[Editor's note: This is part 2 of a two-part analysis. View part 1 here.]
If the 2008 election was about hope and change, the 2010 midterm campaign, judging by its direct mail, was mostly focused on anger. That's the most obvious takeaway based on a review of the fundraising appeals and campaign fliers we saw during the year. Whether directed at President Obama, or at congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, this emotional touchpoint dominated political mail like it hasn't since the days of Bill Clinton.
The biggest story out of the election season was the success of some Republican candidates in riding the wave of "Tea Party" anger toward government. "America literally cannot survive if we stay on this road," cautioned Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-718210-1010). And although Tea Party candidates met with mixed success at the polls, the mainstream GOP "stole smart" in using some of that same red-meat rhetoric in its mailings.
A leaflet from Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon targets the disaffection with the economy and federal government: "Connecticut families are hurting. DOES WASHINGTON CARE?" (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-718137-1009B). Another flier, this from the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, targets the Democratic Senate candidate: "Joe Sestak has bailed out everyone but us" (Who's Mailing What Archive code 608-718213-1010A).
The Democrats, understandably, acknowledged the public's frustration with the bad economy. "I wish I could tell you … that the economy is going to get back to full strength right away," the president says in one letter. But, he reminds supporters, "it was Republicans who drove the car into the ditch" (Who's Mailing What Archive code #608-173651-1009C). Casting the election as a choice between "the party of NO" and "lasting party of progress" was a common theme of Democratic efforts to keep control of both houses of Congress.