LNCC: Defeating Your Opponent with Mail and Phones


Dane Strother of the Democrat consulting firm Strother Strategies lays out how traditional phone and direct mail help crack an election rigged in favor of a political dynasty — the powerful three-term president of the Cherokee Nation. Previous opponents had tried the traditional debates, rallies and TV ads, only to fail.

Strother, writing for Campaigns and Elections, says in part:

“The race to head the Cherokee Nation isn’t typically a contest favorable to the use of more traditional campaign techniques–new media, direct mail and phones. So the question for our team upon deciding to take on the challenge of unseating a 12-year incumbent this past year was whether modern campaign tactics could work in a storied and somewhat closed political culture…

“…The goal was to unseat Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith, who was running for another term as head of America’s largest Native American tribe. We knew from the start that it would be no easy task. Smith was an attractive, charismatic politician who understood how to use the mechanism and resources of government to completely control the Cherokee Nation–and to maintain a stranglehold on the tribe’s election process. Previous races against the chief ended in lopsided losses as vendors and insiders contributed the $5,000 max to the incumbent and challengers were left with no avenue for contributions.

“The imbalance was easy to understand. As chief, Smith named the tribe’s Supreme Court, the election commission, the attorney general, the secretary of state and the treasurer. The Nation’s Council of the tribe must approve the appointments, but Smith had long ago gained control of that body. In his position, he single-handedly controlled an annual budget approaching $1 billion, nine casinos and a myriad of businesses. Arguably, chief of the Cherokee Nation is a better job than Oklahoma governor…

“…(Smith’s opponent, Cherokee councilman Bill John) Baker had a friend in one-time Oklahoma congressional hopeful Kalyn Free. EMILY’s List had previously backed Free as a challenger to Rep. Dan Boren. She agreed to help Baker and phoned me. We decided to bring on John Jameson of Winning Connections to handle phones and Merv Wampold of Wampold Strategies to develop a direct mail program…

“…The results of our baseline poll were daunting–Smith’s approval rating was 67 percent and his reelect was 53 percent, most of which was very solid. The first horserace question had Smith leading Baker 52 percent to 10 percent, and more than 65 percent of Cherokee voters thought the Nation was moving in the right direction. Given those numbers as a starting point, I’d usually advise a challenger to save his time and money, but in this case our goal was to surprise the establishment with modern tactics and a message-driven campaign. So we pressed forward…

“…Following a couple of bio pieces we mailed to voters introducing them to Baker and his business and family background, we started hammering folks with mailers demanding the plane be sold and the proceeds distributed to health clinics…

“…But even after the start of a solid outreach effort, anchored by a message we were confident would help bring Smith back down to earth, the incumbent still wasn’t taking us seriously. He had his tribal employees respond to the attacks with lengthy and poorly crafted mail pieces and newspaper ads [PERSONAL NOTE: NEWSPAPER ADS ARE A WASTE OF MONEY. YOU CAN REACH MORE VOTERS WITH THE SAME MESSAGE FOR THE SAME MONEY WITH DIRECT MAIL.]

“By the time our next poll came back, we saw progress. Smith was leading 45 percent to 25 percent. In a matter of weeks, we had managed to grow by 15 percentage points, while Smith had dropped by six points. Most importantly, he was a well-known incumbent under 50 percent and we managed to bring his job approval down from 64 percent to 56 percent…

“…Our phone program identified undecided voters and soft Smith supporters, and then we bombarded them with mailers. We sent a dozen pieces of mail to both universes and called them all at least six times. Two weeks out, our polling showed the race narrowing to an uncomfortable margin for Smith–44 percent to 36 percent. That’s when the Smith camp woke up and realized they were in serious trouble.

“The first move from Smith’s camp was bringing in Tulsa-based political operatives and quickly hitting us with negative mail alleging Baker was a slumlord. The mail barrage went on for each of the final seven days of the race. But by then it was too late. About half of the ballots had already been mailed back, so there simply wasn’t a large enough group still out there to be persuaded by Smith’s negative mail campaign.”

After much legal wrangling Baker would be declared the victor, a stunning victory made possible by cost-effective direct mail and phones. Read the full story at http://www.campaignsandelections.com/case-studies/293627/breaking-through-a-storied-political-culture.thtml.


Will Obama’s “Buffett Rule” which jacks up taxes on dividends, really balance the budget?

Absolutely not. Even if Obama were to seize and liquidate everything owned by every billionaire, it wouldn’t even begin to pay off his spending.

Here are the numbers:

$1.5 trillion: Combined net worth of every billionaire in the U.S. (Source: Forbes)
$4.9 trillion: Federal government debt racked up by Obama (Source: CBS News)

We can’t tax our way out of trouble. We must cut spending and privatize entitlements now.

Republicans won’t do it. Only Libertarians will.


The Libertarian National Campaign Committee (LNCC) is providing a FREE all-day training class for Libertarian candidates and activists, at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, NV on May 2, 2012 (the day before the LP National Convention opens there). You won’t want to miss this great opportunity to hear from experts. And although some seminars can be boring and sleep-inducing, this workshop is just the opposite! You’ll find it high-energy and entertaining, as well as extremely informative. To RSVP, fill out the response form at:


Although this response form is oriented towards candidates, you don’t have to be a candidate to attend. If you’re thinking about the possibility of running for office in the future, or you want to help out on somebody else’s campaign, or you just want to generally learn more so you can be an effective Libertarian activist, this free seminar is perfect for you. Just check the “YES” box under the question of whether you’ll be attending the workshop. Afterwards, you’ll be the one telling other people what a fantastic event they missed, instead of vice versa!

Go here to learn more about running for office as a Libertarian.

  Wayne Allyn Root, Chairman
Libertarian National Campaign Committee

32 thoughts on “LNCC: Defeating Your Opponent with Mail and Phones

  1. Jill Pyeatt

    My husband is Cherokee, and we remain as active as we can in the Cherokee Nation, although we’re in California. I know Chad Smith and I’m met Bill John Baker. This was indeed an interesting campaign, and it will be even more interesting to witness how things unfold there in the next four years. We’ve already seen some fallout from the Smith years in people we know.

  2. wolfefan

    The attack on Obama in the middle of the story kind of comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the content. I looked again to see if I had missed the section for comments on the original post. It’s too bad, because it distracts from and lessens the power of an interesting story that has application to would-be third party candidates. The lessons of the Cherokee nation election have less to do with national politics and far more application to smaller, more manageable campaigns, particularly given the budgetary requirements of a national campaign, which will almost certainly be beyond the $$ available to any third party candidate.

  3. Alan Pyeatt

    FWIW, Chief Smith had lost many of his supporters before this campaign even started. Also, this was a very nasty campaign, and I would NOT be too quick to believe anything either side said about their opponents. Take the airplane issue for example: the Baker camp made a big deal out of Chief Smith’s administration buying a new airplane. Yes, they traded in the old airplane for a new one. Even my friends (who can be hyper-critical) didn’t see it as any big deal. Take a look at the University of Oklahoma’s airplane hangar some time! OU (and most large universities) have a FLEET of airplanes. Former Chief Smith can be criticized for a lot of things, but the airplane issue was bogus.

    The fact is that Chad had his chance (12 years in office), and people weren’t happy with what he was doing. It’s not like he doesn’t know how to use direct mail and phone banks, and yes, he used them in this campaign, too. In fact, Chad was the one who used innovation to defeat Baker’s ally in 1995 (then-incumbent Principal Chief Joe Byrd). In ’95, Chad made 2 videotapes (1 for the regular election, and a 2nd one for the runoff) and mailed them to EVERY SINGLE ELIGIBLE CHEROKEE NATION VOTER. These videos slammed Byrd for some very questionable things he had done during the Cherokee Nation’s Constitutional Crisis in 1997, when Chad Smith acted heroically in defense of the Nation’s remaining sovereignty.

    I was interviewed in both of these videos, and still have copies of them. My friends and I also sponsored events for Chad, including a benefit concert at which the band I was in performed, and I mixed the sound. But by 2011, all that goodwill had dissipated because of Chad’s policies, and we all sat on the sidelines and watched him go down to defeat. It was still close: as I recall, the first count had Baker winning by 2 votes, and the 2nd count had Smith winning by 7. Eventually the Judicial Appeals Tribunal (equivalent to a Supreme Court) threw out the election and ordered another vote.

    Congratulations and best of luck to Bill John Baker’s campaign team, and his new administration. Obviously, he wouldn’t have had a chance if he hadn’t run a strong campaign. But make no mistake, it was Chad’s policies over the past 12 years that did him in, not an overwhelming difference in campaign strategy.

  4. Alan Pyeatt

    Special Note to Robert Capozzi: Please notice the words, “during the Cherokee Nation’s Constitutional Crisis in 1997, when Chad Smith acted heroically in defense of the Nation’s remaining sovereignty.”

