Sunday, November 12, 2006

Why Judy Baar Topinka Lost

This is in response to the Alan Keyes vs. Judy Baar Topinka numbers post below. I started to write this as a comment, but it became quite long so I thought better of it. Also, I think that these numbers are very telling of "what went wrong with Judy" and can spark a constructive conversation.

The only thing that the Keyes vote can ever tell me (as a political organizer) is the number of hardcore Republican or conservative voters in any given area. In other words, the folks who would rather not vote than vote for a Democrat. There's really not many other reasons why people would have voted for Keyes. Sure, you'll have a few people who may have voted for him for other reasons (such as a friend's recommendation or a personal connection), but those numbers are insignificant. My first question to myself upon speaking with a Democratic candidate in an area outside of Chicago is "What's the Keyes vote?". Pretty useful. Thanks for that, A.K.

The big difference between Keyes and Topinka is that Keyes was as conservative and religious as they come, while Topinka was quite moderate, especially on the wedge issues. While Keyes was everything movement conservatives could hope for on the issues front (I'm sure they weren't happy about his wackiness), Topinka failed to shore up that base because she ran against the grain of conservative issues, mainly of the wedge variety (guns, God, gays). I would be willing to bet that you'll find a larger amount of Stufflebeam write-in and Whitney "right to carry" voters in the Keyes voter base areas.

Rule number one in campaigns is to shore up your base first. The question then comes up as to who Topinka's base really was and how they worked to support her. We know it wasn't the Keyes voters or the hard D voters, so those can be immediately eliminated from the equation. The trouble for Judy was that these bases tend to be more politically involved, experienced and motivated. They are the people that are far more likely to act as evangelists on behalf of their preferred candidates. They are the people that influence the "5 minutes a week of thinking about politics" voters. They will likely log many unpaid hours knocking on doors and making calls. Topinka did not appeal to either of them.

So now we are left with the elusive "middle voter" base, which is really not a base at all. This is a generic term for a large group of voters that do not fit neatly into a little box and are motivated by a wide variety of issues. They are actually a huge number of very specific subgroups. It is difficult to get a handle on these people and "shore them up" because they are incredibly diverse. A campaign would need to shore up each of the specific subgroups without ticking off the others in order to do that, which is difficult to do within the timeframe of a campaign. We all know that campaigns have three very limited resources (time, people, and money) and these resources can be depleted in no time trying to get a handle on "the middle".

Add to this the fact that "middle voters" tend to care much less about the political process, a campaign then has the feat of trying to get these people to listen and actually care about what the candidate has to offer. And should the campaign actually manage to do this, the likelihood is slim that these people would act as evangelists and advance the campaign. The whole process of working on the middle and not at least throwing bones to each of the hard bases is altogether inefficient as a strategy to win.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that ALL voters, especially the middle, tend to vote for people they like and identify with as a person. So, the fact that Judy is who she is didn't work well to create a broad base of support. What may have worked for Judy to shore up a good-sized chunk of the "middle vote" would have been if she was...not Judy! Her funky look with the lime green suits, flaming red hair, and heavy makeup was essentially out of the mainstream. And the average person would never dream of saying things about someone like "he has slick, beady eyes" in public. Changing her image never would have worked as she has been in the public eye for a long time. If she had, it would have been seen as disingenuous and would have worked against her.

Judy lost for a variety of reasons, but mainly because she tried to appeal to the middle (when she herself was not part of the middle) and because she wrote off the conservative base. If she had thrown a bone to the conservative base, perhaps relying on the ultra-conservative Birkett to do it, she may have won.

My two cents. Please discuss.

16 comments:

JBTOWEL,  4:58 PM  

1. Judy Bar Topinka alienated conservatives, a strong base and portion of her own party. They went with the third party candidates as a protest vote or didn't vote at all in this race.

2. JBT had NO outreach to the African American community.

3. JBT had limited outreach to the Hispanic community.

4. JBT had limited organization in the City of Chicago geographically regardless of ethnicity or ideology.

5. She really is not that articulate or intelligent but does have a certain charisma.

6. She did not raise enough money to defend herself from the negative attacks by Blago.

7. She had a poor campaign staff, insular, arrogant, lacking follow through and good ideas, limited literature and sign distribution, poor coordination with other campaigns, basically yes people and a clique that did not know how to win an election like this.

