Wednesday, November 7, 2012
“Congratulations, Senator Cardin.” No kidding. I think you’re a classic example of what’s wrong with Congress, but, to be polite, what the heck, “Congratulations.” It’s only business, albeit the business of politics. I have nothing against you personally.
Last night, Maryland’s incumbent Senator Ben Cardin soundly defeated his two opponents, Republican Dan Bongino and Independent Rob Sobhani. Senator Cardin got 55% of the vote, Dan Bongino, 27% and Rob Sobhani, 17%.
Dan Bongino may feel good about coming in second, but he shouldn’t. As Jerry Seinfeld once observed, coming in second makes you “the number one loser.” (See the video below. After this election, we need all the comedy relief we can get.) He should feel bad about having run a poor campaign, long on Tea Party rhetoric and way too short on substance. Mr. Bongino needs more experience, perhaps running for a local office, and an ideology transplant.
It’s my guess that Rob Sobhani is running for something else, Governor perhaps, and that winning, while nice, was never the objective. I’m not sure what he should feel bad about, except having paid millions of dollars to learn that it’s really, really hard to win as in Independent in a state where people tend to vote for their parties’ candidates – not with a campaign that’s mostly based on advertising without taking the time to make extensive, personal contact with the electorate. It would also help to have a more down-to-earth platform that ordinary people can understand and appreciate.
As you can see, Senator Cardin would have won, because he got a majority of the votes, even if Rob Sobhani had never entered the race – which he didn’t do until September. The point of that observation is that Dan Bongino can’t blame Rob Sobhani for “splitting the vote.” In fact, had Rob Sobhani not entered the race, the chances are that Ben Cardin’s margin of victory would have been even higher. Mr. Sobhani pulled votes all right, but he almost certainly took them from the ranks of Independents and Democrats, as well as Republicans.
Why do I say that Senator Cardin ran “unopposed”? Because neither of Senator Cardin’s opponents went after him, not for his unproductive legislative history, and not for his addiction to taking special interest money. Why didn’t they? I don’t know. My guess is, Occam’s Razor, that both opponents, with trivial exceptions, made the rookie mistake of thinking that it’s enough to tell voters why they should vote for you, without, more importantly, giving the voters clear and compelling reasons not to vote for the other guy.
Incumbents, by definition, have the advantage of being in office. Their campaigns are well funded, with heavy support from special interests that are buying access to the office holder. And they’ve spent the last two or six years campaigning. You want to beat an incumbent? You need to have the money and the balls to go after him or her, not with raucous, inaccurate negative advertising that turns people off, but with honest, documented, professionally presented information that, over time, convinces the voting public that it’s time to seriously consider its alternatives.