So, a few thoughts from the chicken house on Sam's success and the reasons Drew's campaign never gained traction. But remember Coarse Cracked Corn is 8% protein, 2.5% fat, and 2.75% fiber. Who knows what comes out the other end? You may see this post mostly as litter to spread on the fields before the spring rains.
When the battle began about two months ago, Sam had a big lead, that in hindsight was probably insurmountable. I don't know when Sam began visiting committees and visiting events to which Democrats flock, but at some point we all became aware of his presence. Yes, there were questions about his youth and comments about shallowness on issues.
But, Sam was everywhere always greeting folks and (importantly) listening to what VA-6 Democrats had on their minds. As he and his campaign matured so did his understanding of a range of issues important to Democrats and residents of the district. While he spoke more frequently and in more depth some topics, like health policy, it was apparent that he was not a one issue candidate. By the fall of '07 many active Democrats were taking note and drawing favorable impressions.
Sam probably locked the hearts and minds of many Democrats by his willingness to show up and campaign for local and General Assembly candidates. With a smile and energy he went door-to-door, attended fundraisers, and helped where needed. Democrats didn't forget.
By the end of the year Sam was well positioned for the push for the nomination. He'd been to most local committees several times, had built up goodwill among even his skeptics, and had committed volunteers in most counties and cities. He'd grown as a candidate and developed his depth of knowledge on the core issues. He'd shown a willingness to attack Goodlatte on his failures - red meat for Democrats. He'd secured, or was close to securing, the support of various party leaders who appreciated his demonstrated commitment to local committees.
As we entered the new year the question echoed "where is that other guy who was going to run?" For months, rumors had been floating about his candidacy, but nothing was happening. He had great credentials and a compelling life story, but active Democrats didn't know much about him. I remember one person asking in a meeting "what about the FBI guy . . .?" and only a couple people there knew his name. Drew did write interesting columns for a newspaper and made bioterrorism presentations groups, but he really had not connected with the very groups who would be determining the nomination.
In January, Drew began visiting committees and more publicly floating the idea of his candidacy. His main theme then (and in the forum in Harrisonburg last week) seemed to be electability. Yes, he talked about security and other issues, but to many Democrats there was uncertainty about where he stood on core issues. Most importantly, time was running out to organize a good campaign before the local caucuses in mid April.
The uncertainly was reinforced when Drew did eventually announce. For a while, his website was only a greetings portal devoid of discussion of issues. Rumors were rife that he'd asked several people to join his campaign and he'd been rebuffed. Eventually word spread that he had Adam Sharp and Rick Howell on board. Both Adam and Rick have campaign experience and many thought the battle for the nomination had finally been joined.
However, many Democrats recoiled at the negative campaign that began emerging. Questioning Sam's age, contributions, religion, experiences, loyalty, etc. . . . ad nauseam. Posts on Rick's site and other blogs like Cobalt6 quickly became heated. Someone created a new blog, 81blue, to subtly attack Rasoul. Drew personally remained above the fray, but the message generated by Adam's and Rick's tactics was clear: with time short, the path to a Richardson victory was to be found in tearing Rasoul down rather than by lifting Richardson up. I'll repeat, many Democrats recoiled. Emotions got raw. Positions hardened.
Such a strategy may have worked in a primary where a larger numbers of people voting may not have known either candidate personally. But in local caucuses, where the participants would likely be party activists who knew both candidates, it was doomed.
By the first of April, it was clear that time was running short for the Richardson campaign to round up delegates for all the local caucuses throughout the district. Instead of negative attacks, the campaign staff could better have better spent time calling and meeting Democrats to make personal appeals. But, Rasoul's folks weren't sitting still - they were lining up committed delegates at every opportunity.
Drew is a smart guy and, given this landscape, he knew the odds were heavily against his eventual success. The caucuses would have been bloody battles filled with rules and credentials challenges. Rumor is that he was never comfortable with the negative tone coming out of his campaign - a piercing tone that crowded out his discussions on issues.
Drew's comments as he withdrew from the campaign were both gracious and realistic, creating the environment for greater party unity as we face the fall campaign. Hopefully, his supporters will follow his lead. Drew is a committed Democrat and we can all hope he will stay active in the 6th District and perhaps seek office at another time.
So, what has this old rooster learned by pecking around in the coarse cracked corn of this campaign?
Get an early start - especially important if you aren't known to Democrats throughout this large district. Perhaps someone with widespread name recognition could enter just a couple months before the caucuses and prevail, but there aren't too many candidates like that.Resist going negative - Democrats are not comfortable with negative campaigning, especially against one of their own. Pointing out differences on issues is okay; getting personal or rumormongering is not.Get comfortable with retail politics - all politics is personal and Sam has proven to be very good and comfortable at it. All magnified in a caucus nominating process.Pay your dues - a commitment to helping other Democrats' campaigns and fundraising events will not be forgotten.
OK, enough pecking in the coarse cracked corn of this one. Moving on . . .