Harley Rouda Case Study
In an Orange County Congressional district that had been deep red for decades, Democrat Harley Rouda not only turned heads in November 2018, but made history by trouncing 30-year incumbent Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher. Dubbed, "Putin's Favorite Congressman," Rohrabacher was one of the longest serving Representatives in the House from California, having been elected 15 times to office.
Shortly after the devastating 2016 election, back in February of 2017, Harley Rouda reached out to our firm about running in California’s 48th Congressional District. While most considered the CA-48 seat un-flippable given its then-11 point Republican voter registration advantage, we saw in Harley a high-quality, charismatic and compelling candidate, that could win. A square jawed, business leader and family man who was built like a football quarterback, he looked like a Republican, and as if he was straight out of central casting for the district. Very soon, this long shot effort turned into a nationally-watched race. From the inception of his campaign, our firm kicked off Rouda’s effort with a provocative, hard-hitting ad slamming incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, which landed him highly coveted early coverage in The Washington Post.
From that point on, Rouda's campaign soared with momentum, building a coalition ranging from the grassroots of Indivisible to the DCCC. Leaving no stone unturned, he held Rohrabacher accountable on Russia, took on the incumbent over his record on healthcare, and even made what The Huffington Post called "a hilarious political ad," in a mock debate with the Republican Congressman. Our advertising in television, digital and direct mail helped Rouda stand out and compete among a wide-ranging primary field, despite substantial sums of attack money spent against him. With the race incredibly close and just days left in the primary, we launched a dual-track last minute television advertising blitz over the final few days that took Harley to a 125 vote primary win out of 175,000 votes. The general election was built on the primary strategy, but on steroids. Harley’s already massive volunteer movement grew into thousands upon thousands of boots on the ground. His fundraising apparatus expanded exponentially - people-powered largely by small dollar donors. The message, brand and issues largely remained the same - healthcare, environmental protection, lower drug costs, and more decency and sanity in Washington. Combined, all of this gave Rouda the resources, message and bodies that helped him win the general election.