John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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More Lessons Learned

Posted on September 15, 2010
Here are some more lessons learned from the primaries last night:

1)      Conservatives aren’t going to vote for a candidate based only on electability:  The principle reason that Castle gave to primary voters was that O’Donnell wasn’t electable.  That may be true, but it was also completely irrelevant.  If there is one thing that needs to be relearned is that you need to give voters a reason to vote for you beyond the fact that you can win in a general election.

2)      Each election is unique:  Just because a candidate has won in the past does not mean that a candidate can win in the future.  Especially in a change year like this one, incumbency can be more of a burden than a blessing.

3)      Grassroots matters: Say what you will about Christine O’Donnell.  She had a mobilized, passionate following, despite her obvious flaws.  Castle’s supporters may have been just as passionate, but they didn’t come out in the numbers necessary to win.  Especially in small states (only around 50,000 came out to vote in the Delaware primary), every vote counts.

4)      Sarah Palin was not the reason O’Donnell won.  Neither was Jim DeMint.  Palin also endorsed Brian Murphy in Maryland (who got trounced) and Kelly Ayotte (who may or may not win).  This election was all about Mike Castle.   People didn’t vote for O’Donnell (how could they?)  They voted against Mike Castle.

5)      When the voters send a message, listen to it before the election:  Mike Castle is a good guy, but he didn’t get the clear message that was sent to Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski:  Move right in the primary.  Obviously, that was a hard thing for Castle to do because he wanted to be ideologically consistent.  But such consistency didn’t bother John McCain, who embraced the hard-line approach on the immigration issue, an issue where he was the leading compromiser only two years before.

6)      Closed primaries kill moderates:  This was true not only in Delaware.  It was also true in D.C., where Adrian Fenty got his hat handed to him by political hack Vincent Gray.  Closed primaries are anti-democratic, anti-independent, and a boon to the most extreme candidates.

7)      The political establishment is not just over-rated; it is hated:  People blame Washington politicians (on both sides) for the mess we are in.  So, why would they take their advice on how to vote?  Well, they won’t.  That was the case with Mike Castle, Rick Lazio and a bunch of other candidates this year.  Sometimes getting an endorsement from a well-known establishment politician works.  This is not one of those times.