    If you value something, you had better be willing to protect it. In 1997, Chad Smith stood up against an out-of-control Cherokee Nation administration and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Abuse. Federal agents charged him with 3 felony counts, and the only reason he wasn’t sent to jail for life is because witnesses had videotaped the incident, and the charges were thrown out of court.

    Regardless of the merits of Chad’s actions as Principal Chief, during the 1997 crisis he became a hero to our people, and that is no over-statement. If he had stressed this during the 2011 campaign, and reminded everyone more often that Bill John Baker is an ally of Chief Byrd (who is now back on the National Council), then who knows, maybe the election would have gone the other way. Or maybe not, since Chief Smith had already lost much of his core support.

  5. Alan Pyeatt

    One last comment: I would like to know more about the Baker campaign’s polling, in particular the poll that showed, “The first horserace question had Smith leading Baker 52 percent to 10 percent, and more than 65 percent of Cherokee voters thought the Nation was moving in the right direction.”

    From what I heard, there were FAR fewer than 65% of Cherokee voters in Southern California who “thought the Nation was moving in the right direction.” Unfortunately, the Principal Chief election almost always hinges on the absentee voters, most of whom live in California. So I would be interested in hearing about their polling techniques, and whether that statistic is accurate.

  6. Alan Pyeatt

    Whoops, I just noticed a mistake: Although Chad Smith ran for the office of Principal Chief in 1995, he was defeated in that election. The election in which he used the videotapes and upset incumbent Principal Chief Byrd occurred in 1999, not 1995.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  7. Michael H. Wilson

    I realize that it is probably useless of me to say anything, but information as to how one runs a campaign should be in a booklet form for the 90% of the party members who will not be attending the vegas convention. That same information also needs to be run as an ongoing article in the LP News and there is so much more to running a campaign that what is in this article.

  8. Steven R Linnabary

    I used to subscribe to C&E years ago. It has a wealth of useful information and campaign tips…IF you have $150k for a state house run or a million for a Congressional run.

    But few Libertarian campaigns have more than a tiny fraction of that. While I do appreciate the LNCC making this information available, it isn’t something we can readily use. Unless we win the lottery.


  9. Michael H. Wilson

    Until the party puts some focus on going door to door ain’t much gonna change. Television, the internet or modern technology won’t do much good unless you know how to answer a question with someone standing in your face asking it. Know what issues can help your community. How about better access to urban transit which can be brought to the market by repealing restrictive regulations. Does anyone talk about that issue?

    Knowing why you are running, being presentable and being willing to talk to people one on one. May be the most important tool in politics.

    Like we say in retail presentation is everything. We had a guy a couple of years ago who had little or no money just some brochures and went door to door and damn near won a school board race. He started late and probably did not spend a $100.

  10. Wes Wagner

    MHW @12

    Evangalism works — and it is personal, and only scales through organic growth.

  11. ATBAFT

    These ideas certainly work if one has an R or D after one’s name. Libertarian views are (or should be) distinguishable enough from R & D that it takes more than a quick “Hi, I’m the Libertarian candidate; read this brochure” to convince non-libertarians to vote for you. It will take a long educational effort to get those who don’t already agree to vote Libertarian.
    Heck, I’d bet more than half who already do agree vote R or D even in an L is on their ballot.

  12. Thomas L. Knapp


    Actually some of the nuts-and-bolts stuff mentioned here (or in C&E) can be done on a very reasonable budget.

    Also, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, it can be done on a smaller scale to accomplish smaller things.

    For example, in 2008 when I ran for Congress, everyone in my district whose name was on the Missouri LP’s “member or has inquired” list got a postcard asking them to vote in the LP primary and a robocalls the day before that primary and the general election to remind them.

    Those numbers were small enough that I wasn’t able to measure results as a significant uptick in the number of LP primary voters, but I thought it made sense and still do.

    Since I had bulk-ordered the postcards and framed the text on them so as to make them usable as general election door-hangers, several thousand ended up on doors in the district.

    I don’t remember how much I spent on that campaign, but I know it was less than $2000, including one poor spending decisions ($700 to advertise on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s political blog — that wouldn’t be a poor decision for EVERY campaign, but I think it was for mine).

    No, I didn’t win the election, but of the seven elections for which Missouri’s Secretary of State web site had records (all of them since 1996), I not only got more votes than any third party candidate, I got more votes than all third party candidates combined had received in any one election. So I think those things I did helped some.

  13. paulie

    The attack on Obama in the middle of the story kind of comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t have much to do with the rest of the content.

    Although it is posted here as a story, it’s actually a newsletter edition, and the Obama thing is a separate story from the Cherokee election story.

