It felt a little bit like being David lining up to do battle with Goliath . . . again. Even without the bubbling controversy of that ancient Politically Incorrect footage, we were facing an uphill climb without any support from my own party. I didn't think we could compete, so I huddled with my key advisors— my campaign manager, Matt Moran; my sister Jennie; and Cleta Mitchell, our campaign general consultant— to go over our options. The consensus was that we would reach out to a production company called Screaming Dime, since we were familiar with their work and liked their vision and approach to our message. Trouble was, Screaming Dime couldn't make it to Delaware for at least another week, because they were booked on a commercial shoot out in Los Angeles— ironically, for a series of ads endorsing various Democratic candidates.
Matt felt strongly that we needed to get our response ads on the air as soon as possible. A week was too long to wait, he said, and I agreed, so we looked instead to a media strategist named Fred Davis, who came highly recommended by John Cornyn, the U.S. Republican senator from Texas who was also the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). The endorsement was a big deal because the NRSC had seemed to be twiddling its thumbs about helping us, so we thought we'd do well to follow their lead on this and go with one of their established vendors, hoping this might move the needle in our direction.
Still, I had an uneasy feeling about hiring Fred to help craft our response. Oh, he knew his business, make no mistake. He was very, very good at his job. And he'd run a number of effective campaigns for a number of candidates I admired—all of them men, I should point out. It troubled me that he didn't have much of a track record with female candidates and as any political consultant will tell you, the marketing of a female candidate is a whole other ballgame. It also troubled me that he charged a lot more money than other media consultants, and I didn't think that sent the right message to our supporters.
Our support came in five, ten, or twenty dollars at a time, and it came with powerful, personal notes filled with stories of hardship and sacrifice. We felt duty- bound to spend every dollar wisely, purposefully, thinking we had a duty to sacrifice as well. In my mind, that duty reached to our vendors. If a hardworking farmer sent us ten dollars, I wanted to use it to pay for printing a hundred postcards. These aren't knocks against Fred, mind you. He's entitled to set his own terms, and he's done enough good, influential work to justify them. Good for him. Yet I worried that it wasn't so good for us, and I came away thinking we might not be a good fi t. What troubled me most of all was that Fred wanted creative control, which meant he would run the entire ad campaign. This was a giant red flag. I was not comfortable with it. I mean, I was the one getting ripped in the press. I was the one being called a witch by Letterman and Leno. Also, the campaign was very much a team effort, so it was not just my neck on the line, my reputation, my career. The entire campaign and the entire Delaware Tea Party movement was hanging right out there with me.
To hand over the keys to a guy I hardly knew, at a price tag I could hardly justify . . . well, it didn't sit right.