Political Animal


November 02, 2012 4:01 PM Oh, the Humanity!

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t want to make this California Day at PA, but do want to share a local experience to reinforce my earlier discussion in the post on the Mourdock disaster of the importance of Human Error in politics, even in this era of highly professional campaigns.

Today I received my first communication from a candidate for local office (I won’t embarrass him/her by disclosing the candidate or the office in question) via a mailer. I thought, “That’s interesting; I voted nearly two weeks ago.” A quick check of county registration figures supplemented by local demographics led me to a reasonably confident estimate that around two-thirds—maybe more—of voters in the jurisdiction in question vote by mail. Since California requires that mail ballots be received at the county seat by Election Day, it’s safe to assume a sizable majority have already been received or are currently in transit.

Upon further inspection, I noticed the tardy mailer had been sent by first-class mail, which presumably means the campaign didn’t get it together to obtain a permit for cheaper bulk mail. So in sum, this candidate overspent to send out his/her first direct voter communication at a time when probably half the ballots had already been cast. And the kicker is that the mailer contained information that might have led me to reconsider my vote for a rival candidate (whose mailer I received more than three weeks ago, or shortly after voting by mail began).

As a born procrastinator, I empathize entirely with this candidate. But then I’m not running for office.

I’m sure many readers have experienced amusing or illuminating foibles or masterstrokes in local campaigns in this or other campaign seasons. Please entertain us with them in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Tigershark on November 02, 2012 4:26 PM:

    Ed: Have you even seen a TV ad for DiFi? Strangest Senate campaign, especially after the Boxer/Fiorina battle.

  • creature on November 02, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Here in CO, I've been getting three to five mailers- each day! Nice slick ones, too. Obama and Rmoney have put a lot of effort AKA dollars to bear on the Colorado electorate, you'd think it was a hotly-contested state!

    The mail is humorous, from both sides, althugh the Democratic stuff is less hype, more type. The Republikkkanz, well, more hype, less lucidity and logic. And I already mailed it in, as soon as I could (like three weeks ago).

  • sjcarl on November 02, 2012 4:42 PM:

    I've been getting mail every day from a candidate for whom I agreed to place a sign in my yard. I voted for her, but she sure could stand to spend her campaign money more efficiently.

  • Ray Waldren on November 02, 2012 5:02 PM:

    In Florida, my 92 year old Mother (a registered Republican since the early 1940's) received a "cold calling" mailer to fill out a request for an absentee vote -- problem was the item was received on Monday, the request needed to be received by the county elections board by Wednesday afternoon, and the filled out ballot -- two pages in length thanks to 12 ballot initiatives had to be back to the elections board by 5 PM on elections day -- the sender -- the Republican Party of Florida.

    Additionally Mother received her ballot several weeks ago & filled out her ballot and returned it to the elections board by mail.

  • T-Rex on November 02, 2012 8:44 PM:

    Many years ago, never mind how many, there was a hotly contested congressional race in the state where I lived, an ambitious young contender versus a not very bright slacker from a very famous family. I got a call one day from the office of the contender asking for my support. I replied, surprised, that it wasn't up to me, since I didn't live in the contested Congressional district. I lived in the 9th, not the 8th. The volunteer firmly corrected me, "No, you live in the 8th. Your current Congressman is Diddlefratz." I didn't want to argue, so I said, "Sure, okay, send me the literature about Mr. Glotz." Well, that was the one and only time I expressed any interest at all in the race, but I started getting two, three, four phone calls from the Glotz campaign every day, and several pounds of bulk mail in my mailbox. (These were, at least, the days before e-mail and the Internet. Yeah, I know, that dates me).

    I got so annoyed with the harassment that I almost decided to sit out the election, something I rarely do, but then a third party candidate entered the race late. Good, I thought, a chance to vote against Mr. Annoying Glotz AND The Honorable Bertie Wooster. But I had to be out of town on election day, so I went to the Statehouse and requested an absentee ballot. After raising my right hand and swearing that I would indeed really and truly be out of town the day of the election, I was handed an absentee ballot for -- guess what? Remember? Yes! The NINTH Congressional District! I was never eligible to vote for Glotz, Bertie Wooster, OR Lola Granola of the Green Party! All those phone calls, all that postage wasted to infuriate and alienate a voter who wasn't even eligible to express exasperation with the incompetent jerk!

  • exlibra on November 02, 2012 9:02 PM:

    I'm in a battleground state -- Virginia. Some 8 weeks ago, when they could still do any good, I received a series of mailings (a different one a day, for about a week) from the League of Conservation Voters. Anti Allen (in the pocket of Big Oil) and pro Kaine. They were kinda clever (lots of visuals), and funny, and would have caught my attention even if I had not already been totally sold on both Obama and Kaine. They aimed to inform, rather than fundraise.

    About 5 weeks after that, also in a sequence,I received a batch (3?) of mailings from NRA. Pro Allen, naturally, and against both Kaine and Obama. Same size and same glossy stiff paper, but very dark background, with red and white text (dire warnings about my rights being taken away during Obama's second term with Kaine's help. Please send money) and a few pics of generic handguns. Not just late to the table, but substandard fare, too.

    And, since I've been plagued by political phone calls past bearing, I now answer only after the 4th ring and, sometimes, not even then. Most hang up after 3, not wanting to waste their money on answering machines (I suppose that's the reason). But every once in a while, the devils are persistent enough for the answering machine to pick up. They then leave a prerecorded message. And it's always Repubs who do that. Today, I had two such: one from McCain and one from something with Family in its name. It's the second one which was really funny, because it tried to poll the answering machine -- did I agree or not agree that it was necessary to protect the unborn life and the sanctity of one man/one woman marriage. I don't know how long the message was, cause I lost patience, and zapped it. But, talk about a waste of money. And I bet that both calls counted as "contact with voters", too.

  • Brandon on November 02, 2012 10:18 PM:

    The other day, our household received a glossy mailer from a local candidate here in Mid-Michigan. Nothing unusual about that, except that it was addressed, by name, to our three year-old son. Time for someone to double-check the mailing lists.

  • ceilidth on November 03, 2012 9:56 AM:

    My husband and I have been registered Dems for at least thirty years, but for some reason (age,skin color, residence in a rural area?) this season the Repubs decided they might have a chance with us. Of course we have already voted so I'm torn by shipping all the garbage back to sender, dumping it at the local Repub office, or just letting them waste their money on us. Too bad it's too stiff and glossy to substitute for the white stuff in the bathroom.

    But my favorite irritating thing has to do with district boundaries. Until this election our congressional district's boundary ran through our farm. Our house (which defines where we vote) was in Rep. Right Wing's district. Every time I tried to send an email to Rep. Right Wing, the email kicked back and told me I didn't live in his district. Talk about feeling disenfranchised.

  • MN Dem on November 03, 2012 2:04 PM:

    Sadly, we've been getting some big, gorgeous, and obviously expensive mailings urging our support for...Bob Kerrey's Senate campaign in NE.

    Too bad we live in MN and can't vote for him.

    These aren't fundraising pieces, but persuasion pieces for Kerrey. Hard to understand why a competent mailing group would be sending these out of state!