Saturday, May 2, 2009

Winning "Unwinnable" Races

The youngest Republican U.S. Congressman is Aaron Schock, from Illinois. His bio includes the inspiring example of an upset victory that punctures the myth of an 'unwinnable' race: Aaron Schock's upset victory in 2004 over Ricca Slone in an Illinois statehouse race. Aaron Schock was 23, going up against an 8-year incumbent, in a district that was 60% Democrat. Yet he won narrowly, then won re-election easily. How did he do it? He campaigned hard and well:

“No one can out-campaign and out-schmooze Aaron Schock because he listens to people. Even if he doesn’t agree with you, you’re going to come away being glad he listened.” ... “As a candidate, I think he’s a natural,” Slone says. “He’s on the order of Barack Obama.”
He was likable and energetic; his opponent was more polarizing:
92nd District (Peoria suburbs): Incumbent Democrat Ricca Slone of Peoria Heights, a liberal feminist first elected in 1996, has long been a polarizing, Hillary Clinton-like figure. She supports abortion rights and gay rights, and she ran unopposed in 2002. This year the Republican nominee was Aaron Schock, a 23-year-old school board member who ran as a forthright anti-abortion, anti-tax hike, anti-prescription drug importation conservative. Bush beat Kerry in Peoria County by just 94 votes, but he won comfortably in the suburban areas of the county.

Schock came across as likable and energetic. In a campaign generously funded by Springfield Republicans, who sensed an upset, Schock blasted Slone's liberalism, missed votes and support of a teachers' pension system transfer of $4.5 million. Slone, equally well funded by House Speaker Mike Madigan, hammered Schock's "extremism." In a major upset, Schock won by 231 votes. If Schock can hold this seat in the future, expect him to be a statewide Republican candidate in the next decade. His 2004 campaign proved that issues and personality do matter.

In 2006 and 2008, the Democrats gained majorities in the U.S. House and Senate by running new faces to challenge status quo incumbent Republicans, winning some races in 'non-traditional' areas with unlikely candidates (an example is now-Senator Tester of Montana beating Sen Burns). There may be difficult, challenging and daunting races, but there are no 'unwinnable' races. There are cases where the amount of money, quality of candidate and effort in the campaign will or will not overcome the challenge of the the other side. In politics, as in war, the other side gets a vote on the outcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Winnable states: