By Sebastian Grace 
SUBJECT: Strategy memo for your gubernatorial campaign 
Dear Stacey, 
It was a pleasure to meet with you the other day, and I was glad to be asked to contribute some ideas on strategy for your gubernatorial campaign next year in Georgia. It is not a surprise that you chose to run again, and I am glad to see you focus your attention on your home state once more. 
Please see below for my advice on your campaign. I have avoided getting into the details regarding the make-up of your team, fundraising or turning out your base, at which I recognize your expertise and offer little else, but have opted instead to provide some thoughts on: 
• the strengths and weaknesses of your personal brand; 
• your key message and how you should deliver it to stand out amid national Democratic party malaise; 
• opposition research; 
• analysis of the electoral terrain and relationship with the Democratic Party; 
• tips and tricks on avoiding potential pitfalls in the media and elsewhere. 
• summary of and broader vision for the campaign. 
The strengths and weaknesses of your personal brand 
As infamous political campaigner Joseph Napolitan said, you must first define your message in any campaign and then select your communication vehicles. In your case, the two look after themselves. The campaign Stacey Abrams for Georgia is in a fortunate position. You are the rock and roll star of the Democratic party. Everything is at your feet. You will not have to fight to use the media to build your brand; you just need to guide them in the right direction. You can rely on earned media, as your candidacy will attract people, and your race will be popular.  
Getting your message out there is not the challenge. The challenge is figuring out that successful message and keeping it tight and controlled during a whirlwind year. 
However, while you now have the name recognition to rely on and a famous base you have created over the last few years, you cannot take them for granted. It is vital that you maintain your ‘where I come from’ power, given the lofty media impression of you, and ensure that normalcy remains around your brand. For example, you don’t have to run every minute of every day from now till the election. Resist the temptation because you will need to maximize the energy of your base to ensure that they carry you through what will be a vicious and relentless ten months. 
In this campaign, you must get into the roots of Georgia and Georgian voters and not appeal generically to the national Democratic brand, which you will inevitably be being linked closer and closer to in voter’s consciousness as your star rises. It cannot be ‘Stacey has forgotten about Georgia.’ You have your ear to the ground, you are embedded in communities of your state, and you should continue to stress this. 
You also need to emphasize your own story to counteract the accusations levelled at you, such as 'far left' and 'radical socialist.’ Being on a pedestal encourages attacks from below. In your favor, you have: more than ten years of experience in the state legislature fighting for the people of Georgia; would be the first black, female Governor in Georgia and America’s history; have a natural charisma, empathy and see and hear people; are not from Georgia’s traditional political and Democratic class; have a national profile and star power; are widely credited with Joe Biden’s success in the 2020 presidential election through coalition building and grassroots-based organization; are multi-talented with broad interests (a normal person, essentially), with a best-selling crime novel; and are unique and different from the rest. Don’t fall into popular narratives about Democrats being above the people and failing to connect. You do connect in Georgia and should maintain that. 
Your key message and how you should deliver it to stand out amid national Democratic malaise. 
You must hammer home why you are running, and in my opinion, that reason should be what you are most famous for, associated with, and successful at – voter enfranchisement. It would be by far the number one issue that recurred when associating you with politics in any focus group. Politics is local; it's personal. It's about asking people for their vote. Turning out the vote is your speciality, your expertise, and now, should be your brand for Governor. There is no way a Republican in today's climate in that party can compete with your reputation in this area due to Donald Trump, January 6th, and the prevalence of election integrity nonsense in their rhetoric. You don't have to use the national Democratic brand to fire up voters because of your notoriety and the personal base you have worked for years to create. Now you can exploit it, giving you individual freedom and the potential to have increased clarity of message. 
I stress these are not catchphrases nor bumper stickers, but your messaging could be along these lines: 
“Across the country, Republicans in thrall to Donald Trump are looking to steal your voice and are trying to enforce minority rule. Don't let them here in Georgia. Instead, back Stacey Abrams, who will work to guarantee your vote counts.” 
