Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 7, 2016

6 Things Losing Candidates Say

It’s August of an odd-numbered year, but the 2014 cycle is heating up. That means dozens of candidates are visiting us at The Rothenberg Political Report and Roll Call in anticipation of the midterm elections.

Some of them will win, but most will lose. So we’ve started taking notes on some sure-fire ways that candidates end up in the latter camp. Here’s a working set of six buzz phrases that almost always guarantee that the candidates uttering them are headed toward defeat.

  1. “I’m running a grass-roots campaign.” This translates to: “I’m not going to raise any money.” Running an effective grass-roots and get-out-the-vote operation is important for a campaign, but winning a competitive House or Senate race requires multiple millions of dollars to make your case in paid advertising.
  2. “The only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day.” This doesn’t guarantee defeat in the upcoming election, but it means you are losing the race at the time and have no empirical evidence to the contrary. It’s up to the candidate to change the dynamic of the race.
  3.  “I’m the next [insert big name politician here].” This means the campaign strategy is to emulate a previous candidate who overcame nearly impossible odds to win their own race. Whether a candidate is invoking Republican Scott P. Brown’s special election victory in Massachusetts or then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s improbably presidential run, it’s probably unlikely that the candidate using this phrase will be able to replicate those victories.
  4. “I’m not going to run any negative ads.” This is one way to virtually guarantee defeat. We can argue about the definition of “negative,” but campaigns are about contrasts. And successful campaigns rarely let the opponent run unscathed and define himself or herself only on their own terms. The caveat to this is if outside groups run negative ads on behalf of a candidate. But if you’re a candidate who wins without running negative ads, then you were probably going to win anyway.
  5. “I’m not going to accept PAC money.” It’s hip to reject contributions from political action committees and decry them as “special interest money.” But candidates taking this pledge probably weren’t going to get that money anyway. And if they did, they would call it “grass-roots support.” It’s possible to win without PAC money, but it usually means the campaign is supplemented with something else, such as a personal checkbook.
  6. “My son is running my campaign.” Really, you can insert any family member into this quote. Unless a candidate is related to professional campaign strategist (not the pretend ones on the cable networks), this is a sign that they do not understand the task ahead of them and will be woefully unprepared if and when a tough fight arrives.

Updated 4:49 p.m. | Due to overwhelming response to this post, here are four more things losing candidates say — the reader feedback edition.

  • dectra

    Sounds like the Coochinelli campaign…..

  • Mike Petrucci

    If you read between the lines in this article, unless you are rich, know rich people, are willing to compromise your values in order to get money from interest groups and willing to play dirty, forget about running. We wonder why our politics in dominated by the lobbyists, interest groups and heartless rich people.

    • monacall

      mike don’t fall in to that thinking that rich people are bad….don’t stereotype….most rich people are hard working Americans that pay a lot of taxes…..obozo himself wasn’t rich (or so they are saying) he was back by the wealthy from around the world….

      • Sunshine

        Yeah, and look how that’s turned out.

        The wealthy are the only people being represented in America by both parties.

        • monacall

          Sounds like your jealous. Just strive to be rich. What ever that figure is!!

          • Sunshine

            I’m jealous that I’m not being represented by the people that are supposed to represent me?

            Yeah, pretty much. As should you be.

            And it’s “you’re”. Learn some grammar.

          • monacall

            what’s rich? keep saying rich people? what is rich? working people? saving, watching what they spend….are these the rich…… got news for you the ones that you think are rich they aren’t being represented either!!!!

          • Indomita

            If you think that the ‘rich people’ to whom the article and this person are referring are average people who ‘save’ and ‘watch what they spend’, you have no concept of the level of income inequality in the US. The ‘rich’ to whom political people refer are eleven-figure billionaires with massive stakes in political intrigues that keep them in a cycle of wealth and the poor in cycles of poverty – for example, the Koch brothers. Those are the people being represented by our political system. Get informed.

