Dear Jim Barksdale, it’s time for an intervention. I decided to write you an open letter with a few observations and suggestions. First of all I want to thank you for running against an incumbent Republican Senator with a $6 million war chest thanks to the NRA, real estate, insurance industries and other special interest groups. These groups will do everything in their power to ensure Johnny Isakson is re-elected because it’s good for their bottom line.
It takes a lot of courage to run when the odds are stacked so far against you in a red state like Georgia. No one else had the courage to run so we are thankful you gave us an alternative. Millions poured in to defeat Michelle Nunn in 2012 and if you become a real threat to Isakson in the polls that money will undoubtedly start rolling in to defeat you. Right now you aren’t a threat but we need to mold you into one and fast. The good news is Johnny Isakson is extremely vulnerable, but you need a campaign course correction and fast!
Below are a few suggestions I have to reboot your campaign.
- Stop being so damned nice and conciliatory – When the Republican attack dogs went after you about a comment you recently made regarding Orlando, your campaign responded with a very pusillanimous reply. Today on Twitter instead of issuing a statement condemning Isakson’s vote against common sense gun laws you tweeted that you made a statue. People are angry about mass gun violence. 90% of the country support stronger laws and you chose to instead tweet that you made a statue? Get mad because we are. But unlike Trump’s anger, offer us real solutions and explain how Isakson has let Georgia down by continuing to allow the NRA blood money to sway his votes as their puppet.
- Stop being invisible on Social Media – I was one of the very first people to follow you on Twitter. I think you had around 25 followers at the time. That was several months ago and now you have a whopping 492 followers. Your Facebook Page isn’t much better with only 3,748 likes. I’m not surprised for two simple reasons. Your posts and tweets are infrequent, boring, and uninspired. You need posts to get people talking and sharing. Secondly, I doubt you have spent much of your campaign funds on Twitter or Facebook ads to gain new followers. Social media is vital for elections so start using it more wisely to introduce yourself. You also need to start accounts on Instagram and Snapchat to reach younger voters. Hire a social media guru to help you get noticed. Make sure you have staff updating these accounts daily and responding to voters concerns. Also, delete the ridiculous Barksdale’s Hat account. It is confusing and was cute for all of one day.
- What do you stand for? I visited the issues section of your website and saw a lot of feel-good fluff but not a lot of substance. What concrete plans do you have in place to solve those issues? You have to start letting the people of Georgia know exactly how you would be a better Senator than Johnny Isakson. Given his abhorrent record that isn’t hard to do. Where are some Youtube videos with inspiring speeches or articles on specific issues like gun control, health care, veterans, or foreign policy? Most hard core Democrats like me will vote against Johnny Isakson even if he were running against a brown paper bag because the bag would do less damage. But you need to swing a lot of moderates and independent voters and you won’t do that until you start speaking passionately on the issues they care about. Show us why you deserve to win.
- You need a better ground game – Even though Georgia may still be a red state, there are a lot of Democrats here. Seek out all the great progressive groups on Facebook and join them and interact with the members. Many want to get you elected but like me know little about you. How many left-leaning Georgia bloggers have you reached out to? I know I haven’t heard a peep from you and this site is among the most popular progressive blogs in the state. You have to marshall all the disparate forces in the state to support you and this means looking outside metro Atlanta. You need active supporters in places like Albany, Augusta, Macon, Warner Robins, Valdosta, Columbus, Augusta, Rome, Dublin, Athens, Savannah and so many other towns across the state if you want to win. Start making more friends and allies fast and tell us how we can help because we are desperate to send Isakson packing. But troops won’t follow a general who they can’t see and we simply don’t know who you are or what you believe. You need to start inspiring your troops! We are waiting to be mobilized and given some direction.
- The Bernie Model – Bernie Sanders was a bit like you. He was relatively unknown outside of Vermont and faced a very powerful opponent. He defied all the odds and gave Hillary a run for her money. He did this by speaking out passionately on the issues. His speeches resonated with a lot of Democrats and independents. He attracted the youth vote as well which you will also need. His social media campaigning was also brilliant. I am not suggesting you try and be Bernie because you can’t. But you need to start showing that same chutzpah and passion in your speeches if you hope to climb in the polls. Start giving speeches all over the state and pick a few specific issues that matter to Georgia voters and tell us how to fix the problems and not just diagnose them.
