If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown too?
Anatomy of Two Campaigns
UPDATED: 11/09; Stapilus validates my examination of the vote totals as verifying widespread Democratic apathy as a significant player in the midterm election in Idaho.
The Idaho Statesman published a Popkey article front page containing the most vapid analysis of Minnick's loss as simply succumbing to a Republican wave. While certainly Republicans were highly motivated to go to the polls, the array of Minnick campaign apologists, which interestingly included IACI chief Alex Lebeau, and yet-to-win-an-election Dan Williams, simply glosses over the fact that Minnick ran his entire campaign targeting only Republicans, either taking the Democratic vote completely for granted or merely assuming, incorrectly, Democrats weren't a factor.
Worse was this comment by campaign manager John Foster.
Minnick campaign manager John Foster said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ran ads that were more negative than Minnick's and ran them earlier in the campaign. He said that's one of the reasons Reid beat Republican challenger Sharon Angle, and it shows the impact negative ads can have.
Minnick fell victim to a nationwide Republican wave, Foster said, that was not unexpected.
“The voters were intent on sending a message to anyone with a 'D' after their name,” Foster said. “It's tough being a Democrat in Idaho.”
Actually, that last statement will be funny to Democrats in Idaho because we don't recall ever seeing a D behind Minnick's name in any of his advertisements. Indeed Walt took every opportunity to distance himself from Democrats despite repeated warnings of the consequences.
But lets look more closely at Foster's comparison to the successful Reid campaign. Remember Reid was Republicans' most sought after trophy, pouring millions upon millions to defeat him in a state laden with Republicans. He was not only a trophy but a pick up opportunity and looked toast just six months ago. Both Minnick and Reid were quite successful in picking their opposition, securing the most extreme candidate through clever media placement of opposition research. It was no accident Vaughn Ward's campaign imploded. Raul Labrador simply had not the resources nor the experience to be responsible for the implosion.
And yes, Reid ran attack ads. And here I'll take small issue with the Mountain Goat Report's most excellent election day analysis predicting the Minnick campaign's demise. Attack ads work and have particular value against newbies with low recognition in driving up their unfavorables. Minnick's apologists acknowledge the value and I don't disagree. But these ads weren't like Reid's in two important respects, 1) Minnick's ads demonized the Hispanic voting bloc that propelled Reid to victory, 2) they were overreaching, personal and irrelevant to national politics.
Certainly Minnick needed to follow Reid's template of painting Labrador as extreme, but they missed. Minnick had a target rich environment to choose from, to repeal the 17th amendment, to return to the gold standard, to Labrador's desire to outlaw all abortion including in cases of rape and incest, let alone the massive quantity of self contradictory platitudes dominating the Republican noise machine. Indeed Minnick's Angie Leon ad's goal was to mark Labrador as extreme on domestic violence legislation, if that was what people took from the ad. But many people thought Minnick was trying to make Labrador responsible for her death, which they found offensive. I strongly agree with MGR that the "ads also gave otherwise ambivalent Democrats more reason to oppose Minnick."
But the ads weren't the Minnick campaign's greatest failing. Unlike Minnick, Reid ran an unapologetic campaign as a Democrat, not that he could hide it as senate majority leader. He actively courted his base. He didn't run from it. And he actively courted the Hispanic vote, an as yet untapped reserve in Idaho despite comparable numbers to Nevada's. Idaho's Democrats are concentrated in urban counties like Ada. In 2008, Minnick won Ada County with 56,557 votes. In 2010, Minnick received only 30,990 votes from Ada County ceding victory here to Labrador who got over 10,000 more than that. That 25,000 vote swing was the margin in this race. In Hispanic Canyon County Minnick's vote totals went from 28,367 in 2008 to 15,805 in 2010. With Minnick's prodigious war chest he failed Idaho Democrats in not using it to help secure this voting bloc which saved not only Reid, but virtually all of California. And while there was a ten point discrepancy in vote totals from a presidential election year, clearly that alone doesn't explain these fluctuations. Indeed just days before the election, Minnick debated Labrador before what should have been an enthusiastic audience, yet disillusionment with him was palpable.
Nationwide Reid's campaign sits in stark contrast to blue dogs, like Minnick, who ran from their party, ideologically failing to accomplish a positive record upon which to run, and feeding right wing media narratives demonstrating Democrats as out of touch, even with people in their own party. Blue dog failures made their election losses a self fulfilling prophecy. Over half of Democratic losses in congress were blue dogs, selfishly and with extreme malpractice, looking solely to their own careers, instead of realizing they'd have no success to run on, except those touted by Republicans. Minnick lost, not just because of the Republican tidal wave to which he contributed, but because he shunned his date to the dance.