Commentary

Manheimer: Woah! Did I Really Just Elect Vermont’s Next Governor?

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Josh Manheimer, the creator of the AnyoneButDubie video and ad campaign.

Before you dial 911 and inform the dispatcher I’ve stopped taking my medication again, let me tell you why I may have just elected Vermont’s next governor.

You see, during the recent gubernatorial race, I became alarmed early on that the GOP candidate, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, had hired a professional communications firm from Texas at the same time that he was running on the platform, “I will bring jobs to Vermont.”

This struck me as strange. “Why couldn’t the guy hire someone in Vermont to create his Web site? Heck, I could use the work.”

When I dug a little deeper, I became even more wary. Brian Dubie’s Texas communications firm, Harris Media, proudly displayed on their website a gallery of attack videos and smear Web sites like notches on a gun belt. These guys were the SS Panzer Division of political operatives whose sole purpose was to demonize Democratic candidates. Who did the Dems have to fight back against such a formidable foe? (At this point in time, the Dems didn’t even have a candidate as the primary results were still being recounted.)

These guys — Harris Media — were the SS Panzer Division of political operatives whose sole purpose was to demonize Democratic candidates.

I looked around. Who was the @#$%&! in Vermont equal to these mud slingers in Texas? Only one face stared back at me from the mirror before it cracked. I would have to dip my hands into the dark detritus-filled waters and create political satire and advertisements so brilliant, so biting, it would outmatch anything the Texas warlocks and witches could conjure. And I would have no support — emotional or financial — from any candidate or campaign.

Download the AnyoneButDubie Results Chart

Now as it turned out, there are some advantages to being a loose political cannon in Vermont; it meant I had minimal disclosure requirements with the state’s Campaign Finance Office and no limit on the amount I could spend on advertising. While the candidates were noisily trying to raise money and outmaneuver each other with TV spots, I was filed away in some bureaucrat’s drawer as a solo electronic “pamphleteer” and ignored.

My first instinct was to operate anonymously under the pseudonym, AnyoneButDubie, but faster than you could say, Karl Rove, I was flushed out of hiding by the enterprising journalist at vtdigger.org, Anne Galloway. Further, the state’s attorney decided that I had to attach my name to each video along with my address for public disclosure. (The irony that billionaires could remain hidden behind their PACs while I had to reveal the GPS coordinates of my farmhouse along with the thread count of my cotton Percale sheets did not escape me.)

Over the next two months, following the contours of the campaign, I created about a dozen videos, matching Harris Media attack for attack and — boy! — did Dubie’s Texans go on the offensive like hornets in the wrong hive, challenging the Democratic candidate’s ethics at every turn, and claiming he would get out a hacksaw and terrorize Vermont by releasing 780 dangerous felons from prison.

You can find my responses on Youtube here — http://www.youtube.com/user/AnyoneButDubie — along with this battle cry:

Sure. I wish AnyoneButDubie didn’t have to exist. And I wish butterflies would land on my face each morning and wake me with the flutter of their wings.

But there needs to be a level playing field, and once Vermont’s Lt. Gov., Brian Dubie, hired Harris Media in Austin, Texas — a communications firm that specializes in attacking Democrats with emotionally charged, incendiary ads — he set the bar pretty low.

I mean, watch Dubie waving his list of felons in the air … a list which turned out to be pure fiction. How do you combat this kind of disingenuous nonsense from Vermont’s second highest ranking elected official?

Some political dissidents around the world fight back against a repressive regime with theater. I have chosen to rev up my Mac and use Youtube to expose Brian Dubie for the pusillanimous pismire that he is.

Now Dubie’s political operatives back in Texas are not dumb. They know Democrats lean towards incertitude and will too easily turn against each other in a kind of circular firing squad at the slightest provocation. So one of their strategies is to weaken Democratic resolve by lobbing into the crowd a Grenade of Doubt that questions the very battle itself — watch for editorials that beg us all to be nice — and whose real goal is to keep disenchanted Vermonters from voting — the very people who need to fight back vociferously against Republican lies and distortions.

Some political dissidents around the world fight back against a repressive regime with theater. I have chosen to rev up my Mac and use Youtube to expose Brian Dubie for the pusillanimous pismire that he is.

Of course, if you buy into it, you’re playing right into Republican hands. Because regardless of what is said, the Republican attack machine from Texas will do whatever is necessary to win and hold onto the levers of power. Vermont is just one small, annoying pebble in their overall goal — to redistrict the country and regain the Presidency.

Right now, Dubie’s slick, bow tie wearing operatives from Austin are not scared of AnyoneButDubie because they know our reach is checked by the paltry limit of my pitiful credit card. But do you know what will make them lose sleep at night? The idea that Vermonters might discover their FORWARD TO A FRIEND button, causing our videos to go viral, and Everyone In Vermont watches Anyone But Dubie — for free!

Now that’s a Texas-size nightmare that can make a Republican political consultant’s bow tie spin around like a pinwheel and propel the Democrats to win the election in November.

The end result? The Democratic candidate, Peter Shumlin, won the election in a squeaker by a slim 4,331 votes — one of the few bright blue spots in a bloody sea of Republican red that election night.

Is it possible my Youtube videos, coordinated with a robust Google and Facebook ad campaign, had something to do with the narrow Democratic victory?

Attached is a spreadsheet of my most effective online ads. I spent about $3,600, generating 1,600,000 media impressions and 6,000 click-throughs. The Google campaign ran for about two months; the Facebook campaign for about a week.

My buxom Dubie Girl, who pissed off a lot of people because it appeared I was a sexist insensitive jerk, was my best performing display ad for much of the campaign, garnering a sweet 5% click through rate early on. All told, at 330×250 pixels, she achieved 1,655 clicks and 83,183 impressions. The best text ad in terms of impressions was, “Dubie Wants To Work Less. Lie In Tanning Booth More. Watch.” which achieved 109,340 impressions and 132 clicks.

The ads were targeted throughout Vermont and, on occasion, aimed directly at the Harris Media office building in Austin, Texas — the theory being that maybe the Dubie operatives inside would get pissed off, misjudge the tenor and tone of the Vermont electorate, perhaps even believe I was really part of the Shumlin campaign — I had no communication with Peter Shumlin or his senior advisors — and overreach by retaliating with full guns blazing.

Did this whole Vermont vs. Texas, David vs. Goliath, smack down work?

“Well,” as I say in my best Southern voiceover twang on my videos, “Why don’t you take a look and decide for yourself.”

http://www.youtube.com/user/AnyoneButDubie


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