Rob Corbilles (left) and David Wu at Portland/Randy Stapilus
Watch the (admittedly uncertain) evidence of yard signage around Oregon's 1st district, and you'll see a lot of it for Republican Rob Cornilles, the Republican candidate for the U.S. House seat and maybe the toughest challenger Democratic Representative David Wu has faced. Some of that is the Tea Party atmosphere of the day, but some of it probably has to do with Cornilles too. He's pretty good at presenting himself (that's not a knock, just an essential candidate asset), a task which - as this business consultant must know - starts with understanding your audience, and relating to it where it is.
On Friday Cornilles debated Wu in a conference center just south of downtown Portland - lockdown Democratic territory. He, and his campaign, did two things to make the best of the situation. One is that his campaign pushed to get a sizable number of backers to the event; despite a prohibition on cheers or boos, you could tell they were there, and that they outnumbered the Democratic opposition in the audience of 150 or so. The other thing he did, which he might be doing elsewhere around this mostly Democratic district too, was to carefully modulate his message.
The task was eased by the core subject at hand: The weak economy, and the federal government's spending and taxes. Broadly, there wasn't a lot of disagreement between the candidates that those were the big subjects, and that better work needs to be done on them. It fit with Cornilles' own backgrtound, as owner of a consulting business called Game Face, and with staying way from some of the more overtly ideological stances and statements many Republican candidate make this year. At the same time, he presented himself as a mainstream Republican; the line was carefully drawn. (more…)