Fortune: Novick's unorthodox campaign

Charlie Burr

Novick_2 From Fortune Magazine:

All of 4 feet 9 inches tall, with a hook for a left hand and a résumé devoid of any time in elected office, aspiring U.S. Senator Steve Novick would be easy to write off as unelectable. That's clearly the view of the Democratic Party, which has put its weight behind his rival in the race to unseat Oregon Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in November.

But this populist, anticorporate progressive - Novick is best known as the EPA lawyer who sued Occidental Chemical for polluting the Love Canal and got a $129 million settlement in 1995 - has emerged as the odds-on favorite heading into the May 20 primary. Credit his quick wit, self-deprecating sense of humor, and unorthodox campaign.

Novick actually plays up his stature and handicap, which are due to a birth defect. His hilarious campaign ads have become a sensation on YouTube - and have helped vault him to a double-digit lead in recent polls.

One commercial shows Novick sitting at a bar poring over hot-button issues with a companion who's most interested in trying to pry open a beverage. "U.S. Senate candidate Steve Novick fought corporate polluters," intones the voice-over, "but would you want to have a beer with him?" Novick grabs the bottle from the guy and pops the cap with his prosthesis. Cue the credits: "Steve Novick always finds a way to get things done."

Another spot shows three political types claiming to be Steve Novick until the camera pans over - and down - to the diminutive real Novick ("I don't look like the typical politician," he says, "but I won't act like one either.")

Read the rest here.

Discuss.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    The beer ad was funny. But it doesn't seem to have been politically effective. Novick had the airwaves to himself early this year and was running a couple of funny ads. Yet Merkley, running zero ads, gained ground against Gordo in the Rassmussen public opinion polls at nearly the same rate that Novick did.

  • Runtmg (unverified)
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    Novick has run a campaign that has been brilliant....at times. There is a lot to like about Steve as our nominee. He is certainly a break although I disagree with Novick's over the top rhetoric and position on tax relief for Africa I do think he has much to offer.

    Kevin, the point that Merkley is running zero ads is doing about the same as Novick is hardly a stellar endorsement of Merkley. Why wasn't he running ads? Say what you want about Novick and I certainly have but at least he has tried to win this race. Merkley has won the endorsements but Novick has gone out and try to win the people. For all of Novicks failings, his campaign has been exciting.

  • (Show?)

    It's not every day that a progressive political candidate gets a glowing writeup like that in Fortune. (Forbes: even less likely.)

    This is the kind of earned media that will only multiply if Steve is the nominee. He's just an inherently interesting guy.

  • (Show?)

    Kevin, the point that Merkley is running zero ads is doing about the same as Novick is hardly a stellar endorsement of Merkley.

    It wasn't meant to be. I'm glad we agree on that.

    Why wasn't he running ads?

    Same reason why Novick was running ads way back then - campaign strategy. Isn't that self-evident?

    Say what you want about Novick and I certainly have but at least he has tried to win this race.

    Say what you want about Merkley but if you check the polls, the blogs and news accounts as well as TV and radio ads you'll see that he has tried to win this race too.

    What's your point? That Merkley should have just copied every strategic move that the Novick campaign did?

  • Pat Malach (unverified)
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    Wonkette also featured Novick's campaign today.

    With a few notable exceptions, national media noses are just beginning to sniff around Novick's campaign. This is the kind of earned media that will only multiply (exponentially) if Steve is the nominee.

  • Harry (unverified)
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    "... and have helped vault him to a double-digit lead in recent polls."

    Kevin, the goal is to win the Primary, THEN win the General. So what if Jeff can get better polling against his ghost opponent Smitty during the Primary season, especially if Jeff gets taken out in the Primary by the hook. Looking more and more likely that the unlikely Novick wins this one. Obama has coattails, and they will bring Novick more than they will Jeff.

  • Daniel Spiro (unverified)
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    "The beer ad was funny. But it doesn't seem to have been politically effective. Novick had the airwaves to himself early this year and was running a couple of funny ads. Yet Merkley, running zero ads, gained ground against Gordo in the Rassmussen public opinion polls at nearly the same rate that Novick did."

    What Kevin meant to say was that Novick's ability to captivate attention from periodicals like Fortune is just the kind of thing that will bring in national interest to this campaign should Novick win the nomination. What Kevin also meant to say is that Merkley wished he was half as interesting as Novick. What Kevin further meant to say is that Novick deserves points for claiming the initiative over and over again in this campaign, including being the first candidate to run ads -- and eye-catching ads at that.

