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Good candidates win elections

At the end of last week, after Republicans analyzed their election wins and losses, both The Anchoress and Peggy Noonan riffed a bit on a similar theme -- strong candidates, more than anything else, are what wins elections. First up, The Anchoress:

... when [Christine O'Donnell] loses by 15 points -- particularly against so unlikable an opponent as Senator-elect Chris Coons -- the blame needs to be a bit more inwardly directed. On the stump, in debate, and even in her concession speech, Christine O'Donnell came off as a platitude-spouting lightweight, fine for a morning talk show (in fact, perhaps too smart for some of them) but not for the Senate.

... [G]ood candidates are not defeated by unfriendly media, because they transcend it. Reagan did it. George W. Bush, who had to contend with "snipers wanted" signs attached to his image before he even became his party's nominee for president, did it. Good candidates may believe the press is their enemy, but they never betray that belief. Instead, they joshingly push them aside and talk to the voters directly.

The josh-and-push is an essential part of a successful campaign; it demonstrates a deftness of touch that denotes a true statesman. When one cannot handle the abuses of the press -- or feels inclined to respond to their every aggression -- the electorate gets a subconscious message: "you let your opponent get into your head; you fluster; you take small things too seriously and lose focus." All of that translates into: "you are not a strong leader."

And last Friday, Peggy Noonan chimed in:

What the tea party, by which I mean members and sympathizers, has to learn from 2010 is this: Not only the message is important but the messenger.

Even in a perfect political environment, those candidates who were conservative but seemed strange, or unprofessional, or not fully qualified, or like empty bags skittering along the street, did not fare well. The tea party provided the fire and passion of the election, and helped produce major wins--Marco Rubio by 19 points! But in the future the tea party is going to have to ask itself: Is this candidate electable? Will he pass muster with those who may not themselves be deeply political but who hold certain expectations as to the dignity and stature required of those who hold office?

This is the key question the tea party will face in 2012. And it will be hard to answer it, because the tea party doesn't have leaders or conventions, so the answer will have to bubble up from a thousand groups, from 10,000 leaders.

Electable doesn't mean not-conservative. Electable means mature, accomplished, stable--and able to persuade.

I agree with these assessments. When you are a Republican, and you know that you will be facing a full-frontal assault from an unfriendly press who will dig up every skeleton from your past and work as hard as it can to make you look stupid, you have to be able to counter their aggressiveness with a commanding personality and a calm, focused demeanor.

Quirky or largely unknown candidates rarely win elections. The only real exception to this has been Barack Obama. He won because virtually the entire news and entertainment media complex came to his aid and created a super-human messiah image for him, complete with a belief system for the masses based on fairness and hope. And on the campaign trail, Obama was very good at bringing the "hope and change" message to life. He truly was an empty suit, but the Emperor's New Clothes that were fashioned for him were tailored so well that he appeared to be anything but an empty suit.

The failures and weaknesses of Obama as President probably mean that we will not see anything like this happening again in the near future. Peggy Noonan admitted as much when she concluded her piece thusly:

Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics. You should go have a life, build a string of accomplishments, then enter public service. And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can't just bully them, you can't just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade.

And this really is the difference between losing candidates like Christine O'Donnell and winning candidates like Marcio Rubio, or for that matter Bobby Jindal. Rubio and Jindal are both accomplished, articulate, and very passionate about what they believe. New Jersey governor Chris Christie is the same way, particularly when it comes to clarity about what he intends to do. Like him or not, Christie is serious about reducing the size and cost of government in New Jersey and is very honest about how he is going to do it. Glenn Reynolds also had this to say about the concept of clarity this weekend:

With the election over, Republicans are arguing about whether they should address Democrats via compromise, or confrontation. Both have their places, but I have a different suggestion.


With the deficit and the debt ballooning, with the economy remaining in the tank, and with tough choices on the horizon, what Americans need more than anything is clarity about what those choices involve, about who is making them, and about who is avoiding them.

Sometimes clarity will mean confrontation.

Republicans need to live up to their promise of an Obamacare repeal. Democrats will then be forced to join them, or vote against repeal. That will produce clarity on who stands for what, in time for the next elections.

If it passes Congress, Obama will be forced to veto or acquiesce. That will produce clarity, too.

I think the lesson for Republicans is pretty straightforward: if they are clear on policy positions and unified during their legislative maneuvering, they will wield a great deal of power against a dejected Democratic party and a very politically weak President.

