Monique Hoeflinger of Equality Maine on Marriage Equality Campaign Strategy
Last week, as part of a “community conversation” in the city of Auburn Maine, Monique Hoeflinger of Equality Maine shared the strategic vision of the NO on 1 / Protect Maine Equality campaign to preserve Maine’s new same-sex marriage law. My transcription of her remarks (including embedded video where these were shown to us) follows:
In any campaign there’s a lot of different moving parts. The way I like to think about our campaign is with two parallel tracks running at the same time. The first one is what we call the air war, and this includes the TV ads and other paid communication that goes on with each side responding to the other on air. The second track is all about what we’re organizing. It’s what we call the ground game. Essentially what happens is these two tracks happen simultaneously, and the air war gives cover for the real work to happen on the ground, the real organizing.
I want to talk a minute about the air war first. How many of you have seen our TV ads. OK, most of the people in the room. Fantastic. We actually want to show the TV ads tonight for those of you who haven’t seen them and talk about their role in this campaign. Before I show the ads, though, I want to say that some of you are going to like the ads and some of you are not going to like the ads. And that’s OK, because they were not designed for us, right? They were not designed for me or you or anyone in the room who is already a supporter. These TV ads were designed with swing voters in mind and they were produced after many hours of vetting and focus groups and polling. So it’s important to keep that in mind. With that said, they play a very important role in our campaign and I want to share them with you.
I want to talk a little bit more about these ads. These ads are so important and they are so necessary, but many people have the mistaken belief that they are the silver bullet that is going to win these campaigns. The reality is that TV ads serve a very particular purpose, and it is not to win the campaign.
TV ads do two things: they rebut TV ads from the opposition, and they create a buzz in the community so that each one of us in this room is able to have conversations with people we know — our friends, family and neighbors — and that is what makes the difference between winning and losing in these campaigns.
Many of you know this anecdotally, right? We were in Augusta last night in their community conversation. There was this woman in the audience; her name was Susan, and she raised her hand and she shared this story that happened to her last week. She’s known this straight couple for the last 30 years, and they are active members of their church, and they also happen to be Republicans. She didn’t know where this couple stood on the issue of marriage equality. She ran into them last week and they were so excited to see her because they wanted to talk about the ad they had seen on TV. They began this long coversation where Susan learned two things that she had never known about this couple. The first was the wife had a lesbian sister; she never knew. The second was that they were planning to vote no in November. And they had this extended conversation where Susan explained how close this election is going to be and how important it is to not only vote no but to vote early.
That is precisely what these campaigns do; they allow us to have these conversations. They create an atmosphere where we can have these personal, one-on-one conversations on a much different scale than what we would otherwise be able to do. And ultimately, that is how this air war sets up the ground game where the real work happens, and where we really can make the difference between winning and losing.
Lest you think she’s whistling Dixie or just making it up as she goes along, you can see Hoeflinger here (2nd half of the video) expressing exactly the same idea in broader context at the Netroots Nation conference earlier this year.
You won’t see such open discussions of strategy and motivations on the part of the anti-gay movement in Maine; Stand for Marriage Maine is keeping its meetings closed to the public and the media. Apparently the anti-gay movement has some things they want to say that they don’t think would go over so well with the rest of us.