          • monacall

            you don’t get it do you….these people YOUR referring to are grouped together politicians do not separate them so when you say RICH they gather all the hard working people together….not just these people but the hard working people….so be careful what you say about rich people….some small business person who has worked hard you and the politicians categorize as rich because they have MONEY…..its their money they earned it….it wasn’t given to them through your tax dollars was it? Koch brothers EARNED THEIR OWN MONEY….I didn’t give one tax dollar to run their business and if I did to get them started great…….but Kock brothers are not living on my or your tax dollars… are GM ceos…..what about them? what do you say about this company we the tax payers bailed out and now they have factories in china… them a new one instead of kock….and if like you say the politicians are talking about people who make billions why are they so dead set on taxing the person who makes 250,000 and doubling tax if they make 250,001 explain that one….no I think if anyone makes THEIR OWN MONEY AND NOT ONE DIME COMES FROM MY TAX DOLLARS GREAT….THATS THE AMERICAN WAY….or did you miss that class….

          • Indomita

            You are rambling, incoherent, and most importantly ignorant, and I’m not going to waste my time responding to this backwards, illogical mess of a diatribe. The fact that people like you probably vote makes me sad.

          • monacall

            oh so I am right and your wrong thank y ou

          • Indomita

            It’s YOU’RE*. Go back to high school before we can finish this discussion. Jesus christ.

          • monacall

            oh so I can become more of an educated idiot like you….

          • monacall

            pay more attention to your surroundings and you might learn something…..

  • William

    Two other statements that I’ve noticed over the years always precede defeat:
    7) Any mention of “Dewey Beats Truman” (see Bob Dole in 1996)
    8) “The only vote that maters is Jesus’ vote” said by a Republican Christian (see Katherine Harris in 2006)

  • Russell Allen Hurley

    “The bottom line on Congress is simple. You can place all the blame

    you want on George W. Bush or Barack H. Obama. But the simple fact is

    that it was Congress who voted twice to start wars without raising

    taxes to pay for them. It’s Congress that has wasted taxpayer dollars

    fighting to repeal a law that’s already withstood Constitutional

    scrutiny at the hands of the Supreme Court. And it’s Congress who has
    failed to take the lead on climate change, immigration or ending our
    stupid War on Drugs. It’s Congress that is most to blame for what’s
    truly broken in our country, regardless of which person sits in the big
    chair in the Oval Office.”

    For the first time last year the USA incarcerated more people for

    Marijuana than ALL VIOLENT Crimes COMBINED! We don’t need MORE JAILS. We
    need to decriminalize marijuana and release 40% of the prison
    population. When we end “The War on Marijuana” we won’t need a new
    prison for decades.$42 Billion in taxes and wasted law enforcement
    expense annually lost to the economy and right into the black market.
    Mean while our children can score in school any day of the week and
    there’s nothing we can currently do about it. Because it’s completely

    I know I’m not crazy to think an ordinary citizen (Not a

    CAREER Politician) with out a huge fund raising machine can

    not only run for US House in a district that is better than 70%

    Republican. But can win support on the merits of what I say, do and
    believe using social media. I need a few thousand ??? likes to be able
    to claim mass support for legalizing nationally, hemp/marijuana. Be it

    manufacturing, medicinal or recreational use for adults.

    Lets show Washington We are serious? Help a regular(NOT a Career

    Politician/LAWYER, or MILLIONAIRE) guy, go to Washington. Give me a
    look, then a like if you think a barber, *****AWARD***** winning small
    business(Kings Court

    Master Barber & Shoe Shine Service Est~1936)owner, US Navy veteran,
    former firefighter from Cincinnati could bring real change to the
    Peoples House in D.C.

    Open my page & like on Facebook, Search {Russ Hurley for Congress

    2014} on Facebook link below:

  • Grace Kelly

    Actually I have known many grass roots campaigns and no-pac campaigns to win. Stu must only be looking on the Republican side.

    • bluewindboy81506

      Locally, sure. But statewide? Large city-wide? Congressional district-wide? Please name a few.

  • Layne

    socialism. The ignorant, egotistical douche waffle is trying his hardest to turn our country for the worst. Ugh. Any mention of politics gets my blood pressure too high,

    • Rob

      Then why do you read Roll Call? To fulfill your need to post cliched name calling?

