• MVAR Media: This Democratic firm led by Steve Murphy and Jon Vogel, among others, hit it out of the park again with some of the best television ads of the cycle. Few spots were as memorable as those of Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., who appeared to have his ticket home punched by a brutal redistricting. Instead, he won by more than 7 points. The firm also had success stories in New York for the campaigns of vulnerable Reps. Timothy H. Bishop and Bill Owens, as well as numerous independent expenditures for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Majority PAC, including for Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and McIntyre.
• Public Opinion Strategies: In a bad cycle for Republicans, the party’s largest polling firm inevitably had a less-than-stellar year. Some of the notables among the POS client list were big ones: Romney, Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown, Florida Rep. Allen B. West and Mia Love, who lost to Matheson despite a big win in Utah by Romney.
• McLaughlin & Associates: One of the most prominent GOP polling firms had a tough cycle in several competitive races. Just on the Senate side, the firm polled on behalf of George Allen in Virginia, Richard Mourdock in Indiana, Linda McMahon in Connecticut and Tom Smith in Pennsylvania.
• Rising Tide Media Group: This firm produced the ads in two of the biggest disappointments for Senate Republicans. Nowhere was the candidate and campaign quality disparity starker than in the North Dakota and Montana Senate races. Democrats Sen. Jon Tester and former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp both emerged victorious, even as Romney won both states by more than 13 points. Republicans ran statewide elected officials in both races, Reps. Denny Rehberg and Rick Berg, yet both faced high unfavorable ratings that failed to dissipate.
Consultants and Firms to Watch
• Three Point Media: The players in this firm, founded in 2009, might not be new, but they landed Three Point’s first IE contract with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and went on to produce ads that helped win crucial races. Their DCCC IE ads ran on behalf of Barrow and Tierney, as well as in the battleground districts of Illinois’ 12th, Nevada’s 4th and California’s 52nd. After making a splash, this firm will likely feature an expanded portfolio going forward.
• Rookie Republican media consultants: Three rookie GOP media consultants left marks this cycle, according to GOP insiders, and are ones to watch headed into the 2014 midterms. They include Andy Seré of DMM Media, Bob Honold of Revolution and Casey Phillips of RedPrint Strategy. All three previously worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee in some capacity.
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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.