CASE STUDY: The Case Against Curry Todd



With 3 primary challengers and no run-offs in Tennessee, our client’s objective of taking down a 20 year incumbent was pretty ambitious. The anti incumbent vote getting split three ways was almost enough to back out and focus resources elsewhere. But Curry Todd has been a thorn in our client’s side for many years and it was time to take action.

The first poll showed Curry Todd in the 60s! We weren’t going to win unless we brought this incumbent WAY down. We needed a message that worked, a sustained campaign, and a hope that one of the three challengers rose to the occasion. We were fortunate to have good research, but the challenge became how do we tie it altogether and stay one-step ahead. Our response was to stick to an ethics message, and tie every piece back to the “career politician” theme that worked so well across the country. Lobbyists, lying, scandals, and the feeling that he was “above the law” were what every voter would associate with Rep. Curry Todd.

Our client took on an exceptionally big target in Curry Todd. He was a 20-year incumbent for a reason, and no single story was ever enough to take him out. This time, we had to completely reframe his image: Instead of the avuncular statesman he claimed to be, we would make him the personification of everything that was wrong with politics. Our campaign goals were to hit the three biggest complaints about “career politicians”: That they’re above the law, they’re dishonest, and they care more about lobbyists than people.

We measured the effectiveness of our early pieces through comparing our early polls with our final poll. Over the course of three mailpieces (“Always Something,” “The Lobbyist,” & “Ying/Yang”) we watched as Curry Todd’s polling numbers dropped from a strong 60+ share of the vote to a highly competitive tie in the low 30s. Our anti-incumbent message had turned this 4-way primary from relatively safe to highly competitive for a career lawmaker with $200,000 in campaign cash. When Rep. Todd was caught on video stealing signs, he made a bad situation even worse. We struck quickly with our final “Ready Set Scandal,” a piece that magnified local news coverage and gave undecideds the visual proof they needed to confirm all the messages they heard before. Rep. Todd finished with a paltry 18% of the vote.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *