I was watching CNN reporting on the primaries today, and one comment by a reporter hit me – “this race was written off by many Democrats…” The problem? It’s now looking like a very, very competitive race – even a Democratic pickup. In looking back at various pundits and prognosticators of the “professional left,” I can see that was the case, and there are a lot of examples where the reaction was either “Meh! The Republicans are going to win,” or an analysis of why a certain politician was “dead in the water.” All of these were before any primaries or the campaigns started gearing up. They “knew” what the results were before the actual election.
Unfortunately for them, the real world of politics has a way of turning their self-assured predictions upside-down. Harry Reid was a “lame duck,” doomed to electoral defeat – back in February. That was before the Republican primaries in Nevada, where a number of “righter than thou” candidates ran against each other, each committing blunders that make opposition campaigns drool with anticipation. The resulting candidate has so many extreme ideas, so many out-of-touch concepts, and has done so well at antagonizing the local media that it’s now looking like Reid will be re-elected. The “Republican pick-up” for that Senate seat is now looking more remote. The same thing is on the horizon in Delaware – the “automatic” candidate may not be, turning the race into a real race.
Which is why it is never a good idea to “write off” an election early on. Yes, I do understand the need to focus and conserve resources in running campaigns. But, doing it long before the actual contest is determined is not the way to do it. You never know when your opposition is going to do something really dumb, and you need to be able to take advantage of that. It’s why you pay attention to your local parties, to build the infrastructure and develop a bench of candidates. It’s why you compete everywhere, because you might just turn that “safe seat” into something else. That’s the lesson that should have been learned in 2006 and 2008. If your opposition is handing you the chance, take it. If you aren’t ready, or you gave up too early, then you deserve to have your head handed to you.
I will make a prediction though. I predict that a lot of the pundits who wrote off various elections earlier this year will fail to acknowledge that they did. They’ll have long-winded columns on the “shifting electorate,” and the difficulties of “interpreting the mood” of the voters. Everything except the admission that they gave up too soon.