How Lucy Gets Her Groove Back
Since I haven't seen much new from Baxley's camp in a while, I thought I'd offer the Lieutenant Governor my unpaid (unless she offers) advice on getting her campaign back on track.
TO: Lucy Baxley
Re: Making You Governor
1) Find your cause: I know the folksy stuff about values and common sense has gotten you this far, but I don't think it'll take you to the top. You have to define yourself on a set of issues and fast. Here's my suggestion: Come out strong for a new constitution.
Everyone in Alabama knows that the current constitution is too long and cumbersome. There are groups all over the state dedicated to revamping the constitution who would be thrilled to line up behind a viable candidate supporting their cause. They would provide an already established infrastructure of volunteers, money, and attention that would almost instantly revitalize your campaign. Of course there are issues about how to reform it, and how it will affect education, and the possibility of a tax hike. Those concerns are all legitimate, but they don't matter that much. Work out those details with your advisers, then come out guns blazing as Alabama's best hope for a new constitution.
There will of course be detractors (mostly on the right) who will attack the possibility of a new constitution as a way to raise taxes. But, that's ok. Attacks from a vocal out-of-the-mainstream minority won't do any harm. Also, this would put the other candidates back on their heels. Probably only Roy Moore would oppose it altogether. Riley and Siegelman would most likely give a "no, but" or "yes, if" type response. All of a sudden you are transformed from the candidate who doesn't really stand for anything, to the only one with the guts to stand up and lead for change. Constitutional reform gives your campaign a centerpiece, a cause. Quit riding in parades, and start leading a crusade.
2) You're No Blanco: Don Siegelman showed uncharacteristically poor political sense when he publicly implied that Alabama voters won't trust a woman to respond effectively to an emergency or crisis. Just because Don was dumb to say it out loud, doesn't mean he doesn't have a point. Your campaign seemed to really lose its steam after Hurricane Katrina as Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco was widely seen to have been ill-prepared and in over her head. It's certainly possible that the Alabama public, consciously or not, sees you as a potential Blanco. That's not really fair, but this is politics.
So fight back. Turn this potential weakness into a strength. Develop a comprehensive readiness plan. Talk to anyone possible (federal, state, county, municipal) who will talk to you about emergency management. Camp out on the Alabama coast while the rebuilding is taking place. Use any power your office has to help speed it along. If FEMA or state officials are dragging their feet on anything, publicly (and loudly) call them on it. Develop a command of the issues, demonstrate a passion for the cause, and show the strength and leadership to make yourself heard. Instead of having voters wonder whether or not you'll be "another Blanco" when they walk into the voting booth, go ahead and prove to them you aren't.
3) Take it up a notch: You acknowledged interest in the being governor early on and have been officially in the race for months. That's fine. You've been able to raise money and get more attention than you would have otherwise. But somewhere in this perpetual campaign, you've lost some spark and let things pass you by. It's time to reassert yourself.
Run a week or two of commercials introducing yourself to the voters. I am not talking about the type of ads where they start by showing the house you were born in and end with you reading to your grandkids. Talk straight to the camera. Tell the voters who you are and why you're running. No cliches or pablum. And end it with an offer to send them a pamphlet explaining your plan to reform the constitution like Bob Riley did with his education plan in 2002 (except don't use the horse). You've been raising money for months , now use a little of it. This doesn't have to be a major ad buy, just enough for the average voter to see it once or twice.
Many voters already know you and are comfortable with you. Nothing prescribed here should change that. But there are also many voters who are either unfamiliar or haven't formed an opinion. These three steps would go a long way in introducing (or re-introducing you) to the public, neutralizing your perceived weaknesses, and starting the process of turning them into strengths.
We're not trying to create a "new" Lucy, or even benching the "old" Lucy. But it is time for voters to see the Real Lucy.