Ken Santema was writing over at his blog SDLiberty recently that in the District 3 State Senate Race where Al Novstrup crushed his opponent, liberal Democrat Cory Heidelberger, as he defeated him by 22%, it was because Heidelberger spends too much time as a Social Justice Warrior.
I suppose that’s one way to look at it. But it’s such a minor factor in Novstrup beating Heidelberger like a rented mule, I’m surprised it came to anyone’s mind. So, looking at the races, to what do I attribute Novstrup’s definitive victory over that of his challenger? There were a number of factors, but this was a pretty textbook race. I’d argue that it was Politics 101:
- Al didn’t spend his money stupidly. His opponent did.
Al didn’t start advertising hard until September/October, while his opponent burned cash early. In fact, Heidelberger exhibited some terrible cash management. Instead of budgeting backwards from election day, he was blowing money on newspaper inserts in April. Seriously, April? Wasting money on “vanity advertising” in April was the height of stupidity.
Each newsletter was ½ the cost of a targeted postcard. Do you think 3 or 4 targeted postcards in October when they were seeking information about the elections versus newsletters blasted out to everyone up to 6 months early may have been a wiser expenditure?
Personally, I love tabloids and inserts. I used them to great effect in both the primary and general election for candidates this year. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. (I DON’T DO THEM 6 MONTHS AHEAD OF TIME!)
Speaking of stupid spending…
Now, this went up after the elections. So, Democrats who donated – instead of going towards actually getting him elected, he sat on enough money to do 1 and possibly 2 billboards.
And this is the kind of stupid stuff your donations went to. Like I said, stupid spending.
I trust you get my point.
- Along those lines, where was the mail?
The political war against Heidelberger was waged primarily in mailboxes in postcards that were targeted to voters friendly (R’s and I’s) to messages about taxes, supporting police, and other things they touched on. Postcards are almost always targeted. The GOP has the lists of who they want to hit, and Democrats nationally have been ahead of Republicans in this area.
Not that you would have ever known it in this race.
There’s a reason you target your message. It ends up being more cost effective in the long run, and you know you’ve pushed a message to someone who has a strong propensity to vote (for you, hopefully).
- One candidate had a party behind him. The other had a party way, way behind them.
Al Novstrup had the support of the South Dakota Republican Party in his race, and they weren’t afraid to flex their muscles. While the GOP spent money, Cory Heidelberger’s party most likely sent him a fundraising appeal asking for money to help their faltering organization.
Which is ironic, because Cory has been a big proponent of the Democrats devoting their efforts towards ballot measures instead of party building over the past 3-4 cycles.
South Dakota Dems have failed to run even nominally competent elections for a few cycles now. They have lots of staff, but what did they do this year. When 2 Republicans win on the reservation (Liz May and Steve Livermont) it wasn’t GOTV (Get out the Vote).
After tasting the bitter tears of defeat sowed from the Democrats focus on things other than being a political party, Heidelberger now he knows firsthand the negative impact that has on candidates.
- What were the Democrats selling this year?
The interesting thing in this race is that not having a job, Heidelberger had tremendous time to go door to door in his district. Normally, that’s a tough advantage to beat.
But compare that to other door to door machines on the GOP Side, such as Youngberg and Pischke. House candidate Pischke kicked butt, and was the top vote getter in his district. Senate Candidate Youngberg was also a door to door animal. He turned out an incumbent in a district with a slim advantage.
While Novstrup was limited in his door to door time by having a job, and running 2 businesses, one in Sioux Falls, Heidelberger had all the time in the world and went door to door but failed by 22%. Literally, you would have expected this race to be closer. But it wasn’t. Not by a mile.
Sometimes it’s what you’re selling. Cory spent his time pushing the ballot measures, and instead of highlighting himself, highlighted those. And I’ll underline it for you – voters don’t make the association between ballot measures and candidates.
Candidates who don’t realize this (Democrats) are going to continue to be doomed to failure.
- NAME ID is king.
Al Novstrup has represented that District in the House or the Senate for 14 years running at this point. Crossing that river alone is a huge challenge for a campaign that’s hitting on all cylinders, much less one which spends money foolishly.
Reminder – That margin of victory was 22%
- As Novstrup and the GOP defined, Heidelberger underlined.
Probably one of the most hilarious things I heard during the campaign was Heidelberger in response to the postcards the GOP sent out. As soon as they pointed out that he was for an income tax, Cory went to great lengths to underline why he was for it. It’s as if he was unable to read the mood in his neighborhood, much less the entire country.
Republicans smartly designated the playing field, and geared up for full contact politics. Heidelberger misjudged and figuratively showed up on that same field in tennis shorts. For a guy who is suppose to be so smart, he doesn’t know much about politics.
The Social Justice Warrior portion that Santema may have played into part of what Heidelberger was trying to sell this year as he went door to door, but as noted, I think it’s more politics 101:
- Plan your advertising by moving backwards from Election Day.
- Target your message.
- Use the resources available to you.
- Know your audience. And listen to them.
- Build name ID
- Set the agenda
You could look on a website on “How to run a campaign” and pick most all of this up it’s so bonehead basic. But it shows how little the Democrat party works with their candidates. (Or how much they don’t pay attention).
Looking forward to 2018, I think its worthwhile noting that Cory must not plan to run again, as he continues to ignore basic rules as he moves forward. On election night, when his defeat was clear, Cory didn’t bother to call his opponent and congratulate him. In fact, in his first postscript on the election, as opposed to congratulating Novstrup, he stooped so low as to engage in name-calling. It was the ultimate in being a sore loser.
Again, more politics 101 –
- Be gracious in defeat.
Even Hillary Clinton managed to pull herself together to do that. You never know what the future may bring.