Now, admittedly some politicians have been cast under such a long and dark negative shadow by the political process and through biased news reporting that their cause is probably permanently lost, regardless of how focused and passionate they are. I'm thinking of Newt Gingrich here (who is simply insane if he runs for President) and perhaps Sarah Palin too, even though I like her very much.

But the combination of poise, commitment, and clarity seems to be a winning strategy for most conservatives during elections. And those characteristics can also help newly elected conservatives transition from from candidates into effective leaders once they are sworn into office. I hope we will see them demonstrated repeatedly during the coming year.


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Comments (33)

Peggy Noonan, a supposed go... (Below threshold)

Peggy Noonan, a supposed good Catholic person, would better serve by calling attention to the massacre in Baghdad on 11/3 of Catholics (including two priests) who were worshiping in their own Catholic Church. Al Qaeda in Iraq is taking responsibility as if killing innocent Christians peacefully at worship is something about which someone should be proud!

We all notice that the so-called elite media has had not word one to say about it! If it had been Muslims who were slaughtered, the hue and cry would have been absolutely deafening! Pinheads!

I find these constant attac... (Below threshold)

I find these constant attacks on Tea Party candidates amusing. Sure, the establishment, elite, Republicans are losing their power, so they have to do something. But really, they ought to do a better job at it.

I keep hearing how Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle are the reason we lost the Senate. What they forget to mention is that Dino Rossi also lost in Washington State and Fiorina lost in California.

The same exact argument can be made in reverse. If these would have been Tea Party candidates, they would have won! Why didn't the establishment GOP see this and recruit Tea Partiers instead, so that now we can be in control of the Senate? Why? Why!? (Stella!)

I don't know who Obama supporters like Peggy Noonan think they are fooling, but it sure isn't this Tea Partier.

"Obama will be forced to ve... (Below threshold)

"Obama will be forced to veto or acquiesce."

HIS "signature" accomplishment?

Get out the popcorn.

Obama will veto. He has to.... (Below threshold)

Obama will veto. He has to. The ObamaCare boondoggle was his baby and he also has his liberal base to consider. He knows if he signs the repeal, he will be booted out in the primaries. The far left will see to that. Maybe the repeal process will be moot, if SCOTUS throws the whole mess into the dustbin of history.

We all notice that the s... (Below threshold)

We all notice that the so-called elite media has had not word one to say about it!

Yeah, it was only on the front page of the NY Times, and many other newspapers, as noted by ryan a commenting in Rick's thread.

You left out the best part of Noonan's column.

"Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. . . . The point is not "He was a great man and you [Palin] are a nincompoop," though that is true."

Conservatives talked a lot about Ronald Reagan this year, but they have to take him more to heart, because his example here is a guide. All this seemed lost last week on Sarah Palin, who called him, on Fox, "an actor." She was defending her form of political celebrity--reality show, "Dancing With the Stars," etc. This is how she did it: "Wasn't Ronald Reagan an actor? Wasn't he in 'Bedtime for Bonzo,' Bozo, something? Ronald Reagan was an actor."

Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I'll voice their consternation to make a larger point. Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president.

The point is not "He was a great man and you are a nincompoop," though that is true.

Yes galoob. You are such a ... (Below threshold)

Yes galoob. You are such a great intellectual that you backed the worst president evah.

good job!

you have to be able to c... (Below threshold)

you have to be able to counter their aggressiveness with a commanding personality and a calm, focused demeanor.

The GOP should be distributing instructional videos by Chris Christie on debating and town hall/personal discussion performance and Michele Bachmann on staying on point when dealing with the media to all GOP candidates as soon as they throw their hat in the ring. Not just in 2012, but for the foreseeable future.

I'm sorry maybe I missed so... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry maybe I missed something but isn't Peggy Nonan one of the "moderate" idoits that supported Obama? Am I supposed to be impressed by something she's written?

"Good candidates win electi... (Below threshold)

"Good candidates win elections"

Sotero was not a good candidate and he won? I would say with half the country gullible and easily hornswaggled its 50/50 either way. If they want to believe lies from a glib tongue then that is the way they will vote.

Stan #4,I believe ... (Below threshold)

Stan #4,

I believe that you are prescient. The conservative members of the SCOTUS will see that Obamacare is unconstitutional. The liberals will see that Obamacare is hurting liberal politicians, so they will find that the "living and breathing" document is violated as well. It could be a unanimous court finding.

"Good candidates w... (Below threshold)
"Good candidates win elections"
Actually the candidate with the most votes wins, especially when its a given that relationship of voters to votes isn't always one to one.
It can hardly be argued tha... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

It can hardly be argued that Tea Party candidates like O'Donnell, Buck, Angle, Paul, Maes, and Miller were strong candidates. Even the Tea Party Express threw Maes under the bus before it was over.

