How did John Curtis overcome a flood of negative advertising?

John Curtis was able to win the GOP nomination last week in Utah’s 3rd CD, despite a deluge of negative advertising aimed at him.

Danny Laub, Curtis’s campaign manager, says the reason that negative advertising fell flat is it was very narrowly targeted. 

“We got pelted with more than a million dollars of negative ads,” said Laub. “The negative ads in the mail targeted about the same 25,000 people. There’s 180,000 plus Republican primary voters in the district, and if just 25,000 to 40,000 of those households were getting this negative mail, there was a large swath of people that weren’t that were getting Republican primary ballots that we believe the other campaigns wrote off that we targeted.”

Laub was a guest on this week’s “Beg to Differ” podcast with Bryan Schott and Mike Winder.  He said they knew what sort of negative attacks were coming, and they were able to gameplan effectively for it.

“Everyone knew what John was going to get hit on. It doesn’t take a genius that the fee increases in Provo and the Democratic stuff were gonna come up. We knew that. What we didn’t know was the force and the ferocity of these outside groups, but we did know that it was coming.”

Anticipating those attacks, said Laub, were the reason Curtis’s campaign started their media campaign so quickly after the primary campaign began. Their biggest fear was having their opponents define them before they could shape Curtis’s public image.

“We made a significant investment of about a quarter of a million dollars to push John’s message out to everyone in the district. Most of those were people who were Republican primary voters who didn’t live in Provo, so they didn’t know who John is. I think that was a tactical move that helped blunt some of these negative attacks. Obviously, if your first introduction to John is three negative mail pieces that have the dark picture of him with horns on it, that’s not good. But, if you’re also holding a mail piece that says John’s a proven conservative and here’s what he’s done in Provo, it’s a lot easier to fight.”

But, Laub says Curtis’s biggest advantage during the GOP primary was his base of support did not wither much at all in the face of those negative attacks.

“There was about 30% to 32% that it didn’t matter what you did, John was not going to fall below that. We thought at some point his support would erode down to 26 or 27%. But that never happened. He never got under 30% in our internal polling. They could have spent 5 million dollars on these negative ads, and he would not have dropped below 30%.”

As he looks ahead to the general election matchup with Democrat Kathie Allen, Laub says Curtis’s base of support will serve him well in November.

“We were beaten up for using words like bipartisan and that John was a Democrat and that John wants to pull everyone together. We believe that John is conservative in principle and more moderate in tone. We think that will serve John well in a general election. We’ll have a broad coalition of Republicans, independents, and others who will pull the lever for him. I think the message was from the very beginning that John was the conservative mayor of the most conservative city in the most conservative district in the state. That remains true. That’s what’s gonna be the message,” said Laub.