  14. wolfefan

    Thanks, Paulie – that helps explain it a little better. I know Wayne has his role to play, but it sure seemed out of place the way it appears in the post.

  15. paulie

    I think Aaron, or maybe a team of people, actually wrote this. Wayne signs off on it but I don’t think he does most or necessarily even any of the writing.

    Common practice in this sort of thing.

  16. Jill Pyeatt

    I wish the part of Obama had been left off. Wayne’s obsession with Obama is embarrassing to the party.

  17. Matt Cholko

    I think nearly everything the Rs and Ds do, with the exception in some markets of TV ads, is doable by Ls. Can we send a fancy direct mail piece to every voter in a congressional district 5 times like they can? Nope. Can we send twice to every voter in a few (or many more) precincts? Absolutely. Can we do the same with robo calls, door hangers, door knocking, etc? Damn right.

    I did that during my 2009 campaign for the VA House and the results on election day CLEARLY show significantly higher vote totals in the precincts where we concentrated campaign efforts.

    I didn’t win the election, or even come close. But, my campaign did show that Libertarian ideas can be sold to voters, and people will vote for an L, WHEN WE CAMPAIGN PROPERLY!

  18. Matt Cholko

    While I’m thinking of it….

    My district (at the time VA 39) has a very substantial Korean-American population. I got some free Korean translation from my gf at the time, made some flyers with a small amount of Korean text and distributed them at a big Koreak festival, put 10 gigantic signs (professionally designed and printed) on the major roads in the areas with high concentrations of Korean-American owned businesses, and on election day guess which precincts I did best at? That’s right, the ones with the highest concentration of Korean-Americans.

    Again, campaigning works. Libertarians need to do a lot more of it.

  19. Matt Cholko

    I have an opinion (totally untested, at least by me) on newspaper ads…..

    I agree with a previous commenter that they reach older voters. And, old people vote. However, the older a person is, the more likely they are to be loyal to the Rs or Ds. So, I don’t know how many votes are to be gained from the old folks.

    However, these days, newspapers are hurting for advertisers, and they are filled with people who will later leave the paper to work elsewhere in news media. By placing ads in them, you are making yourself (and the LP) known to these people, and you are giving the paper some much needed revenue. Don’t think that latter fact is lost on the publishers, editors, and even some of the reporters. Spending money with them seems like a sure-fire way to make it harder for them to ignore Libertarians.

    Another less speculative benefit of newspaper ads….. they are pretty damn cheap in local papers. Like any ads, they are market priced. They tend to be worth what they cost, otherwise nobody would buy them.

  20. wolfefan

    Hi Paulie – that a few people read/wrote and signed off on this makes it worse than if it had just been Wayne. We’re supposed to surround ourselves with people who challenge us, not who encourage our worst instincts.

  21. Michael H. Wilson

    re Matt @ 22. I know U.S. Congress races don’t have much to do with mass transit. However as you mention older people vote.

    Choosing the issue is important and of the people over 65, 81% of those without adequate access to transportation are women, if my recall of the statistics is correct. A local candidate maybe able to use something like that to their advantage.

    And Matt this was not aimed at you. It is just that your piece gave me an opening to use it.

  22. Austin Battenberg

    If a Republican wins the 2012 election, I just hope Wayne is just as critical of that President as he is of Obama. If he is, then it might help make him not look like such an extreme right-winger.

  23. paulie

    that a few people read/wrote and signed off on this makes it worse than if it had just been Wayne. We’re supposed to surround ourselves with people who challenge us, not who encourage our worst instincts.

    I made no normative comment or judgement about it; sorry if you thought any was implied. Just doing my best to present the facts to the best of my knowledge.

  24. paulie

    I think nearly everything the Rs and Ds do, with the exception in some markets of TV ads, is doable by Ls.

    Apparently there is a way to microtarget cable TV ads also. Doug Craig has the details.

  25. wolfefan

    Hello Paulie – I didn’t mean to imply any criticism of you and I’m sorry if I did. I read your comment as purely descriptive. I did mean to state a mild criticism of Wayne and his staff/supporters.

  26. Alan Pyeatt

    AB @ 26: “If a Republican wins the 2012 election, I just hope Wayne is just as critical of that President as he is of Obama. If he is, then it might help make him not look like such an extreme right-winger.”

    Why would he do that? He gets air time BECA– USE he’s such an extreme right-winger.

  27. paulie

    He gets air time BECA– USE he’s such an extreme right-winger.

    Other people get air time besides extreme right wingers.

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