Angle ran a good campaign but in the end was unable to overcome the negatives painted by Reid immediately after she won the nomination. Buck goes off on social issues which were not the voters' prime concern, and it cost him the seat. Paul was only saved by his handlers stopping him from speaking his mind freely after his comments on the Civil Rights Act (oh, and wait until you see how he votes on defense and national security issues).

Miller and O'Donnell both proved oversensitive and inept. Neither would reach out in a meaningful way to their defeated opponent in the primary. If you sneer at making the effort for party unity, you have no complaint when the party doesn't unify behind you!

O'Donnell is just a lightweight, who ran a nasty, personal primary campaign (accusing Castle of everything from adultery to pedophilia - sure, it was "only" aides who did these things). All of the negative stuff about her is due to what she herself put out there.

Miller is just too touchy - he stonewalled for months over the shadowy "personnel issue" in his past, which turned out to be that he used work computers to vote several times in a non-binding online poll. Wow, not smart enough to get that out and behind you?

The bottom line is: vetting candidates is important. Rubio wasn't some weirdo off the street, he had been Florida's Speaker of the House. Tim Scott in SC had a lifetime of public service behind him, showing he did more than talk conservative principles.

Less than half the House an... (Below threshold)

Less than half the House and more than half the Senate, also the guy in the White House, were the "wrong candidates"--just because we didn't win them all, doesn't make the attempt wrong. What I like about the Tea Party is a lot of regular Joes and Josephines are getting involved. How many of us would be deemed weird and unelectable if we jumped in? Sometimes, not all the time, but the "electable" people are professional political creeps who have so masked their true selves we don't know who we're voting for.

I guess we have to discern ... (Below threshold)

I guess we have to discern between good candidate & competent employee. Barry was good at trashing the country his predecessor and Hillary. But as an employee of the public he is an incompetent boob.

We will never know how competent O'Donnell or other candidates may have been but I doubt they could rival Barrys level of deceipt.

The bottom line is: vett... (Below threshold)

The bottom line is: vetting candidates is important. Rubio wasn't some weirdo off the street, he had been Florida's Speaker of the House. Tim Scott in SC had a lifetime of public service behind him, showing he did more than talk conservative principles.

How about Rossi in my home state of Washington? Or Fiorina in California? Were they vetted, good quality, Republican candidates? Surely we cannot blame them for being Republican establishment candidates!

Let's find a way to blame the Tea Party on the non-Tea Party candidates that lost.

Because the theme (or is it a meme?) that is being created here is that, if they lost, it's thanks to the Tea Party.

And yet, Rossi lost, Whitman lost, Fiorina lost, Wargotz lost in Maryland, another blue state. Hmmmm, let's see how he faired, shall we? Oh that's right, he lost by 25%!

If only we would have elected the Tea Party candidate, instead of these loser establishment Republicans, we could have won that deeply blue seat!

Yeah, somehow, I think the logic being applied here only goes one way.

Criticism in a constructive... (Below threshold)

Criticism in a constructive form is good, (and there's been criticism aplenty) but throughout all this analyzing of the election and the involvement of the Tea Party I keep detecting undeniable undertones of "We would have won so many more seats if not for the dummies the Tea Party put up as candidates."

I mean really. Haven't they beat that horse enough?

I don't recall Rove and Co.... (Below threshold)

I don't recall Rove and Co. mounting perpetual attacks on Bobby Jindahl or Rubio as they did against O'Donnell. Did I miss something??!! Yes, you can COUNT on the leftist media to do everything in its power to defeat republicans and elect democrats. But when elitist, DC republicans JOIN IN THE EFFORT....

#16Yep. Typical ri... (Below threshold)


Yep. Typical rinos. If not for them, Dems would have grown their majorities and Barry wouldn't be hiding over seas. The Tea Party has been so destructive to the GOP that the true snake biting colors are shining thru.

"Peggy Noonan admitted as m... (Below threshold)

"Peggy Noonan admitted as much when she concluded her piece"

She endorsed Obama's candidacy and is slamming TEA Party candidates because she perceives they were weak? I don't give a damn what she writes about any more because she's a false flag writer that still attacks what she perceives to be wrong while completely missing the truth.

Baggi is correct. With good candidates they STILL lost and a lot of that has to do with the NRSCC GOTV efforts on behalf of ALL the candidates.

Lack of support = a loss at the polls.

The political gliterati stamped their feet and turned their backs on TEA party candidates after their chosen candidates got shot down in the primaries. If anyone is to blame its them, for lack of support.

