That strategy was designed to create “raving fans” who would tell others about Schneider, Adamson said.

The campaign turned increasingly negative since Labor Day.
Schneider pushed the notion that Dold’s voting record marked him as a conservative, a tack tried in past campaigns against Kirk.

Schneider's campaign and its surrogates hammered Dold for votes on which he stood with more vocally conservative politicians such as 8th District Rep. Joe Walsh. One example offered was Dold's votes for budgets proposed by Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan. The budgets, which didn’t pass, contained proposals to overhaul Medicare to include private insurance.

Schneider’s campaign seized especially on the Medicare issue, airing an ad featuring footage of President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the program into law, and accusing Dold of voting “end the Medicare guarantee.”

Dold argued that Schneider mischaracterized his record and pointed to non-partisan analyses indicating he voted with his party less than most members of Congress. Dold said he believes in strengthening Medicare and favors a proposal that would implement a mix of private insurance and more traditional government coverage.

Adamson, Schneider’s campaign manager, argued Dold’s votes spoke for themselves, but McGovern said the Democratic bid to paint him as extreme was recycled from past 10th District campaigns.

“Over the last 12 years, the Democrats have essentially run the same campaign based on a cookie-cutter strategy developed in Washington that fails to appreciate the unique aspects and independent voters of the district,” McGovern said.

While defending his record, Dold relentlessly reminded voters of questions about Schneider’s recent career history. Schneider ran largely on his business experience, but records showed that his two firms took in no revenue since 2010, giving rise to claims that his businessman persona was a sham. The National Republican Congressional Committee aimed to keep the topic on voters’ minds with expensive TV ads.

Schneider countered that the prior career successes of he and his wife, Julie Dann, a managing director at Mesirow Financial, allowed him to be picky about business opportunities. He also noted that he was campaigning much of the time.

Adamson said he felt voters, particularly those who understand investments and consulting, saw the attacks as bogus.

“I think a lot of the business folks…were a little taken aback,” he said.

Dold jabbed at Schneider over his failure to release his tax returns after the incumbent released several years' worth. Schneider said sufficient information about his finances was included in his mandatory candidate disclosure forms and his wife's privacy would be sacrificed if he released their joint returns.

One area where the campaigns shared ground was the use of individually targeted phone calls and other contacts to inform and persuade voters and ensure turnout among their supporters. Both campaigns pushed early voting.