How To Lose an Election in 10 Easy Steps (& why Beauprez lost the CO Gov’s race in a GOP swing year)
“In Douglas County, a GOP bedrock, [Bob] Beauprez won fewer votes than any other statewide Republican candidate, despite it being home to his running mate, Commissioner Jill Repella,” wrote a reporter for the Denver Post.
How could that happen? Simple. His campaign followed these ten easy step to lose an election:
- Play hide-and-seek with the party base after winning the primary. Beauprez launched his general election campaign with a level of enthusiasm that can only be described at best as tepid. Immediately following the primary, Beauprez embarked on a “unity tour” in which he visited GOP county headquarters around the state to galvanize the 70% of the base who didn’t back him in the primary. (In a four way primary, Beauprez won with only 30% of the vote.) After the unity tour… His appearances were few and far between from mid June to mid August with media coverage that was close to nil. One supporter posted on Facebook a question about Beauprez being in the Witness Protection Program. A number of comments were made in reference to Beauprez supporters working harder than the candidate himself.
- Let others control your brand by allowing them to define you and take a looooong time to respond. During Beauprez’ “disappearing act” after the primary, he left himself open on social media as a target. Posts cropped up about Beauprez’ lack of a fight, describing him as the candidate with no fire in his belly. Conservatives active in online groups referred to Beauprez as BWB, a moniker given to him in the 2006 gubernatorial primary that stands for “Both Ways Bob.” His 2006 primary opponent coined the term in an unrelenting burst of attack ads. Beauprez won the primary, but experienced a trouncing in the general election that year, losing the governor’s race by nearly 17 percentage points. Many Republicans questioned how “BWB” could win this time around given the results of his last attempt.
- Downplay major state and national issues, taking a reactive stance rather than coming out swinging. Voters criticized Beauprez for weak messaging on gun rights. He underplayed any plan to repeal what is one of the most restrictive anti-gun legislations in the country. Beauprez said little about the immigration flood and its impact on the state. He offered few specifics on how he would govern in opposition to fed led education policies. Though Beauprez came out against Common Core, he appeared reactive in his forcefulness on the issue. It was only after activists reached out to him that he conceded to a statewide conference call that felt more like a campaign rally than a meaningful town hall. He arrived late to the ball game in wooing the parents and taxpayers concerned about Common Core—which went far beyond the Republican base.
- Take a strong stand on buzz words like “leadership” and “strength”, but pay minimal lip service to key issues. Beauprez never came out as a hard-hitting candidate on hot button issues. At political events, Beauprez missed prime opportunities to court Republicans and Unaffiliateds who were looking for something more than talking points. He came across as a walking campaign ad.
- Make up your own issues that few people care about. For Beauprez, teachers’ rights was a big enough issue to earn a spot on his campaign platform, but the real issue was parental rights. As media headlines focused on the loss of parental rights in the classroom from the implementation of Common Core, Beauprez talked about the need for a teachers’ bill of rights. When called out on this, he spun it as part of his solution to ending Common Core. This didn’t sit well with the growing number of parents being bullied by school administrators for opting their children out of high stakes testing.
- Forget about opposition research, social media, and campaign strategy. Beauprez made numerous decisions that made party insiders wonder, “What happened to the campaign strategy?” Instead of going after Hickenlooper on issues that would fire up voters, Beauprez focused on low drive issues. For example, rather than attacking Hickenlooper on the unpopular gun legislation, he went after him for being soft on crime. But that wasn’t the worst of it. He highlighted the high profile case involving the murder of Tom Clements by parolee Evan Ebel. When Clements opened the front door of his home with wife Lisa inside, Ebel shot and killed him. Clements’ widow accused Beauprez of using the tragedy for political gain. She wrote to Beauprez that his continual references “re-open wounds that our family continues to suffer from.” Where was the strategy and the opposition research? Did no one consider that Hickenlooper—having appointed Clements to Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections—might have ties to his family? A quick search on the Secretary of State’s Web site would have revealed Lisa Clements contributed to Hickenlooper’s campaign during the primary season. The ad fiasco engendered sympathy for Hickenlooper and made Beauprez look like a heartless candidate who used the tragedies of other people for his own gain.
- Make an effort to avoid those pesky grassroots and liberty activists—let your staff handle them. Some liberty group members shared that Beauprez did not make enough of an effort to reach out to them. Beauprez also heavily relied on surrogates to represent him at functions where he should have made personal appearances, including a highly attended event at the state capitol. Instead of creating raving fans, Beauprez set the stage for a throng of apathetic voters to emerge—who either begrudgingly voted for him or did not vote for him at all.
- Assume that all your party people will come out to vote for you and keep believing that the under vote is a myth. A Republican affiliation does not automatically translate into an “R” vote—at least in Colorado. Reports from around the state bared Beauprez’ failure to reach out to Republican precinct and division leaders, and at least one popular sitting state representative. Ballot returns indicate an undervote, which occurs when voters return ballots leaving certain races blank.
- Pretend scandals aren’t making headlines or being covered on talk radio. Beauprez was criticized for his lack of response to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) scandal–in which RGA chair and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was implicated in funneling money to a PR firm that launched attack ads toward primary opponent Tom Tancredo. Beauprez never came out with a strong statement of opposition to the RGA’s alleged involvement in the gubernatorial primary. Instead of distancing himself from the scandal, he embraced photo ops with Christie, causing talk of the RGA scandal to continue long after it broke. This gave birth to the impression of Beauprez being coronated by the Republican establishment.
- Invite lots of unpopular establishment GOP figures to fundraisers and “Get Out the Vote” rallies—and be sure to invite all the local media. In Beauprez’ case, that meant welcoming Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Part of Christie’s role as RGA chair may be to stump for gubernatorial candidates, but that could have hurt more than helped in the Colorado governor’s race. Both Bush and Christie have been outspoken supporters of Common Core, which the majority of Coloradans of all political stripes vehemently oppose. Every time local media outlets posted a picture of Beauprez with Christie, it served as a reminder to the base that Beauprez was Christie’s “Chosen One.”