The Republican party was fo... (Below threshold)

The Republican party was formed in 1854.

Their first presidential candidate, in 1856, won 33% of the vote.


Their second candidate, Lincoln, won less than 40% of the vote in 1860.


So, the "Tea Party," formed about a year ago, lost a few elections. I'm not too worried about it.

Well for something that was... (Below threshold)

Well for something that was promoted as 'meaning nothing' by the Democrats and the MSM (but I repeat myself) - there are at least 60+ Democrats in Washington today who have a slighly different view of the Tea Party impact on American politics.

And it's not even 2012......yet........

Quirky or largely unknow... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Quirky or largely unknown candidates rarely win elections. The only real exception to this has been Barack Obama.

Right. We need more candidates with "gravitas" like Bill "cheat on your wife and use state troopers as pimps" Clinton, Barney "homo prostitution ring and pot grower" Frank, Cynthia "slap the man" McKinney and Alan "die quickly" Grayson.

To suggest that the powerful media propaganda mill is irrelevant is ludicrous. Who decides who has gravitas? Propaganda concerning those who are "approved" dictated by the statist media and other members of the ruling class gets lapped up by weak "conservatives" who regurgitate it in turn to the rest of us. Give me a thousand Christine O'Donnells.

winning an election does no... (Below threshold)

winning an election does not make coons a good candidate even if you are a democrat.

Coulter has pointed out a l... (Below threshold)
gary gulrud:

Coulter has pointed out a lot of these 'losers' were citizen candidates who stepped up when the 'combine' failed to offer a credible alternative.

Citizens, not politicians(faithless ticks), make beginner mistakes. Like not foreseeing hostile interviewers, sniping from the rear, yada, yada.

Now, what pray tell, do we do to avoid unelectable candidates? Give the GOP a blackball? Just let the pros select candidates?


Peggy got the vapors over I... (Below threshold)

Peggy got the vapors over ImamObama (for which she is forever discredited) and now has her hate on for Palin and the tea partys (who both demonstrated better judgment that Missy Peggy). At this point, Peggy has all the credibility of a crack whore. Her scribblings are an embarrassment to the RINOs and to the WSJ.

It's all very Orwellian how suddenly the tea parties get no credit for the tide the started and their candidates who won. Instead we are trashed for a few candidates who lost. I call BS.

The bashers ignore all the moderates who lost. I liked Carly but her final push included commercials on how she would fight her own party and reach across the aisle to the dems. Meg kept bragging about being pro-choice and how she couldn't win without Hispanics. As a result, Meg lost both the white and hispanic vote. They both went down in flames to horrible candidates who ran horrible campaigns which invalidates the tedious and nonsensical claim that good candidates win elections. Anyone who went to high school knows that bad candidates win all the time. (Gee, raise your hand if the quarterback who was dating the head cheerleader were elected homecoming king and queen). Any claim that Jughead ran a great campaign is like the beauty queen who banged all the judges claiming she won because of her great banjo playing).

I adore Rubio. Great candidate who articulates conservative principles with great skill and pride. That being said, people are revising history to build him up and to tear down O'Donnell and others. Rubio was blessed to have TIME and going against a candidate that LOST his mind during the campaign. Rubio had been running against Crist for about 1 year. If the election had been 4 weeks after Rubio had won the primary, not only would the race have been tight but he most likely would have lost. People conveniently forget that after the primary, Crist still had about 60-70% favorables, the support of the GOP and Jeb Bush, and was a rising star in the republican party. Rubio was relatively unknown and people were claiming that he had won the grassroots but he couldn't win the general (sound familiar). They leaked his GOP credit card records and he was accused of embezzling, couldn't handle money (wow, that sounds familiar, too). At that time, Crist had not humiliated himself dozens of times and Clinton had not tried to muscle the black democrat out of the race.

So Rubio and Rand had the luxury of time to beat back the smear jobs and fight back. O'Donnell and Miller did not. Time allowed conservatives and tea parties to get Rubio, Rand, etc. over the hump. Once the first wave of candidates looked solid, it allowed the tea parties the chance to reach out to other campaigns.

If Rubio had to face Crist four weeks after the primary, Crist could have Murkowski'd Rubio and we'd be hearing about how the tea party botched Florida.

I recall when Rubio first e... (Below threshold)

I recall when Rubio first entered his race he mentioned how he could not believe he would be running as an insurgent Conservative in the Republican Party. At the same time Rubio made that speech, Pat Toomey tells me about Rubio "nice guy BUT HE CAN'T WIN"

Rubio campaigned a year and a half prior to the primary-the same primary in which the RNC and their Ruling Class members were determined to select Charlie Crist.