      • Tom Smith

        So you are saying Obama is NOT a socialist I take it?

        Naive, or a fellow socialist.

        I tend to believe the latter,

        • Layne

          I’m saying he is a socialist. Also a Muslim. I’ll accept hitler as an alias as well.

          • Tom Smith

            My apologies, Layne! I thought you meant calling Obama a socialist was a cliche, as in you were defending Obama and denying the fact that he is a socialist. We are in complete agreement. This is a sad state of affairs when you realize that such a staunch socialist is not being opposed by the “republican” party. I guess this means that, since the “republicans” are not opposing him, and refuse to defund the train-wreck that Obamacare is (well over 50% of the American People are opposed to it), they are in agreement with him.

            This just means that we must take names of these “republicans” and send all of them up for reelection in 2014 limping home in utter disgrace.

          • Layne

            Completely agree! Utter disgrace indeed! And no need to apologize–I realized the misunderstanding, and truthfully I would have made a similar comment to someone defending that foolish dictator, lol

          • tchowski

            It must be very frustrating for you to exist in the most radical fringe of American political thought. Your vote doesn’t matter, you cannot win a presidential election, and outside the Faux News Propoganda Bubble, everybody laughs at you (or is embarassed for your ignorance). No really, I am trying to understand how frustrated you must be to think you have all the answers, and yet. And yet.

          • Layne

            Wow. Feel better? Your rant is nothing short of a 6th grade bully’s, I feel like I should hand over my lunch money or maybe a blood pressure tablet? I was under the impression that these forums are for debating and discussing different views, not personally attacking someone for being different. Speaking of which, isnt that what Hitler did?

      • Layne

        actually I was just bored…stumbled on this gem of a website. And you may call it cliche name calling but I call it truth; we are all entitled to our own opinion.

        • Tom Smith

          I saw your profile. Don’t worry, I’m no internet stalker. LOL! I agree with you 100% that wings and a draft is the dinner of champions. Heh, I make one hell of a kick-ass wing!

          • Layne


  • John Errante

    I’ve noticed that phrases similar to “I only had six to ten sexting partners, not dozens and dozens” tend to also precede defeat. Admittedly, I can only point to a small sample size.

  • Hunter Golden

    He’s not saying anything about rich people. He’s saying this about people who are so hopelessly narcissistic that they can’t objectively figure out – on their own – that they’re completely underprepared/incapable of winning a political campaign and holding that office. It’s a waste of other people’s money, their time, their hopes, aspirations and does more to hurt political causes than they do help them. Politics and campaigns – while theatrically absurd – are important and have serious consequences. Thus, serious candidates.

  • Blockian

    Ron Paul ran a massive election/education campaign that raised millions, had no debt, and made a lot of people realize how absurdly stupid the left-right spectrum is. Better outcome than any power grab.

    • moderate Guy

      And…. did he win?

      • Blockian

        Oh look! Another left vs right toadie. How cute.

        • moderate Guy

          So the answer is… no, you dolts couldn’t win the ugly contest, right?

          • Blockian

            No, he didn’t win. So since Obama won, does that mean Obama’s ideas are superior to Romney’s? Does a majority vote determine truth? You partisans are so silly.

          • moderate Guy

            Obama’s ideas appealed to more people, for better or worse. This has nothing to do with whether the idea, even of yours, is superior or inferior.
            You fundamentalists are so amusing.

          • Blockian

            Fundamentalist? I guess when your ideology is exposed as essentially rooting for one of two “teams”, all you can do is call names, right? Nothing substantive to add? The left-right spectrum defines political reality, right? Good grief… it’s really sad that people like you perpetuate grade school political philosophy.

          • Blockian

            It sure seems that any political perspective which doesn’t belong somewhere on the “Fox —– MSNBC” spectrum is “fundamentalist” or “extreme”. Anyone who strays from the 3×5 card of approved opinions given to us by politicans, the media, and pathetic hacks like you is an “extremist”. Why don’t you people wake up? Both sides of the coin are out to rob you, nothing more. Why don’t you look behind the curtain, Dorothy?