"Democracy and the right to vote for citizens of Georgia should not be lost or threatened by a rampant GOP, the Senate rule of the filibuster, by D.C. politicians, by anyone. As Governor, I will fight to protect your voice and save democracy. “ 
“We have the power to save democracy in Georgia. Your voice is being taken away by climate deniers, abortion deniers, democracy deniers and human rights deniers - your vote matters. So, let's bring about change. Young or first-time voters, I'm fighting for you.” 
Your agenda and key issue are established, and the downfalls of voting for the other side are evident. So, you don't need to attack or get into the gutter, which will create a hostile and siege mentality in potential swing voters; just reinforce and reinforce your USP. You only need to compare and establish the differences indirectly. Then, the gulf in class, the importance of mission and your empathy will shine through. 
But don’t get complacent. Governor Dukakis once said to me, “Progress in your mind doesn’t translate straight away to progress that touches the voter’s mind’s.” You have a head start with your recognition, indeed, but the messaging must be targeted and consistent. As you know, you must speak to and reach a voter at least seven times to begin to influence their opinion. You can be well established, financed and still lose next year. 
We know that an absolute base won't vote for you, even if you give them one million dollars each. So instead of appealing across the board, you must target the major swing groups (learning yes, undecided and leaning no) and focus your messaging on appealing to those groups. It doesn't matter if you enrage the absolute 'no's’, but it does matter if you turn off the moderate leaning ‘no’s.’ Turning out your base and adding to it is how you will win Georgia. Adding to it involves the clarity, hope and environment of your message, portrayed as above the fray of the current political vitriol, national political apathy, and depression at socio-economic and political conditions. 
For example, you must give Georgians something to vote for. No one knows about what’s in the recent bills in D.C. and will not feel them aid and impact positively in their lives for years, despite them being good pieces of legislation. You can't mobilize someone for a bridge; it's good government but not inspiring, particularly after such exhaustive efforts to win in 2020 that have now turned voters off. However, saving democracy is mobilizing. Defending the power and legacy of civil rights is inspiring. Make the argument that Republicans have no interest in helping Georgian's, propagate disaster and fear, and are dangerous for the state and America's future. If progressives stormed the capital, it would lead Fox news all day, every day and powerfully mobilize Republican’s. You have an opportunity to do the same in Georgia. This issue will fire up independents who vote and value their vote and will use their voice in your favor against Republican’s who are sowing chaos and making America a more dangerous place by wanting to overthrow the government, end abortion rights and celebrate gun culture and proliferation. 
How to handle the pandemic?  
This issue will be a tough decision for campaigns across the country up and down the ballot in 2022, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger. I think your team should decide on a course of action depending on the local realities on the ground. However, I would say that in my opinion, it should be no way near the central message of your campaign. It's challenging to link COVID-19 related problems to real-life, everyday issues like prices and inflation amongst widespread apathy and boredom in the electorate. Therefore, I advise that you avoid what is a national Democratic messaging challenge at the moment. In summary, if you define this election’s debate, you’ll win the debate. Whether you include COVID-19 in that debate alongside your key message is up to you, but I would discourage it. 
Opposition research 
I do not think anyone will challenge you in a primary, and even if anyone does, you are 99.9% likely to win. I believe there is no chance of a serious or sustained primary challenge, given your track record in helping fellow Democrats win competitive elections in Georgia and your reputation across the state, so do not devote any time or resources to preparing for one. As you are unlikely to be facing any primary opposition, you will be able to talk about the issues that matter to Georgia voters instead of meaninglessly squabbling in a partisan and undoubtedly incendiary way. 
Conversely, the primary situation is a mess for the Republicans, which could prove costly for them, and hopefully for you, very beneficial. The two potential candidates you could run against in the general election are former Senator Perdue, who, after being held below 50% in the 2020 Senate election, was forced into a runoff, and lost to now Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff, and current Governor Kemp, who beat you in the 2018 race. 
