In this case, there actually is data to bring to bear, though the Post article doesn’t acknowledge it. In his e-book on Perry’s “egghead”-advised campaigns in Texas, Sasha Issenberg reports that one of the academics’ findings is that political ads on TV do influence voters—but that the effect quickly fades. The obvious implication is that campaigns should marshal their resources for the period just before votes are actually cast. Issenberg presents Dave Carney, Perry’s long-time adviser, as being obsessed with not wasting money by trying to respond to the media narrative of the day or transitory movement in the polls.
Now, maybe the eggheads got it wrong. Or maybe their findings don’t apply to a series of primaries across the nation. Or maybe Perry will turn out to be such a weak candidate that the marginal gain from an improved ad strategy won’t matter. As someone who’s fretted about the prospect of research-informed campaigns outgunning the press, I’d be comforted to learn that Perry’s team doesn’t know as much as they think they know.
But in light of Issenberg’s reporting, there’s every reason to think that the Perry campaign’s slow start on ad spending is the product of a deliberate strategy—which means that it’s not evidence of Perry’s lack of “fire in the belly.”
Which means, in turn, that while it may be useful to ask how ambitious Perry really is, this article doesn’t go far toward providing an answer.