Carrick Ousted as Tenenbaum Lags

Posted September 3, 2004 at 6:23pm

Seeking to refocus her Senate campaign as she slips further behind in the polls, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum (D) has fired longtime media consultant Bill Carrick and hired Dixon-Davis Media to handle advertising strategy over the final two months of the race.

Carrick’s departure represents the second major shakeup in Tenenbaum’s campaign team in recent weeks. Campaign manager Carol Butler resigned in late July and was replaced by Frank Holleman III, a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“She had an opportunity to bring in an ad team that has a strong record of electing middle of the road Democrats in Southern and border states and she feels very positive about the change,” said Tenenbaum spokesman Adam Kovacevich.

David Dixon and Rich Davis, the firm’s two principals, will both be involved in the Tenenbaum effort. The firm referred all calls on the matter to the Tenenbaum campaign.

Carrick, who is a partner in the firm of Morris, Carrick & Guma, did not return a call Friday seeking comment.

A South Carolina native, Carrick handled the media for Tenenbaum’s successful 1998 and 2002 campaigns for state superintendent of education.

Kovacevich insisted that the parting between Tenenbaum and Carrick was cordial.

“She considers him to be a talented strategist and he has been an incredibly valuable sounding board throughout the years,” he said.

Tenenbaum’s decision to jettison Carrick with less than two months remaining before she and Rep. Jim DeMint (R) square off for the seat being vacated by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D) comes amid increasing signs that the early lead she held in the contest has completely evaporated.

A poll done by Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies for DeMint’s campaign in late August showed the Upstate Congressman with a 50 percent to 38 percent lead over Tenenbaum.

That margin is a far cry from the 48 percent to 33 percent edge for Tenenbaum in a March survey conducted for her campaign. Harrison Hickman will remain in his role as the campaign’s pollster.

When informed that Tenenbaum had dismissed Carrick, DeMint media consultant Scott Howell said: “I would have too. Have you seen her campaign?”

Running in one of five Democratic open seats in the South, Tenenbaum has been heralded by national Democrats as their best chance to win in the increasingly Republican Palmetto State Senate seat.

Her campaign drew kudos in its early stages for pushing Columbia Mayor Bob Coble (D) from the primary after just a few months, despite the fact that Coble has solid support among some state party stalwarts including former party chairman Dick Harpootlian.

In the ensuing year, Tenenbaum seemed to be on cruise control, focused on raising and banking large sums of money for the final push this fall while Republicans sorted out their crowded primary field.

Tenenbaum’s campaign has performed well in that regard, showing more than $2 million in the bank at the end of June. DeMint lagged well behind with just $98,000 on hand at that point, after raising and spending more than $4 million on his primary and runoff campaigns.

Since DeMint emerged with a convincing runoff victory over former Gov. David Beasley (R) on June 22, however, Tenenbaum has struggled to match the Congressman’s momentum and settle on a coherent general election message.

The campaign responded awkwardly to ads sponsored by Americans for Job Security that attacked her allegedly spendthrift ways while at the state education department.

Tenenbaum came back with a commercial decrying the ads, drawing some private criticism from Democrats who wondered why her first ad of the campaign was a response spot.

The campaign is now on the air with two biographical ads touting Tenenbaum’s military roots and support for veterans.

One informed Democratic operative said “there is no question that the ads being produced for her campaign were inferior and needed to be improved.”

Kovacevich sought to dampen any discussion that the most recent change indicated a campaign in chaos.

“Just the opposite,” he insisted. “This shows that we are determined to run the tightest ship possible going into the last 60 days.”

Kovacevich added that Dixon-Davis has a long record of electing candidates with a similar profile to Tenenbaum, including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) in 2002 and Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.) in a June special election. Tenenbaum will be the firm’s first Senate client of the cycle.

That explanation wasn’t enough for Geoff Embler, a spokesman for the DeMint campaign.

“For a woman who is trying to distance herself from [Massachusetts Sen.] John Kerry, Mrs. Tenenbaum sure has adopted his ‘hire and fire’ approach to campaign staffing,” he said.