Although current Governor Kemp initially won in 2018 with the support of then-President Trump, Trump was angered when he accepted then-candidate Biden's victory in Georgia. The former President is thus backing Perdue, giving him his endorsement less than 24 hours after Purdue announced. Despite Kemp's call for an audit that turned up no substantial change in the overall vote count, Trump continues to blame the Governor for not contesting the results enough. 
After Glen Youngkin's win in the recent gubernatorial election in Virginia, Kemp or Purdue could try and run on the little league, school car park Dad style of conservatism. But these two are too far gone even to attempt that. Purdue has previously said he was all in for the coup, trying to overthrow democracy. In the 2018 campaign, as you know, Kemp idiotically said, "I will round up the criminal illegals and send them home myself - Yep, I just said that." There is no specific policy dispute between the two. The only difference between them is that Perdue is willing to steal the 2024 election, and Kemp may not be because he certified the election results in 2020. 
The GOP's messaging is bizarre, divided and confused. For example, Newt Gingrich said, "The bitterness between Kemp and Trump is so deep that Kemp cannot win a general election. So the question for Georgia Republicans is would you like Perdue or Stacey Abrams because if you're for Kemp, you're effectively voting for Stacey Abrams." 
Trump hates Kemp, and his MAGA base will not vote for him. Even if they flock to Purdue, many won't like him, which will split the vote. Democrats still won in the Senate in Georgia in very passionate races, and an incredible amount of publicity and fundraising, crucially, with all Trump voters fired up. A disunited opposition can only be a good thing. 
As the scorched earth policy plays out throughout the Republican primary, damaging both Kemp and Perdue, you can meanwhile portray your effectiveness, solidity and message around hope and Georgian's deserving better. But, instead, these internal primary battles weaken the GOP, damaging the party in a costly and bitter prelude to the real deal elections. 
As a result of attracting Trump’s ire, Governor Kemp now has a very challenging race on his hands. A recent Fox 5 Atlanta/Insider Advantage poll has the two candidates currently tied at 34% apiece after Perdue was identified as Trump's choice. As a result, one would expect Trump to be very active in this race and to hold rallies on behalf of Perdue, which will help publicize his endorsement in advance of the May primary. 
The key to your message is that this matchup between Perdue and Kemp also virtually guarantees that Trump and his false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election will play a central role in Georgia next year. This will ensure your key message and personal brand has legs, airtime and can be used as a vital point of comparison away from where they will feel safest, such as culture wars or protest and policing. 
Keep what you say against the Republicans' short and simple and focus on your own credentials. For example: 
“While David Perdue and Brian Kemp fight each other, Stacey Abrams will be fighting for the people of Georgia.” 
"They are too busy politicking each other, two bruised, tired egos fighting amongst themselves rather than for the people of Georgia." 
The Republicans will try to draw you on their big-ticket item issues like education, critical race theory and school boards, like Youngkin in Virginia. Political strategists like to follow a tried and tested formula, and those working with Kemp or Purdue will do the same. After success in Virginia, GOP candidates across the country will likely try to energize conservative parents by denouncing schools adhering to ‘critical race theory.’ It is a gut-level, values-driven conversation and will motivate their base. No matter the questions they pose, you will need to provide an aggressive answer that defines the Republicans as the clown show that they are to take down whoever ends up running. 
Analysis of the electoral terrain and relationship with the Democratic Party 
I can identify potential issues for your campaign by analyzing next year's electoral terrain, and the race will undoubtedly be challenging. The last time the Governor's office flipped party in Georgia was in 2002; incumbent governors rarely lose renomination, with 94% of those who have sought reelection in a general election having succeeded and failures by the party that holds the presidency at the midterms is not a new phenomenon. 
