Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

4 More Things Losing Candidates Say (Readers’ Edition)

The response to “6 Things Losing Candidates Say” has been unexpectedly overwhelming.

Republican and Democratic campaign veterans who don’t agree on anything have come together behind the list of losing candidate mantras. A reader at Daily Kos Elections even composed a poem based on the post.

There are plenty of things that candidates do on their way to losing a race, including blaming media coverage, blaming polls and blaming party committees for not spending money on their race.

But here are a four more phrases, offered by Roll Call and Rothenberg Political Report readers, that can be added to the list to give us a clean Top 10:

7. “Money doesn’t win elections, ideas do.” This is another sign that the candidate doesn’t want to raise money, won’t be able to raise money or doesn’t understand the importance of money in campaigns. The truth is that you can be the best candidate in the world with the best story and the best message, but if you don’t have money to communicate, no one will have any idea who you are or what you stand for — except for what your opponent says about you.

8. “I’m going to win this race the same way I did when I got elected to the state House.” Really, you could insert any state or local office, but we hear this one a lot. Campaigns strategies for lower office are rarely a template for higher office. The larger electorate, the amount of money, the federal issues and the sophistication of campaigns all require a different approach. The “yard signs win elections” mentality is a local lawn delusion.

9. “People know me.” Anecdotes kill. State legislators believe everyone knows them and knows what a good job they are doing. Usually that is just not the case, but until a candidate pays for a professional, scientific survey, their campaign is flying blind. Candidates also have to beware of the self-implemented focus groups of family and friends: “Everyone I talked to said I should run” or “I haven’t talked to anyone who is voting for my opponent.” Repeat: Anecdotes kill.

10. “My district is different.” This is related to Nos. 8 and 9, but is a common refrain. Some candidates believe that time-tested campaign tactics don’t apply in their home area. It’s usually an excuse to shun negative ads, polling and fundraising. Candidates who don’t do those three things are setting themselves up for a loss on Election Night.

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