Mr. Cecil tries to resist national political winds and tailor each campaign to the particular candidates and the states they are running in. Republican campaigns tend to ride national waves, running on broad national issues like the size and scope of government, the level of taxation and the defense of the homeland. Mr. Cecil had different ideas for different Democratic candidates.
For instance, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota ran on “North Dakota values,” a languishing farm bill and essential air service to rural America. Sherrod Brown, practically buried under an avalanche of Republican advertising, ran as David against Goliath, even if he was the incumbent in Ohio.
“Each one of our candidates campaigned to their strengths,” said Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, who won re-election in November in a race many expected him to lose. “I hate to use a basketball analogy, but you don’t put a point guard under the basket and tell him to rebound. Sherrod Brown has a different set of strengths than I do.”
At times last cycle, Mr. Cecil courted controversy. In Wisconsin, he backed the candidacy of Representative Tammy Baldwin, a liberal lesbian from Madison, when many Democrats wanted a more moderate voice from a rural corner of the state. Ms. Baldwin won, beating a four-term governor, Tommy Thompson, the Republicans’ candidate of choice.
In Missouri, Mr. Cecil encouraged Senator Claire McCaskill to pull off one of the most clever feats of the campaign cycle, an advertisement just days before the Republican primary that “blasted” Representative Todd Akin as the most conservative, most vehemently anti-Obama candidate in the Republican field. The effort was seen as a boost for Mr. Akin, the opponent she preferred.