There are also institutional and structural factors against you in terms of gerrymandering. As you know, earlier this year, the Georgia legislature passed a voting reform measure that sharply limited the number of drop boxes, disproportionately affecting Democratic-leaning, urban counties with significant Black populations that relied on the boxes during the pandemic. The law also shortened the time for requesting an absentee ballot. These new voting restrictions in the state will undoubtedly depress turnout among voters of color, voters who, I don’t need to tell you, make up a significant part of your base. 
There are some serious national atmosphere issues, too. The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, inflation is rising, and President Biden's approval rating is well underwater. Moreover, the coalition of voters that helped drive Democratic wins in recent years, mainly people of color, women, and the suburbs, appears more tenuous this time around. Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia governor's race provided early evidence that some suburban voters may be swinging back toward the GOP after Democratic success in 2020. 
President Biden is hurting, even among supporters. In research, 2020 Biden voters had little positive to say about him right now, and many described disappointments or a sense that he is not doing well. Democrats have no genuine brand among these swing voters, whose 2020 vote was first and foremost against Trump. Most could not articulate what Democrats stand for nor say what they were doing in Washington besides fighting. 
While the fundamentals for the 2022 midterms are not in the Democrats’ favor, it’s not all doom and gloom. For example, the potentially turbulent primary environment for Republicans, described above, may be a more significant threat than an opposition party encounters typically in a midterm year. 
Also, the electoral terrain is different now than when you lost in 2018. As previously discussed, you have national name recognition and new fundraising prowess, while Kemp is a far from universally liked incumbent governor who faces an unprecedented intra-party primary battle. While the national climate for Democrats is poor, there are headwinds facing the Georgia GOP as well, with a shrinking base of voters across the state, for example. 
Your margin of defeat in 2018 was less than 55,000 votes in a brutal campaign that included charges that Republicans failed to count thousands of ballots. Since then, Democrats have flipped Senate seats in the state with Warnock and Ossoff, and President Biden won Georgia in 2020, becoming the first Democrat since 1992 to win the state’s electoral votes. So, there is apparent interest. You just have to exploit it, and you will be able to, as your Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and likely to generate far more interest than other national candidates. 
Moreover, many Georgians, and not just Democrats, actually like you. According to a spring survey by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/University of Georgia, 48 percent of Georgia’s registered voters had a favorable view, compared to 45 percent who view you unfavorably. It’s also worth noting that 18 percent of conservative voters had a favorable view of you, and even Donald Trump said he’d prefer you to current Governor Kemp! 
So, Georgia is no longer a red state. Your race comes during an era of a Big D Democratic boom in Georgia, and you have energy and momentum and infrastructure on your side to take advantage of it. Also, circumstances could change and be more helpful next year. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic may have receded, and the economic issues of prices and inflation subsided. The outlook will be rosier if the COVID-19 pandemic and adverse economic factors diminish. But even if this good news never comes, your campaign strategy will not be tied to or guided by Democratic fortunes on the national stage. So, if the party’s popularity remains in the mire, your campaign continues and is successful. Any good news will be the cherry, not the cake. 
Tips and tricks on avoiding potential pitfalls in the media and elsewhere 
Learn the lessons of your previous race in 2018. You've had a run at this. You must go above and beyond this time, but you're more equipped, you'll raise more money, and you're more famous. For example, if you run against Kemp, it's the rematch. Use his record. Voters have seen him have a go, fail, and now you have a chance to convince them and are more able to. 
In the main, the 'media' and the 'press' are lazy and will be looking to write about the race as it is popular in the national consciousness and will conveniently produce a soon to be a well-trodden narrative arc. Ignore the white noise, lowest common denominator writing using low hanging fruit indicators such as new polling or fundraising totals used to report on and create a horse race. The Twitter opinions of political commentators and journalists will move the goalposts, affect your messaging cut through and inhibit your political instincts. Ignore them. 
