FP1 Strategies is proud to have helped elect Idaho Governor Brad Little. We served as the campaign’s media consultant, helping Little navigate a hotly contested primary and ultimately securing a 22-point win in the general election.
In the Republican primary for governor, Brad Little, the sitting Lt. Governor, squared off against Boise developer Tommy Ahlquist and Congressman Raul Labrador. Ahlquist was a self-funder, who also had a well-funded Super PAC backing his campaign. Ahlquist would go on to outspend Little by a margin of more than two to one. Raul Labrador represented Idaho’s 2nd congressional district, providing him with a strong geographic base in the state. Labrador was also a member of the Freedom Caucus and had strong support among the conservative grassroots in the state. The fact that both Ahlquist and Labrador were members of the LDS Church presented additional challenges given that upwards of 40 percent of the Republican primary electorate in Idaho were Mormons. At the outset of the campaign, there was also a real risk that Brad Little would be defined as part of a moderate, Boise-based establishment that was out of step with the conservative voters who would turn out in the May primary.
In a complicated three-way primary against two strong challengers, we made an early strategic decision that we were going to position Brad Little as the most authentic Idahoan in the race. The fact that Little was a third generation Idahoan and a rancher gave us the opportunity to run a values-based campaign and avoid the trap of being defined as a career politician.
In January, we launched our media campaign on FOX News with an ad called “Ranch” that played up Little’s strong Idaho roots and conservative values. Our second spot of the campaign called “Values” had Brad Little talking proudly about his commitment to fight for conservative values like traditional marriage, protecting innocent life and defending the Second Amendment.
After our initial flight of media, we ran a series of ads to deepen Brad Little’s connection to conservatives. The ad, “Fed Up” talked about Little’s efforts to end ObamaCare’s monopoly in Idaho. “Diner” positioned Brad Little as a fighter against liberal elites in Washington and reinforced his commitment to conservative priorities like repealing ObamaCare, banning sanctuary cities and cutting taxes. The ad, “Enforce,” helped further define Little as a strong conservative on illegal immigration, setting up a powerful contrast with his two opponents.
By April, Tommy Ahlquist was rising in the polls as a result of his massive spending advantage on the airwaves and some misleading attacks against Brad Little’s record on taxes. We used the spot, “Tax Cutter,” to set the record straight. We then followed up with a hard-hitting spot called, “Trust,” to knock Ahlquist’s legs out from underneath him.
As our ads successfully eroded Ahlquist’s support, our polling indicated that Raul Labrador was beginning to rise. This required us to run ads attacking both of Little’s primary opponents, The ads, “Self-Serving” and “Record,” helped drive a nail in the coffin of Ahlquist’s campaign, while stunting Labrador’s growth in the polls.
By the final stretch of the primary, it was clear that Raul Labrador was our remaining threat. We ran two hard-hitting ads that undermined Labrador’s reputation of being a strong conservative. “Backroom Deals” focused on Labrador’s work as an immigration lawyer who defended illegal immigrants who committed crimes. The spot also talked about how Labrador had supported welfare benefits for illegals, pushed for an amnesty plan and even attacked Mitt Romney, a respected figure in the LDS community for being too tough on illegal immigration. Our next ad against Labrador called “Never” reminded voters that he had been a Never Trumper and contrasted his opposition to the president’s efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare with Brad Little’s strong support for Trump’s agenda.
In addition to running an aggressive TV campaign, we maintained a regular presence on conservative talk radio stations throughout Idaho, echoing the messaging voters were seeing on TV and further driving home our key messaging and contrasts with Ahlquist and Labrador.
On election night, Brad Little won the Republican nomination for governor by a margin of 37 percent to Labrador’s 33 percent and Ahlquist’s 26 percent. While we would run a series of general election spots, Brad Little was effectively elected governor on primary night. We are very proud of the campaign we helped Governor Little run. He is a genuine and effective public servant who will be a great governor for Idaho.
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