What I liked about Bill White's campaign

I disagree with alot of strategical and tactical decisions that Bill White made about his campaign. He's quite likely headed for a double digit loss, so now seems like the time when I would trash him since I write about strategy and tactics. In fact, the Texas media already have begun to do so. Recent Dem candidates haven't faired very well in the estimation of their Dem colleagues either: Chris Bell, John Kerry, Tony Sanchez, and Al Gore. All generally criticized roundly after their election losses.

Actually, I'd like to praise White. Bill White ran the campaign that Bill White wanted to run. He was genuine. If you put him in a different state, he might have won (Colorado?).

Now, let me make a list of the biggest failures*, so there's some context:

1) Failure to recognize that 2010 is not like 2008 or 2006, and thus never developed a strategy that might get to 50%.
2) Never broke with Democrats on any major issue, a necessity in Texas, especially 2010.
3) His micromanagement led to him writing TV ads that were, to be kind, pretty weak.

So why is Bill White still only going to lose by 10-11%, or almost defintitely somewhere in the 9-15 range? 'He kept his base and he was genuine.

Admittedly, Perry isn't the strongest Republican candidate, though he is an excellent campaigner. Even Perry seems to recognize this, as he implied to Politico a few weeks ago that his numbers were lower than a normal Texas Republican because he'd been around for awhile and pissed people off.

However, White's campaign was genuine. Bill White ran as Bill White. He was a little boring, but he was earnest. He talked about what he didn't like about Rick Perry and his tenure as governor, and there's alot that Bill White doesn't like. Through some quirks of Houston's 2003 mayoral race, he had won doing that, even though critics said he couldn't. So he was going to just be himself out on the campaign trail.

white didn't take positions that he might have contradicted: he's a pretty mainstream Democrat, albeit on the pro-business side, but he didn't try to pretend that he was a maverick Democrat. So he didn't have to worry about trying to be something that he wasn't. He didn't have to try to weave an ideological flip-flop and parse words. When asked if he'd promise not to raise taxes, he basically told the truth without hiding it behind much verbiage: he couldn't. That's a losing position in Texas, especially in 2010, but it will help a Democrat keep his base. It has a specific ceiling, but it also has a specific floor.

To tell you the truth, I think White did a reasonable job of keeping the Democratic base plus the people who really dislike Perry. Chris Bell couldn't do that, albeit under different circumstances. Tony Sanchez couldn't do that. This could have been a 20% victory (who knows, maybe I'll be wrong and it will be) for a Texas Republican in 2010.

* These will be a separate post at some point, I'm sure, though I've already covered them a bit over the course of the campaign.

Posted by Evan @ 11/02/10 05:09 AM


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