    The above quotation must have been tongue and cheek. How else can someone dis the campaign tactics of the candidate who was less known in the state, had far less institutional support, and had far less money too ... and yet somehow placed himself in a statistical dead heat with the prohibitive favorite only one week from the primary?

  • Anon (unverified)
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    So far most of the cool media is from Right-leaning sources. Fox News. Fortune. The Oregonian Editorial Board. Attacks on Merkley by Gordon Smith and Reinhart.

    I know he got the WWeek, who departed entirely from journalism to launch his campaign in unprecedented fashion. But generally, the earned media seems more right-leaning.

    Several possible explanations:

    1. I'm just wrong on interpreting the data
    2. Pyramid Communications, Novick's inside-baseball p.r. recent employer, has relations with those outlets, and they just happen to be right-wing.
    3. The Stefanie V. interpretation: "he's just more interesting," particularly to right-wingers apparently.
    4. Some right-wingers would like to paint Democrats as being like Steve Novick: "anti-corporate," a bit mean, Harvard-educated, and unapologetically voicing for the New Deal.

    Maybe it's a combination of several of those. But each right-wing outlet Novick plug makes me a bit nervous.

  • (Show?)

    So what if Jeff can get better polling against his ghost opponent Smitty during the Primary season

    You're missing the point, Harry.

    The point of running ads, whether for political campaigns or for selling widgets that the local Big Box, is name ID.

    Relatively obscure political campaigns wouldn't spend a dime on running ads if they didn't believe that doing so would result in better name ID.

    Novick ran ads early this year, Merkley didn't.

    So why didn't Novick's increased name ID translate into measurably greater performance compared to Merkley in polling done during and after his TV ads ran (which is when you'd expect them to produce their greatest effect)?

  • LT (unverified)
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    http://rgweb-c.registerguard.com/blogs/index.php/capnote/comments/pollster_finds_novick_merkley_race_up_in_the_air/

    “I would rate Novick a very slight edge,” Hibbitts told the Portland Tribune, which along with Portland’s KPTV commissioned the survey. “This race is very much up in the air.”

    `````````` http://www.ridenbaugh.com/

    Bearing in mind the margins of error, the high votes for the other candidates and the massive undecideds, the take-away from these polls seems obvious: No one knows what the hell is going to happen.

  • (Show?)
    So why didn't Novick's increased name ID translate into measurably greater performance compared to Merkley in polling done during and after his TV ads ran (which is when you'd expect them to produce their greatest effect)?

    Kevin, are you saying that there was polling being done in January and early February when Steve's ads first launched?

    So far most of the cool media is from Right-leaning sources. Fox News. Fortune. The Oregonian Editorial Board. Attacks on Merkley by Gordon Smith and Reinhart.

    Anon, you are forgetting that Steve has also been featured in Harper's and the Atlantic online, Good Magazine, Air America, and other not-so-right-leaning outlets. Also, earlier this week Thom Hartmann and Carl Wolfson spoke on the air about the reasons they had both voted for Steve. So maybe it's just that, you know, he really is more interesting. %^>

  • Anon (unverified)
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    So far most of the cool media is from Right-leaning sources. Fox News. Fortune. The Oregonian Editorial Board. Attacks on Merkley by Gordon Smith and Reinhart.

    I know he got the WWeek, who departed entirely from journalism to launch his campaign in unprecedented fashion. But generally, the earned media seems more right-leaning.

    Several possible explanations:

    1. I'm just wrong on interpreting the data
    2. Pyramid Communications, Novick's inside-baseball p.r. recent employer, has relations with those outlets, and they just happen to be right-wing.
    3. The Stefanie V. interpretation: "he's just more interesting," particularly to right-wingers apparently.
    4. Some right-wingers would like to paint Democrats as being like Steve Novick: "anti-corporate," a bit mean, Harvard-educated, and unapologetically voicing for the New Deal.

    Maybe it's a combination of several of those. But each right-wing outlet Novick plug makes me a bit nervous.

    Thanks for that, Kari or whoever you are.

    I won't be voting for Merkley in the primary or in ANY OTHER race.

  • Daniel Spiro (unverified)
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    "Relatively obscure political campaigns wouldn't spend a dime on running ads if they didn't believe that doing so would result in better name ID. Novick ran ads early this year, Merkley didn't. So why didn't Novick's increased name ID translate into measurably greater performance compared to Merkley in polling done during and after his TV ads ran (which is when you'd expect them to produce their greatest effect)?"