          • moderate Guy

            Boy, oh, boy, truth sure hit you right where you live, didn’t it fundamentalist.
            Now wipe the spittle of your chin. You’ll get it all over the library keyboard.

          • Blockian

            As I expected, nothing of substance from the kneepad-wearing politician worshiper. Have a nice life as a sheep.

          • moderate Guy

            As everyone expected nothing but pathos and frothing at the mouth from too-tight bow-tie wearing fundamentalist. Have a nice life as a hermit.

          • Blockian

            Total inability to have a logical conversation about the issues combined with cognitive dissonance defines the modern state-worshiper. Thanks for exemplifying that to a T.

          • moderate Guy

            When you have you attempted to address any issues, a-hole? All you did is spout your hermit bulsh##t and felt that was your “contribution”.
            Here is a hint: when you venture into the world, you actually have to make an argument that people will find persuasive….oh, I get it why you people couldn’t win an ugly contest; never mind then; carry on.

          • Blockian

            This is literally my first post:
            “Ron Paul ran a massive election/education campaign that raised millions, had no debt, and made a lot of people realize how absurdly stupid the left-right spectrum is. Better outcome than any power grab.”

            Then you “replied” (derailed?) by indicating that he didn’t win. Does winning have any impact on the validity of his ideas? You replied no. What is your point, toadie? I’m not a “hermit” (something you couldn’t possibly know… you don’t know me) but even if I was, what does that have to do with anything? Does that have an impact on the validity of the libertarian position? Do you have anything to contribute to the conversation? I seriously doubt it, as you have proven yourself nothing but a whiny little partisan toadie. Get to work making some kind of contribution or go read a book. It might broaden your understanding of the world around you.

          • moderate Guy

            You “libertarian” ideas are hardly libertarian and lack any connection to reality. That what makes you a hermit, someone who lives in his own idiotic fantasy world; even if you hypocritically use the amenities of civilization build by other people; people who do make contribution without whining and play acting the way you do.

          • Blockian

            And what exactly do you know about my views? My own views are very close to those of Murray Rothbard (who literally wrote hundreds of thousands of pages of widely-published work… not a hermit) and Walter Block (who holds an eminent scholar chair at a university… not a hermit). You don’t know anything about me apart from what I’ve told you here. The fact that you think you do shows your absurd arrogance.

            Ah yes, the “gov’t built civilization” argument. What a bunch of garbage. Capital and private property built civilization. The state is nothing but a drag on both of those. Check out the work of David Friedman (Milton’s son) and Walter Block on private law courts etc., because I know you’re going to scream about that one.

            Now, I’m gonna let you have the last word because I know there’s roughly zero chance of you saying anything substantive. You haven’t yet. Have a nice life, you little toadie.

          • moderate Guy

            Where did I say “government built civilization” garbage peddler?

    • Burn_the_Witch

      And he’s also a raving lunatic.

      • Blockian

        Oh look! Another left vs right toadie. How droll.

  • Boxhawk

    Too bad Romney didn’t read this a couple of years ago…

  • Socialism is Organized Evil

    Since similar prizes are rewarded for similar achievements in a free country, increasing efficiency naturally accompanies free markets.

  • Michael Lewyn

    I’m going to have to remember this post so I can say all these things if I ever run for office (except 6 since I don’t have children!)

  • Benjamin Dover

    Since we, like our ancestors a century ago, are unable to predict civilization a century from now, it is foolish to think that civilization’s advance simply depends upon applying today’s knowledge and ideas.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    Since it mainly affects the invisible universe of human thought, the negative influence of those nefarious intellectuals attempting to subvert morality, liberty, and prosperity has only recently begun to be unveiled.

  • tchowski

    You forgot:
    “I can see Russia from my house!”
    “47% of Americans are Moochers, and I don’t care about them”
    “Rape is (anything other than a disgusting violent crime)”
    “Those (any group of people) are ruingin God’s plan for America!”

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...