I will not advise on the particulars or personnel of your staff. Still, I would suggest that you overbalance those with vaulted political experience generally with those who are a) Georgian, b) energized by your mission, and c) able to roll with the punches, deal with the abuse, and stick to the roadmap laid out in these pages. Poise, stoicism, and commitment to the cause in the face of viciousness will be critical as the opposition attack with enthusiasm from the flanks. Surround yourself with those who will rise above it. 
I would avoid polling ad nauseum. Polling as an industry has been on its knees over the past five or six years, and I don’t see polling improving or getting any easier to conduct accurately and effectively in the future. Say you test for viability or your standing in the race at any point: if it's good, 50-65%, for example, it can only change and go down, as you will not win that % of the vote in the final election count. If you poll lower than you want to win in the general, there is always time to change that figure, the numbers always represent past events that are already in the rear mirror in terms of campaign events and messaging, and the job is not yet done. 
For example, I would be tempted to turn away from visits from out of state, hosting national Democratic figures. The attention on the race is already high enough, as is your profile, and your base will not need extra motivation. Visits and endorsements by President Biden and Vice President Harris, for example, will not add anything if the current atmosphere around Democratic politicians remains this negatively salient. The same goes for the highly contentious and spotlighted Senate races across Georgia happening simultaneously as your race. They are not your fight, and engaging serves you little, only leaving opportunities for distraction. Do not engage explicitly with Warnock against Walker, for example. It should be a much closer race than yours and certainly different, so do not muddy your brand and credibility by engaging in that fight, one that will likely cause division in your base. 
Summary and broader vision of the campaign 
The Republican party has strayed from traditional conservatism and is a party made up of Trump loyalists bent on building an apparatus of election theft. The modern Republican Party has no policy agenda or ideological mooring other than loyalty to Donald Trump. They oppose popular, important economic policies, block efforts to control the pandemic, and spread dangerous conspiracy theories about vaccines and the election. 
The idea that Republicans are a danger to democracy and election integrity is unquestionably true, and public polling suggests that most Americans are concerned about the fate of our democracy, and therefore, are opposed to electing Republicans (you'd hope). According to a CNN poll from October of this year, 56 percent of Americans believe democracy is under attack. Furthermore, most believe that elected Republican officials will overturn an election in the next few years because their party lost. Concerns about democracy will only grow in intensity next year as Donald Trump emerges to campaign for his chosen candidates across the country. 
But Democrats aren’t messaging about this effectively, and no doubt voters are asking, ‘If democracy is really in grave danger, why aren't Democrats doing anything about it?’ You lose all of the arguments you don't make, and not enough Democrats argue that Republicans are a danger to democracy. 
This is where the campaign Stacey Abrams for Georgia comes in. Stacey Abrams, the politician, is famous for working against voter suppression to register and enfranchise voters across her home state. So, you should ignore the national narratives that arise, ignore polling other than targeted message research and focus groups on particular policy stances, and get on with the job at hand. 
You are a star. In 2022, Democrats will be looking to you for energy and resistance as there is none at the top. Be selective, be ruthless in assisting and taking opportunities elsewhere. Some are valuable; some are not. You must focus attention on Georgia. You will likely be up most of the race. Ride the wave, maintain the energy, keep the voters going. Don't play defense, don’t get nervous or cautious. 
Opposition voters aren’t going to stay home against you. They are going to look to beat you, want to beat you, and you will fire up their base. So, you likely will have to mobilize more than ever before to win. But the hard leg work you have done for years cannot be done in less than a year by the opposition. More than 1.2 million new voters have entered Georgia's electorate since 2018, and they skew younger and more diverse than state-wide numbers. Those people will vote for you. 
Voters love genuine people and put trust in them. Passion is key. The voters will trust you. You have proven your focus on the state in the past and will do so again. 
Ask for their vote, and when it comes down to it on the campaign trail, make sure you are the difference. 
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