Post-TX28: Constructive questions for this & future campaigns
by Hudson, Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 07:24:42 AM EST
With the apparent loss of Rodriguez to Cuellar, some are celebrating the netroots' major assist to Ciro and optimistically touting this as an honorable defeat in TX-28 that will lead to future victory there and elsewhere.
Others are disappointed, wondering what went wrong, and in a few cases pointing fingers at those who, they feel, failed to deliver despite intense support from Democrats all over the nation.
As someone who has been intensely involved with election campaigns on a local level, I have a strong interest in the mechanics of politics. This experience leads me to be skeptical of those trying to find a silver lining in this loss, while also discounting criticism that is not aimed at identifying specific problems -- and at building commitment to solving them in the future.
I'm not trying to armchair quarterback here, but rather to learn from a defeat. I've spent many, many hours preparing poll watchers and inspectors, building GOTV databases, designing mailers, courting candidates, defining campaign messages, poring over election law, helping to prepare challenges and lawsuits, writing press releases, going door-to-door, registering voters, and other nitty-gritty of local elections. I say this not to brag, but just to convey that for underdogs to win requires a virtually endless commitment to nailing down every detail.
When campaigns leave things to chance, or just cross their fingers, or say, "well, we did what we could," those candidates lose. People like Karl Rove are not geniuses; rather, they just work much harder on every detail of campaigns, over a long period of time, and don't accept mediocre results.
With all that said, here are some constructive questions that occur to me, strictly as an outside observer, that might be worth asking the Ciro campaign, and keeping in mind in future contests in that district and around the country. Those questions appear after the jump...
(1) Given the importance of early voting in this (and previous) elections, what was the campaign's strategy for convincing likely early voters to vote for Ciro? Why did he fare so poorly among early voters?
(2) Given that this was an open primary, what was done to take that crucial fact into account? (Since much of the netroots seemed to be unaware that non-Democrats were able to vote in the primary, there seems to be some concern that this dynamic may have been neglected.) Were non-affiliated voters and members of third parties courted, or just the Democratic base?
(3) The press has stated that the Ciro campaign was "low-impact" until the netroots got involved. It is clear that the netroots can greatly assist a campaign monetarily, and even with volunteers, but that without a strong, local, on-the-ground team, there is a limit to what outside help can do. Is it true that the Rodriguez campaign was floundering until the netroots came up with a ton of cash, and if so, why?
(4) Cuellar improved his performance across the board, according to some reports. Why is that, when there was such an influx of additional (netroots) funding this time? What did he do that improved his performance, and is the presence of a third candidate enough to explain Ciro's drop-off?
(5) Given that for the second time in a row, so much of Cuellar's support came from Webb, what was the campaign's strategy for blunting the impact of Webb this time around? Did the campaign attempt (per Rove) to go after Cuellar's strength?
(6) It has been said by some commentators that Ciro's campaign to win back this seat began right after the 2004 election. What was done, exactly, during those two years, in terms of voter registration, fundraising, raising issues, cultivating and training volunteers, and most importantly building a strong GOTV effort in anticipation of this primary?
(7) Lastly, given the suspicion among some (but not all) of voting irregularities in Webb, what was done to prepare for such an eventuality, e.g. having election lawyers monitor polling places, flacking the local board of elections to put them on notice that the election would be carefully scrutinized, et al.? (Note, however, it does not appear that Ciro is alleging vote fraud in Webb.)
These questions are not intended to fall on side or another of the various arguments about the outcome; and again, not having been directly involved, some of these questions may be off-base. But I believe they are, at minimum, the kinds of questions Democratic underdogs must ponder, anticipate, and work on if better results are to be obtained in the future all over the country.