8. It was an overwhelmingly Democratic year primarily because:
a) Iraq
b) Gas prices and the economy (albeit that the economy is getting better)
c) Mark Foley scandal
d) No real Republican infrastructure (for Illinois)

Mostly Foley and Iraq, but Topinka was a drag on the ticket for House and Senate races Federal and Illinois and Topinka hurt Peraica

Bridget 5:26 PM  

Very good points, especially her lack of outreach to Hispanic and African-American communities and lack of Chicago organization. Her bizarre behavior at the Bud Biliken parade sort of epitomized this fact. And yes, she absolutely did not raise enogh money.

For obvious reasons, I was not privy to the inner workings of her campaign and I am not familiar with her campaign staff or strategy. Anyone else have anything to add about this? I am very interested to hear more.

Skeeter,  5:52 PM  

You claim that JBT needed to reach out to a conservative base.

I'm curious as to what you think that Gov. Thompson and Gov. Edgar did to reach any conservative base.

Those two had no appeal for the far right, but they both won multiple terms and both probably would have beaten Blago.

I'm not sure that reaching out to a conservative base would have made any difference. I suspect that in a down-ballot race where media contact is limited she made an acceptable appearance. When all the attention was on her, she just did not have any personal charm to motivate anybody. Blago claimed that she was corrupt, and she did SEEM corrupt.

If she wanted to win, maybe she should have stopped smoking. Nothing quite says "deals cut in a smoke-filled room" like a bad smoker's voice.

JakeCP 5:55 PM  

To comment on her outreach with the African-American community you really have to take in the fact that she is Republican. I know it did seem kind of odd for her not to get out of her car at the Bud Billiken Parade but who knows someone might've spit on her. However at least she has shown her face in teh farican-American community. For example when Fmr. Politician Lu Palmer died she showed up at the funeral which was held at Operation Push (Democratic Country). However she still should've done more and everything else I totally agree with.

Anonymous,  6:02 PM  

These numbers are apples and oranges

Put the numbers in perspective.

2004 was a presidential year with turnout of 5.1MM voters. 2006 is an off year, with 3MM votes cast.

Republican winner President Bush led the ticket and the faithful to the polls. Not so this year, in which no incumbent Democrat lost.

And this year there were strong third-party efforts. (I don't consider the write-ins strong efforts.)

And bear in mind, absentee and provisional votes are not included in the 2006 totals.

So Keyes eeked out less than 58K more than Topinka with 2MM+ more votes cast and all the above advantages.

Something to be proud of yourself, right? NOT.

Anonymous,  6:07 PM  

Thompson had at that time conservative George Ryan as his running mate and dealt with a lot of conservatives including help kill the Equal Rights Amendment and help local conservatives even nurturing their careers.

Edgar reached out after his primary victories to both Steve Baer and made promises on certain issues and even the cumudgreon Jack Roeser and came to his event in 1994. Kustra was pro-life (until he ran for the Senate)
Edgar was perceived as conservative.

Also neither Thompson nor Edgar went out of their way to agitate and fight with conservatives the way Topinka did. Topinka hated conservatives and made sure everyone knew it.

Anonymous,  6:26 PM  

Here's five cents, thanks for wasting our time.

4Piggybanks2 7:58 PM  

All this deep thinking going on and only slightly touching on the fact that if some people just don't like the way you look or sound - they don't want to hear you and watch you on the tube for years to come. Think nails on blackboard.

People also don't like change. Change is scary even if the guy you don't want to change from may be indicted.

And my least favorite reason but a reality - many people will still not vote for a woman.

Respectfully, there is merit in deep thinking and haggling over issues, however, I think it's also a matter of just keeping it simple sometimes.

It may not be fair or right - it's just life.

Levois 11:00 PM  

JakeCP is right. She will make appearances in the community. I heard she showed up at black owned Seaway National Bank a few years ago to help promote some program. Could she have done more? I'm sure she could. But I won't get into that here.

CCMcCall 11:20 PM  

The real problem was the lack of a professional campaign staff. They were inept and inexperienced and had no authority with Judy. Worse, they used their arrogance to discourage and exclude professionals who could have helped. A professional staff, managed by a professional campaign manager could have solved most of the problems detailed here and many that haven't been discussed.

Help was offered in the beginning by a number of people who could have made a big difference and they were driven off before they could get to Judy. For some reason the staff trusted Steve R, who used that position of trust to repeatedly stab Judy in the back just as he did when he pressured her to endorse Keyes.

Edgar had his problems at the beginning, but he had strong advisors who he listened to and he went on to become a very popular Governor who had no trouble with his second election. Maybe the difference was he listened to Thompson when JT made suggestions of who Edgar needed on his staff.

It does take money to hire competent professionals, but the pros will always find the money to pay themselves and to pay for the things they know they need to have a chance at winning.

