From 16 Points Behind to Victory – Ralph Norman for Congress

This week South Carolina elected Harris Media client, Ralph Norman to the 5th Congressional district to replace Mick Mulvaney, another Harris Media client. Our Political Director, Rory McShane, explains our strategy with Ralph Norman’s campaign below. 

Norman entered a crowded primary with the State House Speaker Pro-Tem, a former State Party Chairman, Commander of the South Carolina National Guard, and a tea-party favorited education activist.  Following a 2nd place finish in the primary, we found ourselves in a run-off election with State House Speaker Pro-Tem, Tommy Pope, but we were polling 16 points behind him.  We turned that around and won the run-off by 200 votes.

In the general election, national Democrats stormed South Carolina, hoping to flip the district.  The Chairman of the DNC and former Democratic Presidential candidates came to campaign for our opponent in South Carolina, while national celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell and House of Cards creator, Beau Willimon, used their online armies to support our opponent.

Norman won by 3%.

1. Synergy between all elements of the campaign

I’ve worked on a lot of campaigns where the mail guy and the TV guy don’t even know each other’s names, and digital is eschewed as some online cash register and a way to post press releases.

That wasn’t the case this time.  

Our team was on polling calls with Congressman elect-Norman and the team on the ground months out from the election and we were able to augment every facet of the campaign.

2. Embed

After months of hard work, and finishing the primary in a close 2nd place we were polling within the margin of error for the run-off.  On the Friday afternoon before the election, the campaign team called me and asked if I could come to town for the run-off.  The next morning, I was landing in Charlotte. Congressman-elect Norman’s sister came to pick me up.

“I kind of wondered what went through her head when she showed up at the airport, told she was picking up a Republican media consultant, and saw me with my shaved head, long beard, and full arm tattoos.”

My time on the ground with the Norman team gave me the chance to get to know Ralph, his family, and the team.  

“Ralph’s daughters nick-named me Zac Brown.”

But most importantly, it gave me the ability to monitor what was happening and respond immediately online.

3. Rapid Response

Two days before the run-off, at ten o’clock at night, in his daughter’s kitchen, I sat down with Ralph, his family, the campaign manager, and the general consultant and convinced them we needed to change our strategy online.  I’m convinced that without that we wouldn’t have won the run-off.

Our opponent released an attack ad on abortion.  Within hours, we launched search ads around all the terms in the ads directing people to a video from a State Senator, calling out our opponent’s lies.

Getting no traction with his abortion attack, our opponent switched tact and launched a new ad accusing us of not supporting police officers.  Again, we launched search ads around the terms in the ad immediately, and then we found a former police officer who’d served with our opponent to endorse Ralph.  We live streamed his endorsement and linked the search ad terms to the endorsement video.


4. Everything is online

In the last days of the run-off, we got several crucial endorsements, but we had no time to cut TV ads with the endorsers and our opponent had all of his endorsements on TV ads.  As a result, we resolved to reach out to targeted voters with these endorsements online.

When Ted Cruz endorsed Ralph, we live streamed the endorsement speech. When Sean Hannity endorsed Ralph, we live streamed the radio interview.  We created live polls asking people which endorsement was their favorite or asked them to react to the endorsement.   By the end of the campaign we had 567,500 online video views, with over 168,100 minutes of video viewed.


Our entire team was so proud to work with Ralph Norman.  He’s a true conservative and a man of great integrity.  We look forward to working with him in years to come!