Nevada Epilogue: Amateur Candidates Often Run Amateur Campaigns

Politico has an article today on the inner workings of Sharron Angle’s losing campaign that should provide instructive to the right as we look toward the 2012 election. You might recall that Angle shocked more than a few political observers when she won the nomination thanks to an immense push from local Tea Party organizations as well as a couple outside groups. She then went on to squander a considerable lead and lose handily to Harry Reid. It turns out that the campaign was doomed nearly from the day Angle won the primary thanks largely to amateurish leadership.

It’s widely recognized that in the marquee 2010 Senate race, Majority Leader Harry Reid ran a nearly flawless, textbook campaign, an operation so extraordinary that it enabled him to defy an almost certain political death.

It turns out he got some inadvertent inside help. Interviews with Nevada and Washington Republicans familiar with the campaign of Reid’s GOP opponent, Sharron Angle, describe a not-ready-for-prime-time effort that was equally astonishing — a model of dysfunction that was as bad as Reid’s campaign was good.

At the center of it was Terry Campbell, Angle’s closest adviser, who held the title of campaign manager.

A longtime political ally to Angle, Campbell ran her campaigns for the state Legislature almost a decade ago before taking the reins of her long-shot Senate primary bid along with another veteran supporter, Jerry Stacy, and several tea party volunteers.

The article covers no one in glory. Angle stood by Campbell long after it was apparent that he was out of his league. Campbell himself was woefully uninformed about major events inside the state, including a Presidential campaign stop for Reid. The local Tea Party activists who helped propel Angle to the nomination formed a wall of sycophants no one could penetrate, even when it was apparent Angle was beaten. Angle and Campbell both shut out and ignored people inside the GOP and other groups like the Club for Growth who could have helped. In the end, it shows that the amateur nature of the Tea Parties is a two-edged blade. On one hand, the movement is a seemingly limitless source of enthusiasm, energy, and even money. On the other, it lacks the knowledge gained from experience about how to use its considerable assets wisely and is going to spawn some really amateurish candidates. As a result, we’ll see more campaigns like Angle’s, which turned what I believe should have been a sure win into a loss.

Now, that kind of experience isn’t hard to get, but it does take time. I, for one, am not eager to see the other Angle-style campaign debacles that will happen as the Tea Parties continue to learn the political ropes used as a weapon against the Tea Parties. So, at the risk of being run out of one of my favorite blogs on a rail, I’d like to suggest that the Tea Parties and the Republican Party start working together.

Here’s a simple way to start. I’d like to see a few GOP political consultants offer local Tea Parties some free training workshops. These would deal with basic subjects such as GOTV, staff and volunteer management, advertising strategies, and (for the very forward-thinking advisers) social media and would be small enough that they could be given in someone’s living room.

Now, I know there could be problems. Political consultants tend to react to the word “free” the way that Fonzie reacted to the word “wrong”. Likewise, Tea Parties tend to regard professional politicos about as warily as they’d eye a bushel basket of angry cobras and scorpions. But it would be a good beginning. At the very least, it will bring together the Tea Parties and some party insiders on neutral ground where they can work on uncontroversial nuts and bolts matters instead of ideological issues. After all, we can all agree that a better GOTV effort in 2012 would be a good thing, right? How about a few more coherent social media campaigns?

We on the grassroots right made a pretty good first effort on Election Day. We can do more to sharpen our skills and pick up a few chunks of know-how that we don’t have right now. I’m willing to bet there are some folks inside the GOP who would be willing to forge the sort of coalition that could be an electoral juggernaut in 2012. If it means fewer Angle-style campaign disasters, why not give it a try?

(via Gabriel Malor’s Twitter stream)

Jimmie runs The Sundries Shack and has his own very entertaining podcast called “The Delivery”. He is also an amateur musician, an aspiring composer, an unrepentant geek and an avid fan of Twitter.