Election day is, if nothing else, education day, particularly for those who make a living devising campaign strategy. And conversations with several political consultants in the hours since the polls have closed have revealed that there may be some new paradigms in the way aspirants approach their next political office.
One of the old chestnuts of political campaigns has always been to start early. Starting early means locking up donors and endorsements before anyone else has entered the race. It means mistakes can be made before anyone is really paying attention.
Eric Dinallo was actively running for attorney general for well-over a year. Vince Morgan started making noises about his campaign against Charlie Rangel last August. Rick Lazio has been running for governor since October, and when asked what he had learned from his ill-fated 2000 run against Hillary Clinton, would often say, “Start earlier.”
Together, the three combined for about 48% of the vote in their respective races.
“If you start too early people are going to be sick of you,” said George Arzt, a veteran campaign consultant. “You send mail in May and June and people are going to throw it away. You can only expose politics to people in small bites. It’s like newspapers. And all people can take is deadline stuff.”
And the second bit of learning gleaned from last night reminds campaign consultants of Margaret Mead’s great line: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only the thing that has.”
Actually, it hasn’t. Lots of candidates tried to run on single issues, buoyed by people galvanized around a single issue. Almost invariably, those candidates went down to defeat.
Basil Smikle ran for the state Senate propelled by charter school supporters and got only 25 percent of the vote. Another charter school proponent, Mark Pollard, got just 19 percent. Gregg Lundahl tried the opposite approach, running as an opponent of charter schools and with the support of the United Federation of Teachers, and he got only 15 percent.
Charlie Ramos and Lynn Nunes both ran against their opponent’s records on gay marriage, and neither got more than 27 percent.