- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Joe Shannahan went to his mailbox recently and pulled out a fistful of fliers — three from Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, two each from Sen. John Kerry and Howard Dean, and one from a union backing Mr. Dean, the former Vermont governor.

It was an Iowa household’s one-day harvest, part of a bumper crop of direct mail that spilled across the state in the run-up to the Democratic presidential caucuses last night.

“I quit reading it about 10 days ago,” said Mr. Shannahan, well-known in Iowa Democratic politics and a Dean supporter. “I pack it up and take it to the recycling bin.”

It’s an article of faith among campaign strategists that the mountains of glossy color two-sided fliers, four-page pamphlets and oversized political postcards can make a difference.

Compared to television, direct mail is “much cheaper and much more efficient,” said Michael Meehan, communications director for the Kerry campaign.

“You can mail to households that you know actually vote, as opposed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on voters who live in other states or don’t vote,” he said. Many television stations broadcast to viewers in more than one state.

Mr. Meehan said Mr. Kerry tailored campaign mail to veterans, firefighters, farmers and previous caucusgoers.

Some campaigns used mass mailings to extol the virtues of their candidates.

One of Mr. Kerry’s shows the candidate, who served in the Vietnam War, smiling and shaking hands with supporters wearing veterans caps. “Unbreakable bond,” said the headline.

“A president for Iowa,” said one showing Mr. Gephardt smiling broadly.

Another, produced by the Edwards campaign, highlights excerpts from an endorsement by the state’s largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. “He’s a cut above the others,” it said.

Mr. Dean mailed one that outlines his record as Vermont governor on farm issues. “Seeds for change,” it’s headlined, and shows him striding through a field with two farmers.

Some campaigns also used direct mail to attack rivals.

“These two candidates want hardworking middle-class Iowa families to pay higher taxes,” said the headline in a Kerry campaign flier that bears pictures of Mr. Dean and Mr. Gephardt.

“Slave labor and sweatshops prompted by bad trade deals supported by Dean, Kerry and Edwards,” said a Gephardt mailer.

Although some brochures were mailed to Democrats statewide, or to activists who had attended previous caucuses, many were intended for smaller groups identified by issue, geography or candidate preference.

Mr. Gephardt has sent out a couple of dozen mass mailings, according to campaign strategist David Plouffe. Although most were aimed at all Iowa Democrats, others targeted rural residents and older Iowans.

“The electorate in Iowa is very literate. They search out information. I think they do read it,” Mr. Plouffe said.

Mr. Dean put out one that stressed his opposition to the war in Iraq and said that Mr. Gephardt had “quickly cooperated” with the White House to write legislation authorizing the invasion.

Mr. Dean simultaneously sent out a mailing designed to reassure another group of voters.

“This general endorses Dean for president,” it says, and shows a photo of retired Marine Corps Gen. Joseph P. Hoar.

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