Now that Rubio won, he is the Ruling Class's Rock Star despite the fact that they NEVER supported him when he had to run as an insurgent Conservative in the Republican against their candidate Charile Crist.

The Ruling Class snots are out of this world insane.

Had Rubio not spet a year and half building his voter base there is no doubt Rove and Krauthammer would have ended any chance Rubio had of winning as an insurgent Conservative in the Republican Party.

THe jury is still out on CH... (Below threshold)

THe jury is still out on CHris Christie; he promised in his campaign to cut 20,000 public sector jobs yet after a year in office he has only managed to cut 1300.

It is astonishing; that's like Christie saying he will lose weight yet only cuts 3 calories out of his 6000 calorie per day diet while the snots are impressed by how svelt he appears.

The worst president evah wo... (Below threshold)

The worst president evah would be Buchanan, who permitted his Secretary of War to ship arms to the south, permitted states to rebel, and was side stepped by military men (of shockingly low rank) who prevented rebel sympathizing DC militia units from preventing inauguration of the next president.

Woodrow Wilson is perhaps next worst, with WWI and the Federal Reserve (an economic ruin that keeps on giving) as well as resegregating the federal government.

FDR is third worst, putting in bad policies which extended and deepened the depression, supported the rise of Nazi Germany, and permitted German/Japanese rearmament while he continued to ruin the US economy.

Jimmah Catah doesn't even rank.

The biggest threat to addit... (Below threshold)

The biggest threat to additional Republican gains and the potential to kick Obama out of the White House in 2012 is this deliberate and disingenuous attempt by establishment Republicans like Peggy Noonan to rewrite history in such a way to discredit the very thing that propelled Republicans to historic gains a few weeks ago. Peggy Noonan, Karl Rove and their ilk will doom the conservative movement in the party to maintain their power and they will do so whether that means Obama and his progressive ilk continue on their path to destroy America. That's because there's not much difference between them and Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. This is, in fact, exactly what the Tea Party movement is fighting against. I predicted a Republican Civil War if they took the House, and that war is just starting. If Noonan and Rove win, we all lose.

Re Gov. Palin and Newt's ha... (Below threshold)
JR Dogman:

Re Gov. Palin and Newt's having been "cast under such a long and dark negative shadow by the political process and through biased news reporting that their cause is probably permanently lost, regardless of how focused and passionate they are."

In the case of Newt, I think you may be right. In fact, you're probably right.

In the case of Gov. Palin, I think you're 100% wrong.

The fact is, we don't know what's going to happen -- whether she'll decide to run, and, if she does, how she'll fare in the primaries, which we all know will be hard-fought.

That said, it is my prediction that if she runs and wins the GOP nomination, she's not just going to beat Obama -- she's going to smash him.

As in kick his ass, Reagan-style.

I can explain why in a longer post if anyone is interested. For now, I will leave it at this:

Don't let the MSM/Democrat Party tell you who on our side is or isn't electable.

Ditto re the "moderate" GOP establishment and the fools representing them in the MSM.

We are defining the RINOs a... (Below threshold)
Barry Rose:

We are defining the RINOs and getting rid of them with "weak" candidates who do not get elected for two reasons: (1) They are not the best candidate because the best conservative candidates won't take the risk in the first place; and (2) The next time we will run a "best" candidate and drum those idiots.

Additional point: The {GOP... (Below threshold)
Barry Rose:

Additional point: The {GOP) establishment refuses to support the candidate that the Republican electorate has selected and the defeated Republican candidate acts like a spoiled brat and wants to take his toys home. See the Florida governor's race.

These arguments are way pas... (Below threshold)

These arguments are way past old. A little deeper analysis will show that what this ultimately advocates for is the continuation of the polished, professional political class, which is exactly what many of us are opposed to. From the outside looking in for the other states it appears the real problem was that the Republican establishment did not approve of the peoples choices in the primaries and either threw their own candidates under the bus or just allowed them to be destroyed by the opposition and the media. That is exactly what happened here in Colorado. The charges against Maes were nonsense but the Republican establishment ran away from him as soon as they had the excuse. In fact it seems likely that at least one of the charges came from a circumstance arranged by a Tancredo operative. The Maes campaign was a peoples campaign with just the kind of inexperience in running a political campaign your would expect from amateurs. Tancredo and the Republican establishment in Colorado used that inexperience to make sure the peoples choice was destroyed.






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