    Um. If Novick was a relatively obscure political campaign whose campaign strategy didn't work, and if despite that, he's now running neck and neck against a less obscure, better funded opponent, how would you explain it, Kevin? Is it simply because the Oregon public recognizes that Novick is both much more talented than Merkley and a zillion times more interesting? Is that your point?

    (Sorry to be sarcastic, but you've been blasting Novick nonstop for months even when you have no leg to stand on. You might want to sit back, take a breath, and try to be a tad more evenhanded. We already have one Lanny Davis. Do we really need two?)

  • (Show?)

    Thanks for that, Kari or whoever you are.

    Wasn't me. Believe it or not, Jeff Merkley has more than one supporter in the great state of Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    Sorry to be sarcastic

    No need to apologize, Daniel. It's a tough but reasonable question that I posed. If you felt you had a good answer then you would have given it. So you went with snark and tried to justify that by appealing to past debates/discussions/arguments/whatever you want to call them. None of which answered the question, of course. But then you know that as well as I do.

    Look, questioning the political effectiveness of a political ad isn't personal nor is it an attack. It's a legit question to ask on a political blog. Besides which, I said that I found the ad funny. In fact I have never said that I didn't like that first ad. Didn't go out of my way to praise it, for obvious reasons. But I don't believe I have ever dissed it or dismissed it. It was funny! But apparently not very effective.

    And unlike your compadres tactic on the post below this one, I haven't desperately tried to divert attention from the subject of the post to something else. Jeffrey O'Brien (yes, I read the rest of it) made the TV ads a central focus of the piece he wrote. And I asked questions that bear directly on his theme.

  • gl (unverified)
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    If he is good for the Carlyle group he is good enough for me

  • MollyM (unverified)
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    I think its a great article! Its awesome (and telling, I think) that Steve is already getting so much national press.

    As far as why Steve's "earned media" tends to be more right-leaning, this is a ridiculous statement. Stephanie V pointed to some of the not-so-right earned media that has come Steve's way, but also it just makes sense that more attention will be given to a story when it is a right-leaning source running a positive story on a progressive democrat. It just makes sense.

  • Daniel Spiro (unverified)
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    Kevin,

    I really don't mean to feud with you. I'm only saying that what should characterize us as Democrats, among other things, is evenhandedness. I've made no secret of the fact that Steve and I are very close friends, and that gives me a bias. But I've also tried to give Merkley his due -- and that includes talking about him in a much more positive light, say, than Hillary, who is driving me to distraction with the way she has been campaigning (Merkley, for example, has never compared Novick invidiously to Smith, whereas Hillary has compared Barack invidiously to "Commander and Chief" McCain).

    Whether Merkley or Novick is the better candidate is less important than whether we, as progressives, remain committed to the truth. Sometimes, I feel, you've crossed the line in favor of uber-spin. You'll note that I've never picked a bone with Merkley as a legislator, other than to say that I didn't care for "the resolution," because I didn't want to spin about things I know very little about; and no non-Oregonian knows much about other states' legislators. I hope that if Steve wins the primary, and he's obviously got more or less a break even chance to do just that, you can get behind him 100% but never forget to give Smith is due. In the long run, I think it's more effective advocacy.

    With all sincerity, shalom.

  • (Show?)

    Shalom, Daniel. I don't always agree with you but in my book you are one of the good guys and it has long been evident to me that you mean well.

  • (Show?)
    No need to apologize, Daniel. It's a tough but reasonable question that I posed. If you felt you had a good answer then you would have given it.

    Kevin, this would carry more weight if you didn't make a regular habit of dodging tough but reasonable arguments by asking repetitive questions rather than answering, or by spinning straw like you thought Rumpelstiltskin was a consultant for team Merkley.

    The answer all of us may need to worry about is that the results of both candidates vs. Smith more reflect his relatively high negatives than anything either of our guys have done.

    The question isn't how to get to low 40s against Smith -- Bill Bradbury can tell us that. The question is how to get the next 10%.

  • (Show?)
    The question isn't how to get to low 40s against Smith -- Bill Bradbury can tell us that. The question is how to get the next 10%.

    I agree, Chris. More to the point, wouldn't what makes effective political advertising seem to be fairly relevant to that? Particularly in light of the oft-repeated claims by Novick supporters along that very line of thought?

    Take shots at me as you see fit, I'm a big boy. But since I'm not going to be facing Smith, what relevance do they really have to what you say is the important question?

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