GOLDMAN: Can Democrats defeat Dave Brat?

Posted at 2:00 PM, Jun 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-12 14:31:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Seventh District Democratic nominee Jack Trammell is writing a book about Vampires. I don’t know the plot, but presumably we humans come out on top, at least long enough to vote for him this November.

Like giant-killer David Brat, the 7th District Republican nominee fresh off defeating incumbent GOP Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday’s party primary, Trammell is a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland.

Giant Killer v. Vampire Killer: Who has the edge?

The political professionals in Washington consider the 7th district a sure win for Brat. This is consistent with the historical data for sure, but these were the same experts who said Eric Cantor could not lose to Brat, no way.

So can Trammell win? Only if he learns from Cantor’s fatal mistake. Cantor ran hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign ads that effectively told anti-Cantor voters to take Brat’s chance of winning seriously. This wasn’t Cantor’s intent of course when he spent all that money attacking Brat by name. But it gave Brat precious name identification and made voters take him seriously as competitive candidate.

That’s the threshold for any big underdog like Brat, and now Trammell. Learning from this, Trammell needs to do the following ASAP.

1. Start running hard ASAP. The TV media wants to cover the campaign NOW. Get the coverage while you can, it’s irreplaceable later on. The opening will fade quickly.

2. Challenge Brat to debates now. Brat has to accept or he will start to look like Cantor. Such debates will not help Brat, only Trammell assuming he is up to the job of congressional candidate.

3. Trammell should call on Brat to reject all PAC money. This should be a no-brainer.

4. Trammell needs to realize the 2014 turnout model means he does not need all the expensive TV money his consultants will claim. If he doesn’t learn this ASAP he can only win if Brat makes a fatal error.

5. The Senate race will bring out the voters, not the congressional race. Brat therefore needs to be careful in spending money on organization.

6. Trammell should not hire Cantor’s pollster. Okay, I guess he would know that anyway.

7. Trammell should call on Brat to take what is known as a “no negative” pledge, promising not to run any negative campaign ads on TV, radio, etc.

8. Trammell should likewise pledge not to attack Brat at any time unless attacked first. Trammell must make sure he looks like the anti-politician.

9. Trammell needs to avoid being labeled Jack Obama. If not, he can’t win the 7th. The President is going to be the big issue in the 7th right now. He needs a strategy ASAP.

10. Trammell has to embrace the “underdog” image in such a way as to be able to rib Brat about his now being de facto Washington incumbent. It has to be funny, and take away Brat’s biggest asset, his being Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” type of thing.


Jack Trammell must turn David Brat into Goliath. No one roots for Goliath. Everyone rooted for Jimmy Stewart.

Image is everything right now. Brat is the anti-politician, slayer of Cantor, the image of a politician. If Trammell follows the usual advice given to Democratic candidates, he will try and demonize Brat. That will not work in my view given Brat’s image and record.

Trammell therefore needs to focus on only one thing right now, proving he is also a decent guy, not a politician, whose word can be trusted.

Thus whatever he says must be credible. Voters are looking for “authentic” this cycle. From what I have read, Jack Trammell can meet those expectations. Cynicism, not Brat, is Trammell’s biggest political adversary right now.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.