Just Spell My Name Right

September 2005
Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman has taken a shot back at his likely primary opponent, Republican Bob Beauprez, over a week-long flap regarding Holtzman's appearances in TV ads for Referenda C&D. From the Rocky Mountain News:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Marc Holtzman's campaign made a tongue-in-cheek announcement Thursday that it had submitted rival Bob Beauprez's name to the reality TV show Dancing With the Stars. Holtzman's campaign manager, Dick Leggitt, said Beauprez has danced around on whether he supports Referendums C and D on the Nov. 1 ballot. "It's time to stop doing the 'Pork Barrel Shuffle' and instead 'Tango with the Taxpayers,' " Leggitt said. John Marshall, Beauprez's campaign coordinator, fired back: "This from the guy doing pirouettes around campaign finance law?"... ..."I am glad to see Marc still has his sense of humor, considering the week he's endured in the press," Marshall said. Holtzman has come under fire on several fronts, from questions about whether he embellished his résumé to a $100,000 donation his father gave to defeat Referendum C. Beauprez and Ref C supporters have charged the donation is an attempt to raise the younger Holtzman's profile, and skirts campaign finance laws. The fireworks between the two candidates months before they meet in next August's primary has stunned Colorado's political scene.
This may all sound a little silly to most average voters, but it's the latest salvo in what may be a premeditated act by the Holtzman campaign. That might seem counterintuitive at first, given that Holtzman has been skewered by the Denver media in the last 7-10 days. But looking at Holtzman's bad press as a sign that his campaign is floundering could be like the old adage of missing the forest for the trees, because he might just be doing it on purpose. Why would a candidate knowingly do something that will get him beat up in the press? Name I.D. You've all heard the old public relations adage that ends with the phrase, "Just make sure you spell my name right." This falls into that category. As the only candidate in the governor's race who has not held prior elected office (Beauprez is a sitting congressman and Democrat Bill Ritter was the Denver District Attorney), Holtzman's name is not very well known throughout Colorado. Most candidates for political office don't have very good name recognition this far out from an election, and some never get through to a majority of people. It's not uncommon, for example, for polling to show that less than 40 percent of people in a given district even know who their congressman or woman is -- and most wouldn't even know the name if you told them. But Holtzman probably ended the summer with much lower name I.D. than both Ritter and Beauprez (Ritter likely has the best name I.D. because he held an office, district attorney, that afforded him much more free media time than any of his opponents). The best way to build up name I.D. is through TV ads, but that's too expensive to spend a lot of money on this far out from the election. Option number two is to piggy-back on an existing campaign, which Holtzman did by showing up on TV in ads against Referenda C&D. That manuever drew criticism from Beauprez and the media, and while the stories have been generally negative, the one common denominator is that the name 'Marc Holtzman' has been in the press virtually every day in the last week. Six months from now most voters aren't going to remember any of this, and most of them wouldn't pay attention now anyway because it's a boring insider-driven issue. What many of those voters will remember is the name 'Marc Holtzman,' even if they can't put a face or an issue to the name. Politics on some levels is a lot like running for Prom Queen -- the popular girl usually wins, even if most of the students don't know one personal thing about her. Did Holtzman's campaign do all of this on purpose just so more people will recognize his name later? Maybe, maybe not. But it wouldn't have been a bad move if they had, and it wouldn't have been the first time a campaign did something like this.