Politics being a binary sport, there were clear winners and losers Nov. 6 among the consultant class. While there were certainly exceptions, the two lists were largely divided by party.
There has been plenty of soul-searching across the Republican hemisphere in the past week, as pre-election GOP polling had painted a rosy picture that made election night returns a shock to many. Republicans expected a far different election outcome than what transpired, and the blame is getting spread around.
In the neutral political environment of 2012, candidates and campaigns mattered more than ever. That was evident for Republicans in races across the country, as President Barack Obama won re-election convincingly and Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and House.
Republican insiders have said they’re hoping GOP pollsters take some time for reflection to decipher why their expectations for the electorate looked vastly different than reality. Democrats enjoyed a 6-point turnout advantage and a demographic breakdown that went the party’s way as well.
The consultants who helped run the campaigns are either receiving the glory or the blame. This column looks at notable polling and media consultants that landed in the winners and losers columns, and a few up-and-coming consultants and firms to watch going forward.
• Benenson Strategy Group: Obama’s polling firm helped lead the way to 332 electoral votes and a popular vote advantage of more than 3 million. The president’s team remained confident heading into Election Day, even as GOP nominee Mitt Romney appeared in position to pull out a victory. The polling firm was also dead-on accurate in Rep. Mazie K. Hirono’s Democratic primary victory over former Rep. Ed Case in Hawaii and in Democrat Tim Kaine’s defeat of George Allen for Virginia’s open Senate seat.
• Global Strategy Group: Prominent Democratic pollster Jef Pollock, who was named the 2011 pollster of the year by the American Association of Political Consultants, had another strong showing this cycle. Beyond committee independent expenditure work, Pollock polled for Priorities USA, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly’s Indiana Senate campaign and a long list of House candidates that included Reps. John F. Tierney of Massachusetts and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, and former Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire and Dan Maffei of New York.
• GMMB: The media firm had its hand in races at all levels across the country. It was also successful in a Maryland ballot initiative that expanded gambling, something everyone with a television in the Washington, D.C., media market knew about. Among its accomplishments, Senior Vice President Dan Jester led the Obama campaign’s media buying effort, and the firm teamed up with a coalition of environmental groups in an effort to shape opinion early on in the Senate races in Maine, Montana, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Democrats won the latter three, and former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent, is expected to caucus with Democrats in the Senate.
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.