Rep. Comstock’s 2018 re-election campaign has already started. Energized voters need to understand her campaign strategy in order to work against it. An analysis of Comstock’s public activities suggests her strategy rests on three major pillars:
I. Preserve her image as a “moderate”
II. Avoid hard, controversial issues
III. Raise a huge campaign fund to destroy her Democratic opponent
Let’s look at some sample activities under each pillar. There will be others as the campaign moves forward, but these provide a good starting point for understanding her campaign strategy. Later on, we will talk about how to counteract it.
I. Preserve a “moderate” image
Activity A. Create a blizzard of photo-ops with safe groups and businesses
Comstock has a strong team dedicated to creating safe outreach events and press releases on topics like jobs, our children, improving Metro, and so on. These activities are the cotton candy of congressional outreach – sweet and soft. They serve to hide Comstock’s hard-right positions and voting record on tough issues like healthcare, Russian election interference, internet privacy, and others.
Activity B. Sponsor content-free bills that sound good on paper
A good example: Comstock co-sponsored the vapid “INSPIRE Women Act” (H.R. 321). This bill orders NASA to “encourage” girls and women to pursue STEM careers but provides no funding, all while Trump is cutting NASA’s budget. If Comstock really wanted to support women, she would push for equal pay, support Planned Parenthood, and push back against the GOP’s alt-right war on women.
Activity C. Enlist hundreds of high school girls in “leadership” programs to secure their votes (and their parents’ campaign contributions) for 2018
This activity is a great example of Comstock’s long-range planning. For the past three years, Comstock has enlisted hundreds of high-school girls in a “leadership” program that leverages her congressional campaign staff to bring young women into her orbit and, no doubt, build a wealthy McLean donor list for her campaign.
Activity D. Create photo-ops with selected immigrant groups
These events help hide her support for Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim policies. Check out her typical Facebook photo-ops with American Telugu Assoc. and All Dulles Area Muslim Society. Ironically, Comstock fully supported Trump’s Muslim ban, with just a small exception for existing green card holders.
II. Avoid hard, controversial issues
Activity A. Refuse to comment
Comstock has already avoided a spectacular list of controversies – campaign interference by the Russians, shooting baby bears, Trump’s taxes, and your internet privacy. There will be others. The local media and Washington Post are largely giving her a free pass, while the on-line community must struggle unaided against Comstock’s congressional and campaign communications staff, many of whom graduated from the KellyAnne Conway School of Spin.
Activity B. Avoid constituents
Comstock has clearly adopted the national GOP strategy of using carefully scripted tele-town halls instead of real constituent engagement. For example, the first caller to her Feb. 21 tele-town hall was a Republican operative named Gary Maloney who donated to her 2016 campaign. He works for conservative consulting group Jackson-Alvarez. This is Nixonesque, and effective.
Activity C. Hide her pro-Trump votes and her support for the Trump agenda
To date, Barbara Comstock has an incredible 100% pro-Trump voting record. Most of these votes are not visible on her website, which only lists the past few votes, not her entire voting record. The media has not picked up on this, so her moderate image is still intact.
III. Raise a huge campaign fund
Activity A. Cultivate corporate donors
Comstock is an experienced GOP operative who already receives major funding from private equity and hedge funds. She is now cultivating the tech industry by voting against internet privacy, courting donors at tech industry events, and loosening regulation of the venture capital industry. She is currying favor with the oil and gas industry by sponsoring a bill to unleash offshore drillers, and seeks support from firearms and hunting lobby by voting against regulations protecting Alaskan wildlife. The 2018 campaign will be expensive, so she will need even more corporate funding.
Activity B. Cultivate the GOP donor base
And of course, she is already reaching out to the GOP donor base, begging for protection against Nancy Pelosi.
Activity C. Cultivate GOP PACs and “dark money” donors.
Unfortunately, we have no window into the closed rooms where Comstock will negotiate for GOP PAC and “dark money” support. It will take the form of attack ads against the Democratic candidate later in the campaign. We have already seen this in a recent Georgia special election, where the GOP Congressional Leadership Fund ran ads accusing a Democratic candidate of supporting Osama Bin Laden. (Really? Bin Laden?)
Comstock has a robust campaign strategy that leverages her advantages as a congressional incumbent and well-connected GOP political operative. Comstock’s public activities from now until November 2018 form the major pillars of that campaign strategy. Defeating Comstock’s strategy will require continuous, coordinated activities that counteract her efforts to appear moderate, avoid controversy, and raise money.
We will look at an overall strategy for counter-activities in our next article.