, but the party had not run a top tier candidate against Skelton since the early 1990′s.  Then, as follow up, Adams would send out polling on the race to donors once a week.  Adams then sold the race to national leaders the same way but added one caveat — Hartzler was their only real opportunity to take out a sitting chairman.

Because of this strategy, donors and party leaders felt personally invested in the race.  Donors had access to the campaign that they had never had with any other candidate or campaign.  The national party had access to all information that legally could be given.  As one prominent Kansas City donor said, “Unlike other campaigns, I was and still am personally invested in Vicky.  I feel like a member of the campaign team.”

Skelton unleashed a month-long negative attack ad blitz on television while Hartzler reloaded her campaign coffers.  Adams would say later, “I knew we had him the day we went back on the air and polling showed Skelton below 50% re-elect.”  Adams ordered that all ads contained the fact that Skelton was voting 95% of the time with Nancy Pelosi.  All told, Skelton spent $1.8 million, Hartzler spent $1.2 million, the NRCC spent $1.2 million and the DCCC spent $800,000.  On Election Day, Vicky Hartzler defeated the House Armed Services Chairman by 5 percentage points.

Some pundits and media outlets said that 2010 was a fluke and that 2012 would be different for Hartzler.  The DCCC recruited a sharp candidate with fundraising prowess to run against Hartzler.  The Kansas City Star called it, “the only competitive House race in Missouri.” While Missouri Republicans were soundly defeated statewide, Hartzler cruised to re-election, winning by 25 percentage points.

As one Missouri Republican elected official put it, “Some consultants can only run certain campaigns or are very cookie-cutter.  Not Nathan.  He proved that he is multi-dimensional by running a completely different campaign in 2012 from the one in 2010.  He is not emotional, but very rational and develops a campaign plan around the numbers and the candidate’s strengths.  He is not a ‘yes’ man and will force you to be a better candidate, but at the same time, respects the fact that it is your name on the ballot.”

Congresswoman Hartzler stated, “Nathan was the first person I hired when I decided to run for Congress.  He personally sacrificed with me and my family to ensure that I was successful on Election Day.  I consider him not to be a consultant, but a friend, and will be an asset to any candidate.  I look forward to working with him and The Singularis Group in the future.”