But other candidates, such as Richard Mourdock, Todd Akin, and Ken Buck, manifested a habit of saying very impolitic things long before they ended up popping off with something that immediately ended their campaign. Just as you would look at someone’s past votes, you have to look at their past public statements for any things that would be very difficult to explain. You have to look for a pattern that would show real message discipline, or an inability to deal with things that would almost certainly become a problem late in the campaign.
But what I said wasn’t meant as a conclusive statement about Representative King or that Senate campaign.
Geraghty: In setting up the Conservative Victory Project, have you talked with Mitch McConnell or anyone at the National Republican Senatorial Committee?
Law: No I haven’t .
Geraghty: Do you have any sense of whether they see this as a good idea or a bad idea?
Law: There’s fairly widespread concern about candidate quality. It’s a really important issue. There’s a general feeling that candidates who were nominated in Indiana and Missouri this time basically lost races that should have been won. There’s also a feeling that candidates who were nominated in Delaware, Colorado, and Nevada in 2010 also blew opportunities for us. Those are a little bit more debatable, but nevertheless, there’s a concern those candidates didn’t perform well.
That’s part of the backdrop, and that’s part of the reason people who are more conservative are sensitive to the fact that only they are being singled out. What they say, and I think they’re right, is that in addition to those candidates that self-destructed more spectacularly, there was also a failure to perform among some establishment candidates, leading to our view that we need to improve this on all sides.
Geraghty: In some of the examples you’ve cited, the, shall we say, quirkiness was visible from Day One. But in the case of Mourdock, he had already been elected statewide as secretary of state, and was not seen as some nut job who was going to blurt out controversial statements. How do you know if someone is going to be prone to making a fatal gaffe, before he says it? Doesn’t the mission you guys are setting out to do require a certain amount of clairvoyance?
Law: (Laughter) That’s our secret weapon! No, it is hard. We hope that by having another voice at the table, and by dealing with folks with a number of different perspectives, we can analyze these things better and have a clearer sense of who might be a strong candidate and who might not be.
On Mourdock: I know he said before the primary, “I like being in politics because it lets me inflict my opinion on other people.” I know there were at least a couple of instances of similar statements.
But you’re right, Mourdock is a bit of a hard case. He was strongly conservative and had a successful record.
Geraghty: Don’t GOP-primary voters have the right to pick their own candidates?
Law: Absolutely, and they do. There are lots of groups who are involved already trying to influence that choice. Some of those whom we hope to work with are based in Washington and do it very aggressively. They have every bit as much right to be involved and to help primary voters make the right choice as we do.
Geraghty: I remember sitting down with you guys last cycle and discussing what you were seeing in focus groups and so on. Do the 2012 results raise questions about the effectiveness of TV advertising? Could it be that ads that seem to be effective when put before a focus group — when you have their attention — end up not having much impact when they’re surrounded by the noise of all the other political ads during every commercial break?
Law: I think there’s something to that. I think that there was an over-reliance — not just by us, but by others as well — on research that may have trumped judgment and experience. Not to a massive degree, but somewhat. I continue to believe that television is tremendously important when your goal is to persuade people. There is no stronger tool, and clearly the Obama campaign believed that, because they spent massively on TV all the way through Election Day.