Instead the staff she had became important for a while and will be unemployed failures in January.

CCMcCall 11:21 PM  

The real problem was the lack of a professional campaign staff. They were inept and inexperienced and had no authority with Judy. Worse, they used their arrogance to discourage and exclude professionals who could have helped. A professional staff, managed by a professional campaign manager could have solved most of the problems detailed here and many that haven't been discussed.

Help was offered in the beginning by a number of people who could have made a big difference and they were driven off before they could get to Judy. For some reason the staff trusted Steve R, who used that position of trust to repeatedly stab Judy in the back just as he did when he pressured her to endorse Keyes.

Edgar had his problems at the beginning, but he had strong advisors who he listened to and he went on to become a very popular Governor who had no trouble with his second election. Maybe the difference was he listened to Thompson when JT made suggestions of who Edgar needed on his staff.

It does take money to hire competent professionals, but the pros will always find the money to pay themselves and to pay for the things they know they need to have a chance at winning.

Instead the staff she had became important for a while and will be unemployed failures in January.

CCMcCall 11:23 PM  

The real problem was the lack of a professional campaign staff. They were inept and inexperienced and had no authority with Judy. Worse, they used their arrogance to discourage and exclude professionals who could have helped. A professional staff, managed by a professional campaign manager could have solved most of the problems detailed here and many that haven't been discussed.

Help was offered in the beginning by a number of people who could have made a big difference and they were driven off before they could get to Judy. For some reason the staff trusted Steve R, who used that position of trust to repeatedly stab Judy in the back just as he did when he pressured her to endorse Keyes.

Edgar had his problems at the beginning, but he had strong advisors who he listened to and he went on to become a very popular Governor who had no trouble with his second election. Maybe the difference was he listened to Thompson when JT made suggestions of who Edgar needed on his staff.

It does take money to hire competent professionals, but the pros will always find the money to pay themselves and to pay for the things they know they need to have a chance at winning.

Instead the staff she had became important for a while and will be unemployed failures in January. The state will suffer for their glory ride.

CCMcCall 11:23 PM  

The real problem was the lack of a professional campaign staff. They were inept and inexperienced and had no authority with Judy. Worse, they used their arrogance to discourage and exclude professionals who could have helped. A professional staff, managed by a professional campaign manager could have solved most of the problems detailed here and many that haven't been discussed.

Help was offered in the beginning by a number of people who could have made a big difference and they were driven off before they could get to Judy. For some reason the staff trusted Steve R, who used that position of trust to repeatedly stab Judy in the back just as he did when he pressured her to endorse Keyes.

Edgar had his problems at the beginning, but he had strong advisors who he listened to and he went on to become a very popular Governor who had no trouble with his second election. Maybe the difference was he listened to Thompson when JT made suggestions of who Edgar needed on his staff.

It does take money to hire competent professionals, but the pros will always find the money to pay themselves and to pay for the things they know they need to have a chance at winning.

Instead the staff she had became important for a while and will be unemployed failures in January.

monelson 6:27 AM  

First, I am just an ordinary citizen.. no great political insight. I tend to be conservative and vote republican alot. Let me tell you waht I saw.. First, I wanted Rob out, I just don't like his ideas (skip payments, spend without budget, etc.

But Judy just did not appeal to me. She has always sounded like the b!^@# word. And I never felt like she was being honest with us. And I blame her and Govenor Thompson for losing the Senate seat last time around. if she can't create a team within the Republican party, how is she going to do that in Springfield.

Bottom line, she actually made me think electing her would be worse, without any facts to back it up. And I really wanted Rod out. Worse yet, I actually rationalized not voting for a govenor based on this...

Anonymous,  12:31 PM  

JBT would of been good for IL. She has a warm heart and despite all the negative comments running around on your site, she was and is a fair and honest person. The people of IL and the Good ol boys network in Chicago were simply not ready for a foward thinking woman who would of come in and turned the state on its ear and fixed so many of the mistakes that the current twit of a gov has made. I am sorry that she did not win, I no longer live in IL, but happen to know JBT personally and I can tell you that regardless of what you think about her or the stands that you believe she has on issues she would of made a great gov for your lagging state.

Anonymous,  9:20 AM  

George Bush is the worst President we ever had. If Judy Baar Topinka had distanced herself from him, I would have voted for her.

However, I believed, and still believe that no quarter can be shown toward a Republican Party that ignores Americans and the ideals we used to hold dear.

Too bad because I knew damn well she's better than our current Govenor.

But this is war.

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