(Elizabeth Crum/Nevada News Bureau) – Is he crazy like a fox? Or just crazy? That was the gist of a series of questions I posed to Mike Montandon today during a Nevada News Bureau-hosted conference call with a few bloggers and reporters.
Acknowledging that his 6-point lead over Rory Reid in a head-to-head is “attributable to Rory’s apparent lack of popularity” and that he still has a tall hill to climb in the primary, Montandon nevertheless reiterated what underdogs always do:
“I believe I can win.”
Belief may be what gets him through the night, but how to turn nice dreams into election night upsets? Recent polls have Montandon pulling only 7% on June 8th while Sandoval’s 39% is a widening of his previous lead over Gibbons who is now down to just 25%.
“The thing is, that new slogan — “the only electable conservative” — is not just a slogan, it’s true. And it’s what I’m starting to hear on the campaign trail,” said the former mayor.
“People are saying to me, we do not disagree with Gibbons and his principles, but we will not vote for him again,” he said. “So I’m gaining there.”
As for Sandoval, he’s coming off a few pretty bad weeks and Montandon thinks his avoidance of public forums as well as his decision to skip tomorrow night’s debate is a mistake at a time when Gibbons is bleeding supporters.
“I will be there,” said Montandon. “I show up everywhere. And I talk to everyone.”
In the absence of deep campaign coffers, Montandon said he is using the same on-the-ground tactics he’s enlisted in past campaigns along with various “new media” strategies including lots of Google ads, a presence on FaceBook and Twitter and the use of web videos and interactive web tools to collect data and drive traffic.
“We have the largest web presence of the three candidates by far,” he said. “And we have used those tools to ID likely primary voters and assemble a very large mailing list of supporters. Large enough, that if they all show up on election day, I win.”
Waxing skeptical, I asked Montandon how he can seriously say he is positioned to pull off an upset of that magnitude.
“You know, one of my fondest memories is in 1997, sitting with friends, watching the voter returns…the polls going in showing me losing by 9%, and me winning by 11%,” he said.
Great story, but he’s not down by just nine. He’s off the lead by 32% with less than six weeks to go. What’s the road from former Nor’town Mayor to Miracle Mike?
New media tools, showing up and consistency on issues, says he.
And he does seem to have that last one down: While Gibbons waffles and Sandoval wavers, voters know (or could know, if they paid attention) where Montandon stands on taxes, jobs, education, Yucca, guns, abortion and traditional marriage. And his positions for the most part do pass the conservative smell test.
So while Gibbons stumbles and Sandoval fights off the flying monkeys hurtling down from the turrets of Dan Hart’s IE committee, Montandon says he will keep on keepin’ on down the yellow-brick road to Oz: back and forth between the rurals and Clark County, in and out of meet-and-greets and small group gatherings, his email sign-up sheets in tow.
But is new media really the poor candidate’s war chest? Can Montandon’s small but scrappy tech team use Google tools and goofy YouTube ads to actually pull off a victory? Or at least convince voters he is less embarrassing than Gibbons and finish with a second place ribbon?
“Well, they will either be rock stars, or they will have to go out and work for a living,” joked Montandon.
“Look, four years ago you would not have even stood a chance in a campaign without big money,” he said. “New media allows us to have a better chance. It really will be a bellwether.”
In 40 days we’ll see whether the bell tolls for he.