David Nolan: ‘U.S. Senate contests – explaining success’

David Nolan at Libertarian Party blog:

As Wes Benedict pointed out in a recent message, we had two U.S. Senate campaigns this year that were unusually successful, in terms of vote percentages. Rebecca Sink-Burris received 5.3% of the vote in Indiana, while yours truly got 4.7% in Arizona.

This is the first time in ten years that any Libertarian Senate candidate in a three-way race got more than 4.0%, and while 2010 was generally a good year for Libertarian candidates, these two results were still noteworthy. The median percentage for all 20 of our candidates in U.S. Senate races was less than 1.5%, and the third-place finisher – Jonathan Dine in Missouri – got barely 3%. Clearly, there were exceptional factors at work in both Indiana and Arizona. What were they – and can we learn anything useful from these two contests?

Certainly, one significant factor is that both Indiana and Arizona are strong states for Libertarians in general. The Barr-Root ticket got its highest percentage of the vote in Indiana – partly because they were the only alternative to Obama and McCain – while Arizona ranked fifth among states where both the Libertarian ticket and Ralph Nader were on the ballot. This year, LP candidates for Congress averaged more than 4.5% in Indiana, and about 4.2% in Arizona – about double the national average.

That said, who we run for high-profile offices counts for a lot. Both Rebecca and I were strong candidates, with prior campaign experience and some name recognition going into our respective races. The same cannot be said for every Senate candidate we fielded this year. Many were fine representatives for our party, but some were clearly out of their depth, and at least one was simply embarrassing. He did not use the word “Libertarian” on his campaign material, and had a shaky grasp of libertarian principles. Not surprisingly, he finished near the bottom among our Senate hopefuls.

But perhaps most important, both Rebecca and I were included in the televised debates in our respective states. In far too many states, Libertarian candidates were arbitrarily excluded from debates, even though they were clearly qualified and credible. And unless you are in the debates, most voters won’t hear about you or take your campaign seriously. If there’s one lesson to be learned from our U.S. Senate races this year, it is that getting into debates and candidate forums is indispensable. The old-party candidates will do their best to ignore and exclude us, but we must do everything we can to be included!

17 thoughts on “David Nolan: ‘U.S. Senate contests – explaining success’

  1. RedPhillips

    “at least one was simply embarrassing. He did not use the word “Libertarian” on his campaign material, and had a shaky grasp of libertarian principles.”

    Someone name names.

  2. Thomas L. Knapp

    In Snitker’s defense, his race was unusual in several ways.

    First, he was running against what amounted to three, rather than two, “major party” opponents — Crist may have been an “independent” but he was also a sitting governor.

    Secondly, his race was actually a 10-way race (balloted candidates) or 17-way race (balloted candidates plus officially recognized write-ins).

    He came in fourth place, with twice as many votes as the fifth place finisher (the Constitution Party’s Bernie DeCastro).

    That said, I thought his strategy of calling himself a “constitutional conservative” and such was the wrong way to go. That was a niche that Rubio and DeCastro, and probably some of the other candidates, were also competing for, and they spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 times as much as he did competing for it.

    That was a mistake — he’d have had a better shot going for the voters those two weren’t hosing down with all that money — and I thought some of his issues positions sucked, but he did work hard as a candidate, so don’t let taking a lesson from his campaign turn into putting him down.

  3. Robert Capozzi

    dfn: He did not use the word “Libertarian” on his campaign material, and had a shaky grasp of libertarian principles. Not surprisingly, he finished near the bottom among our Senate hopefuls.

    me: If Nolan intended to take a swipe at Snitker, and he didn’t cite the Crist factor, I’d say Nolan’s got some ‘splaining to do.

    I did not review the performance of the Snitker campaign, but this seems to imply that Nolan is attributing Snitker’s weaker performance to non-L branding and his “shaky grasp” of L ideas. The word that comes up for me to describe this “mendacity”.

    Obviously Crist’s being in the race makes any interstate comparisons very weak. Ls generally do better in “uncontested” races, than we do in 2-ways, than we do in 3-ways. No surprise there.

