Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reaction To Candidates At Falls Church Parade

There were a number of festivals across Northern Virginia yesterday that coincided with Memorial Day. One of those was in Falls Church which had both a festival and a parade. Although a good appearance at a parade doesn’t directly relate to victory on election day, I think they can say something about a campaign’s ability to organize and rally it’s supporters. Plus a good showing can provide candidates with some name recognition that they otherwise wouldn’t have received.

Both Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe marched in the campaign and had a decent size showing (Creigh Deeds was apparently in Portsmouth at another parade, but did have a few people marching in the parade). Brian's supporters in attendance were folks who I recognized as activists who put in long hours making phone calls, knocking on doors, and taking part in other grassroots activities supporting Democratic candidates over the years. Considering that Brian has built his campaign from the ground up and really promotes grassroots action, it shouldn't be too surprising to anyone that it was grassroots activists who were rallying behind Brian during the parade.

While Terry McAuliffe did have the largest number of people there, someone who was marching for a candidate in another race pointed out that many of the people there marching for Terry were on his paid staff. Even though this person supported Terry, she thought it was disingenuous of the campaign to use campaign staffers in an attempt to make it look like Terry is running a purely grassroots campaign. Since parades are largely an opportunity to rally supporters and energize them heading into grassroots action, the fact that Terry’s crew seemed to turn off some of his own supporters in attendance suggests that Brian’s team of dedicated volunteers won the event.

In terms of the Lt. Governor campaigns, Mike Signer had a decent showing of support. Since a large number of people still do not know much about the LG race, this showing at a well attended parade could have helped him pick up some name recognition. It’s also worth noting that many of the people who were marching with the gubernatorial candidates were wearing Signer stickers. While the crowd might not have picked up on those folks, it does fit with the fact that Mike has picked up a lot of grassroots support. As we are heading into the final days of the election and canvassing efforts could really help convey Mike’s message, this is a good sign for his campaign.

While Signer was able to get some name recognition out of the event, Jody Wagner had a horrible showing as there were less than five people marching with her group. In fact, it was only when she later tweeted about the parade that I even realized Jody herself was there (I also asked at least 15 Democratic activists who were there and nobody else had realized that Jody had marched in the parade). Since there was another parade in Portsmouth which is very close to her home base, it seems as though she would have been better served to have a good showing there or have skipped the parades all together to either canvass or make phone calls.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, I spent most of my time during the parade marching with Steve Shannon who is the Democratic nominee for Attorney General. As I watched him interact with the crowd, he was received extremely well. On a number of occasions he was even briefly stopped by people who he’d seen on the campaign trail before and wanted to express their support. Other folks said things like “We cannot afford to have Ken Cuccinelli be Attorney General” or “We need your leadership in the AG’s office.”

There were also a few state and local elected officials who took part in the parade including Del. Bob Hull and Del. Jim Scott. Along the way, a lot of people seemed to know Del. Hull as I heard them shout out things such as “Hey Bob” or “Keep it up Bob.” When you combine this with the fact that Hull’s opponent in the primary, School Board member Kaye Kory, wasn’t even there, a lot of people were wondering if this was representative of how the overall campaign is going.

All in all, I thought the parade went very well. There have been many times when I’ve marched in parades with candidates and there would be more people in the parade than watching it. That was not the case during yesterday’s parade, which means the candidates in attendance actually had an opportunity to shake hands with a large number of undecided voters. While in the end an appearance at a parade won’t guarantee victory on election day, the large crowd did result in the parade being worthwhile for campaigns that had a good showing.

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