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The Money Twenty-Two: Consultants Who Matter

Every two years, a handful of campaign consultants emerge from the pack, entrusted by party leaders to elect top-tier challengers and re-elect endangered incumbents.

While for the most part these consultants remain behind the scenes, they are increasingly relied on for strategic advice by candidates ever-wary of saying or doing the wrong thing.

A single cycle of big wins can catapult a firm into the top tier of the consulting world and ensure steady business for years to come.

On the flip side, high-profile losses can damage a strategist’s or firm’s reputation within the insular and gossipy consultant community.

Most of the consultants included on this list, which was culled from conversations with various operatives and party officials, are based in the Washington, D.C., metro area, but a growing number are showing that you don’t have to work in D.C., Maryland or Virginia to have a knack for electing candidates to federal office.


Anna Bennett
Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal

Bennett is tasked with re-electing some of the most vulnerable Democratic House incumbents this cycle. Among her clients are Utah Rep. Jim Matheson as well as Texas Reps. Chet Edwards and Max Sandlin.

Jim Crounse
Direct Mail
Winning Directions

Crounse has a hand in a number of tight contests, including the nip-and-tuck re-election fights of Matheson and Reps. Nick Lampson (Texas) and Baron Hill (Ind.).

David Dixon/Rich Davis
Dixon-Davis Media

One of the hot young firms for House races in recent cycles, Dixon-Davis has expanded its portfolio to the Senate now as well. Dixon and Davis took over the media strategy in the South Carolina Senate race for Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum over the summer. They also do the media for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure program in Alaska and Florida.

On the House side, the firm’s clients include Pennsylvania state Sen. Allyson Schwartz in the open 13th district House seat and Nebraska state Sen. Nancy Thompson.

Anita Dunn
Squier, Knapp, Dunn

Dunn, a longtime confidante of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D), is one of myriad strategists involved in the South Dakota Senator’s battle against former Rep. John Thune (R). Dunn also controls the media strategy for former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D) in his challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R).

Harrison Hickman
Global Strategy Group

Hickman is the preferred pollster of the DSCC, handling much of the committee’s survey work in the top Senate races in the country. He also is charged with the polling for Tenenbaum’s surprisingly resilient bid for the Palmetto State’s Senate seat.

Steve Murphy
Murphy Putnam Shorr Inc.

After managing Rep. Richard Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) unsuccessful bid for the presidency, Murphy jumped into the June South Dakota special House election as one of the lead strategists in now-Rep. Stephanie Herseth’s 3,000 vote victory. Murphy is also making the ads for Rep. Brad Carson’s (D) run for Oklahoma’s open Senate seat.

Al Quinlan
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

Quinlan, along with Karl Struble (see below), is charged with winning the most important Congressional race of the cycle: Daschle’s race against Thune. He also is handling the polling for Rep. Chris John (D-La.), who is hoping to do well enough today to advance to a Senate runoff with Rep. David Vitter (R) in December.
Alan Secrest
Cooper & Secrest Associates

Secrest has a reputation for helping moderate and conservative Democrats win tough races. This cycle he is handling the survey research for New York state Assemblyman Brian Higgins in the Empire State’s open 27th district, former Norwich City Councilman Jim Sullivan against Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), as well as Reps. Dennis Moore (Kan.) and Tim Holden (Pa.).

Karl Struble
Struble Eichenbaum Communications

Struble has long been the favored media consultant of the Daschle operation and bears much of the burden for re-electing the South Dakota Senator. He is also charged with getting John into the December runoff.

Fred Yang
Garin-Hart-Yang Research

Yang is riding herd on the late-breaking Senate race of the cycle in Kentucky as he handles polling for state Sen. Dan Mongiardo. He is also charged with re-electing Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold as well as Hill in Indiana.


Glen Bolger
Public Opinion Strategies

Bolger has quickly emerged as the pollster of choice for House and Senate Republicans. This cycle he has four of the most important Senate contests in the country — South Dakota, North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky. Enough said.

Scott Cottington

Still largely an unknown commodity to many in D.C., Cottington has emerged as a hidden gem, working from his home base in suburban Bloomington, Minn. This cycle his client list includes Republican candidates in Washington’s 5th and 8th district open-seat races as well as South Dakota state Sen. Larry Diedrich, who is in a rematch of the June special election with Herseth.

Paul Curcio
Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm

Curcio is a major player in the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s independent expenditure program and also has hot open-seat House races in New York 27 and Washington 5.

Sam Dawson
Dawson McCarthy Nelson Media

A longtime top aide at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Dawson has a number of top-tier House races including Louisiana’s 7th, Pennsylvania’s 13th and the troubled re-election of Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.). He also does work for the NRCC’s independent expenditure effort.

Dan Hazelwood
Direct Mail
Targeted Creative Communications

Hazelwood is a well-known direct-mail operative regularly entrusted with some of the most heavily targeted House races in the country, including the re-election of Rep. Bob Beauprez (Colo.), King County Sheriff Dave Reichert in Washington’s 8th district open-seat race and former Texas District Court Judge Louie Gohmert, Sandlin’s opponent.

Scott Howell
Scott Howell & Co.

Howell, who often teams with Bolger, is seeking to build on an impressive slate of wins in 2002 including Sens. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.). He is charged with electing Thune and Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) in two of the most high-profile Senate races in the country.

Jon Lerner
Red Sea/Basswood Research

Lerner revels in his outside-the-establishment status. He handled the strategy for Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey’s near-miss Republican primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter in the spring. He is the lead strategist for former Rep. Tom Coburn’s bid for the open Senate seat in Oklahoma. Lerner also is the consultant of choice for the politically active Club For Growth.

Tony Marsh
Marsh Copsey + Scott

Marsh is one of a small group of consultants most trusted by House Republicans. As such, he has been charged with making the NRCC independent expenditure ads for critical races like Simmons’ and New Mexico’s Rep. Heather Wilson.

Doug McAuliffe
McAuliffe Message Media

McAuliffe remains one of the heaviest hitters in Senate circles with a client list that includes Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, brewing magnate Pete Coors in Colorado and Burr in North Carolina. He also does the NRSC’s independent expenditure in South Dakota.

John McLaughlin
McLaughlin & Associates

McLauglin is the pollster of choice for NRSC Chairman George Allen (Va.). He is also doing the survey research for state Sen. Randy Kuhl (R) in New York’s open 29th district race.

Dave Sackett

The Tarrance Group

Sackett keeps a low profile in the media, but is one of the most influential pollsters in the business. He does a slew of competitive House races and also is the pollster for Coors.

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