    We could look at things like Rubio and McCain’s relative appeal to L voters as well. My guess is L-leaners in FL felt better about voting Rubio than AZ voters voting McCain, for ex. (We’d also want to look at how L-leaners felt about the Ds and Crist in FL.)

    My guess is Nolan did a good job in appealing to the L-leaners in AZ; L-leaning voters in AZ probably dislike McCain and were more easily persuaded to protest vote against McCain, who won easily. If that contest was a close one, I suspect Nolan may not have done as well as he did.

    And, of course, while it’s great that some of our candidates did better on a percentage basis than in previous years, the difference between 1 and 5% is not that impressive. Both results are still tiny.

    Good analysis means looking at the salient data. It appears this blog does not do so. D.

    And it’s just not cool to allude to a fellow L’s weaknesses and not even name him. If we’re going to have an adult conversation, let’s have one free of inuendo.

    Of course, if Nolan’s inuendo was aimed elsewhere, an adult conversation would entail knowing who that was.

  4. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    Well, Snitker did use non-L branding, and Snitker did either have a “shaky grasp” of L ideas or else decided that other ideas were better politics (hint: Putting every man, woman and child in the US on a monthly federal welfare check isn’t an “L idea”).

    I think that the number and name recognition of candidates in the race was a bigger factor than that, but I don’t see how it’s “mendacious” to think otherwise.

  5. AroundtheblockAFT

    So it comes down to gaining an effective soapbox or no. Even with the debate inclusion, the LP’v vote total sucks – but at least it imperfectly measures the effectiveness of the education. Does Nolan suggest how to crash the many debates the LP is excluded from? Is the solution cost effective in that votes may be increased from >1% to near 5%? Should resources – money, petitioning, shoe leather,etc. – be switched from unwinnable state races to local races where victories are at least possible and a viable local LP organization can be rooted? For Galt’s sake, we can’t be a little independent hamburger stand strutting around saying we will open 12,000 outlets nationwide next year; let’s open one or two in each state and start making a profit first.

  6. paulie Post author

    And it’s just not cool to allude to a fellow L’s weaknesses and not even name him. If we’re going to have an adult conversation, let’s have one free of inuendo.

    Of course, if Nolan’s inuendo was aimed elsewhere, an adult conversation would entail knowing who that was.

    It probably would have been inappropriate to use the official LP blog to call out another candidate in such a manner by name. On the other hand, I agree that doing so without naming that candidate also doesn’t work well.
    The fact that we are talking about this one sentence in the essay and not the rest of it, which makes good points, illustrates why.

    IMO it would have been better to publish this piece at LP blog without that line, and if Mr. Nolan felt compelled to discuss the weak points of another campaign, it would have been better to do a separate article about it and send it to, say, us, or Liberty for All.

    Again, the rest of the essay makes good points..

  7. paulie Post author

    Does Nolan suggest how to crash the many debates the LP is excluded from?

    Not in a short piece like this, but that would be a much better issue to discuss here.

  8. Michael H. Wilson

    Time for a little Monday morning quarterbackin’ eh.

    Given the concern the public has for economic issue this year, and many others for that matter, I would lead with cutting the overseas military budget. In a short piece explain what the cost is and how that harms American workers.

    And no Bob I am not suggesting bringing home the marines stationed at the embassies.

  9. Darryl W. Perry

    Here’s my 2 cents…
    A good candidate with a solid libertarian message that is allowed in the debates will do better than a good candidate that is not allowed to debate.
    AND
    A good candidate with a solid libertarian message that is allowed in the debates will do better than a bad candidate that is allowed to debate.

  10. Paul Pasholk

    For what it’s worth (probably not much), there were 4 candidates on the ballot out here in Arizona. Jerry Joselyn was on for the Greens (Nolan got my vote).

  11. david

    Snitker was a GOP plant, so the GOP plants here rush to defend him even when he’s not named…and use the occasion to attack Nolan (Snitker called Nolan an enemy of freedom on IPR BTW, so why be surprised) for what he didn’t do. