Eric Massa: Relentless

In an election year full of surprises, Eric Massa delivered a big one: he convinced a bunch of core conservative Southern Tier voters to take a chance on him. He did it by running a dogged, enthusiastic and disciplined campaign, the likes of which are rarely seen in New York.

Massa began the 2008 race shortly after losing in 2006. He predicted that he had to raise $3 million to win. It looks like he raised $2 million, an impressive sum. Add the DCCC's almost $1 million spent, and Massa's $3 million prediction looks like the right number.

Fundraising is vital to a campaign, but money alone buys little in politics -- just ask Tom Golisano, who poured millions into state races with little result. Massa coupled his fundraising with press outreach and old-fashioned one-to-one campaigning.

Massa's press effort was a critical component of his victory strategy. It was remarkable for both its early start and dogged consistency. The Massa campaign started sending out press releases in May of 2007, and it was a rare week when they didn't crank out a handful of items addressing the "issues of the day". Massa's weekly press conferences were often lightly attended, but they yielded numerous stories in the Southern Tier media.

Massa's press operation established him as the voice of the loyal opposition in the Southern Tier. In years past, Randy Kuhl could expect local media to treat him as the undisputed authority on what happened in Washington, DC. When Massa arrived on the scene, Kuhl's free media ride stopped. Massa was often better-informed on issues than Kuhl, and it was easy work for reporters to lift his quotes from his press releases and conferences.

In addition to taking full advantage of free media to acquaint the district with his views, Massa also introduced himself personally to his future constituents. Besides the usual parades, community celebrations and the like, Massa held hundreds of house parties across the district. This kind of retail politicking was key to building enthusiasm among party faithful, who aren't going to work hard for a candidate unless they believe he will work hard for them.

Massa's candidacy teaches a number of lessons to those who might be interested in unseating an incumbent. Perhaps the most important lesson is that winning requires a combination of good circumstances and incredibly hard work. Campaigns against entrenched incumbents can't start a few weeks or months before an election. Just as an incumbent's reputation wasn't formed in a few months, a challenger must also introduce himself repeatedly to those he wishes to represent.

Eric Massa's relentless, four-year effort showed a level of grit and perseverance that's uncommon in New York politics. Candidates like Tom Golisano, Jack Davis and David Nachbar should take note, because they aren't likely to succeed without an effort on par with Massa's.


Hear hear! A very accurate, incisive analysis. I wouldn't have thought this upset possible. You gotta hand it to Massa and Team, not to mention the open-minded ticket-splitting voters throughout our region (including Yates!!). Thanks for a great blog.

You're welcome. Sorry your Kuhl by 10 didn't work out.

Yeah. Shows how much I know ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Nice post.