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Adler also hired prominent media consultant Bill Hillsman of North Woods Advertising to produce more of his quirky ads to generate attention.
Hillsman was the ad maker for Democrat Paul Wellstone’s upset win in the 1990 Senate race in Minnesota and more recently has done ads for Democrat Ned Lamont in Connecticut and former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.).
In this race, not all of the attention was good. For example, the ad “Stick Together” featured a Korean dry cleaner with a thick accent that critics said reinforced racial stereotypes. The ads also weren’t seen by many people in the district. The campaign could only afford to run about $50,000 worth of ads on cable in the expensive and crowded Los Angeles media market. That means 2,000 spots ran over six days, a minimal buy.
One Web video spoofed Astin’s role in the movie “Rudy,” but this time with Astin giving Adler a pep talk.
In the end, Adler’s lack of votes was extraordinary. He finished 36 votes ahead of Democrat Loraine Goodwin, a doctor and an attorney from Madera, roughly 250 miles away from the 36th Congressional district, in central California’s San Joaquin Valley. Last November, Goodwin lost the general election in the 19th district to Republican Rep. Jeff Denham, 65 percent to 35 percent.
Goodwin spent $172 on her race through May 5, ran no campaign to speak of and garnered roughly the same amount of support as Adler in this month’s special election.
But Adler’s performance still wasn’t enough to dissuade more cable news coverage. CNN interviewed Astin on “American Morning” three days after his candidate received less than 1 percent of the vote.
Up against two well-funded, established Democrats, Adler started the race with significant hurdles. The first-time candidate with a first-time campaign manager tried to compensate by targeting first-time voters, minority groups and independents. It’s a noble cause but not a winning strategy in a low-turnout special election. In such a short amount of time, the Adler campaign struggled to convert the national attention into district support.
In his endorsement, Eisner wrote, “I wish I lived somewhere between Venice and San Pedro so I could vote.” Apparently, he wasn’t the only one.
Astin appears to be taking the defeat in stride and is aware of his shortcomings as a manager. A couple of days after the election, Astin tweeted about being able to take all of Adler’s voters out to dinner because there were so few of them.
“There just wasn’t enough time for Dan to connect with enough voters,” Astin told Roll Call. “It was a miracle what we accomplished in five and a half weeks.”