More Hard Words About NY-26

This is only peripherally about NY-29, but I think the NY-26 campaign taught a lot of people some hard lessons that are applicable to most political campaigns. I'll bury my thoughts after the break for those only interested in NY-29.

Biography: No life experiences are "all bad" or "all good". Candidates need to package their life experiences as a narrative that accentuates the positive and acknowledges and contextualizes the negative.

Jon Powers received a lot of publicity for his work in War Kids Relief, a charity organization he founded. It was a noble failure. Powers was unable to get congressional funding for WKR, and faced with a rotten security situation in Baghdad, it was clear that private donations wouldn't suffice for the effort. Powers made a dangerous trip to Iraq, some kids were helped, and the whole effort made him realize that WKR wasn't going to be the way he would make an impact. So he ran for Congress.

That last paragraph is my spin on the effort, gathered from reading media accounts and listening to a Powers' appearance on a Kevin Hardwick's radio show. It wasn't Powers' initial story His campaign website made it sound like WKR was a going concern. His opponent nit-picked at that story until WKR became a negative. If Powers had acknowledged WKR as a learning experience and impetus for running for Congress in the first place, he'd have been better positioned to respond to those attacks.

Media: Don't ignore opposition blogs. Use them to prepare your rapid response.

I first read about the War Kids Relief story on a conservative blog months before the story surfaced in the media and in Jack Davis' attack ads. Yet the Powers campaign took a long time to formulate an ineffectual response to the attacks once they hit the traditional media.

When a blogger posts a negative story, one of two things has happened. Either someone from an opposing campaign has fed it to them, or, worse, some individual looked at your campaign's storyline and poked a hole in it. Some negatives are pure haterade, but the WKR negative was an important indicator that Powers' story had a few holes in it.

Update: The story surfaced five months ago, as Cincinnatus at Monroerising points out.

Endorsements: meh.

Endorsements are good for garnering media attention and for influencing low-information voters. Low-information voters don't vote in primaries.

Fundraising: Money in the bank is is just a bunch of pictures of dead Presidents.

Powers didn't spend a lot on the primary, presumably because he needed some of that money to challenge well-financed Christopher Lee in the general. This is pure Monday-morning quarterbacking, but I'll bet he wishes he had spent a little more of the $900K that he raised.


I would also add that a lesson to be learned is for the party committees to look a little deeper into these people, spend some more time vetting and asking tuff questions.

I have sat through nominating meetings. They tend to get a quick statement, a few questions and then they vote. That isn't much.

I would ALSO suggest and this goes to all the bloggers and the people who attend these meetings, that people get a grasp of the office these people are running for. I mean this in a nice way but I am sure it will sound smug. In the end though, a first-term Congressperson from NY-26 will NOT end a War, has almost no influence whatsoever on Abortion or Gay marriage, cannot revolutionize the economy or single handidly fix the energy crisis. Promises to the contrary might sound nice but they are empty.

We need to learn what these candidates understand about the process of creating policy, working their way through bloated and complex systems, how to follow procedure and understand organizational rules and how to leverage and bargain. It isn't sexy, but its what they will be doing. Turning thought and promise to policy is an enormously complex task especially in the House of Representatives but most of the questions I hear always focus on issues that have nothing to do with the job.