- Be better prepared for the debates – I watched your debate performance in the primaries. Unless you step up your game and are far better prepared against Isakson it will be game over. You need to exude confidence and clearly articulate your positions on important issues. Stop whispering as well, voters want to vote for a confident candidate that will be a strong voice in the Senate to go against blowhards like Ted Cruz, not a mild-mannered whisperer. Your answers to questions need to be crisp and focused. Be better prepared for follow-up questions. Start boning up on the issues that matter and be ready to forcefully defend them and differentiate yourself from Isakson. You also need to have some pithy and memorable one-liners aimed at Isakson because I can assure you he has plenty waiting for you and the one-liners are all anyone ever remembers in debates.
- Explain why you are the better choice – I may have missed it, but I have yet to hear you articulate why you would be a better choice than Johnny Isakson. Voters respond to grit and want to know they are sending a brawler to D.C. and not Mr. Rogers. Are you a fighter Mr. Barksdale? I’m not yet convinced you are but I desperately want you to prove me wrong. Please come out swinging and show some passion on the issues you care about. Articulate exactly what you plan to do if you are elected. Johnny is a known quantity and you aren’t. Don’t let him define you before you have a chance to define yourself.
- Use the media – You need to start doing interviews with local TV stations and newspapers across the state. If we have learned anything from the Trump campaign it proved how important free publicity via the media can impact an election. You also need to reach out to national Democrats. Hillary Clinton only recently said she wants a 50 state strategy. Reach out to more famous politicians and pundits and get their advice, endorsements and help. You need to be a part of that strategy and desperately need their financial support and advice. You need some famous allies who will go to bat for you and act as mentors. This is a team effort and you can’t win without more support.
- Hire a veteran campaign manager- Campaigns are often won or loss based on the competence of the campaign manager. I have no idea who you have running your campaign but I respectfully think they may be out of their league. You need someone with experience who can help shape your message, increase donations, and get new people to register and vote for you. Michelle Nunn raised over $13 million and I think you will need at least that amount if not more to stand a chance.
- You have nothing to lose– Regardless of which party people support, they respect a politician that speaks from their heart with passion. If you continue to putter along you are guaranteed to lose this election. You desperately need a new strategy. I realize you are brand new to politics but you need to learn fast. We need you to come out swinging and become a viable candidate. Reach out to black churches and voters. Reach out to Latinos and the LGBT communities. Reach out to women and the working and middle class. All of these groups have suffered under Isakson and you need to win them over.
I have more suggestions but this will suffice for now. Johnny Isakson is very vulnerable. Even if Isakson were in perfect health, we have to remember he will be 72 years old at the start of his next term if re-elected and has been a politician for four decades. I would be shocked if Isakson is able to serve out his full-term until 2022 and voters need to be aware of this probability. Even without his health issues related to Parkinson’s disease, Isakson should have gracefully retired just as Zell Milled did when he knew it was time.
The main reason Isakson is vulnerable however is due to Donald Trump. He will likely bring a very high Democratic turnout this presidential election. Trump is toxic and Isakson has endorsed the party nominee which is Trump. For the first time since 1992 Georgia has a real shot at turning blue. You need to start attacking Trump and reminding people that Isakson supports this dangerous moron. If only 3.5% of Republican voters stay home on election day Georgia will turn blue. Perdue won with only 52.9% of the vote in a mid-term and without Trump as a factor.
You have a shot to win this Mr. Barksdale. Granted it is only a slim chance and growing slimmer the longer you remain invisible. But this a crazy year in politics and you have been given a tremendous opportunity to ride the anti-Trump wave to victory. But one thing I know for sure is your biggest liability thus far has been your inept campaign or lack thereof. If you truly want to be elected as a United States Senator you better start behaving like you deserve the job and so far you haven’t.