In summer 2002, Minnesota’s Republican candidate for governor, Tim Pawlenty, stood at 24% in the polls—behind leading candidate Independent Tim Penny and Democrat Roger Moe. FLA was contracted to identify the voter segment Pawlenty needed to win, and discover the issues and messages that would reach them.
FLA conducted telephone research, which uncovered the core message that would attract Minnesota’s voters: government accountability. We developed a strategy to emphasize this as the central message, along with several supporting themes—Pawlenty’s blue-color roots, strong stance on education and commitment to not raise taxes. We also recommended a key tactic: use a culturally conservative issue to dramatize the contrast between Pawlenty and his opponents.
After a three-week ad run stressing Pawlenty’s stance on education, taxes and accountability, Pawlenty shot to 32% in the polls—first place—and stayed there. The election was sealed after the campaign aired a contrast ad outlining Pawlenty’s plan to put the visa expiration date on visiting foreigners’ drivers’ licenses, noting his opponents’ opposition to the idea. Not only was the ad successful, but the day it aired both Penny and Moe help press conferences to denounce it—amplifying the effect of the actual ad buy.
One Election Day, Tim Pawlenty was elected Governor of Minnesota with 44% of the vote—eight points ahead of the second-place candidate, Roger Moe.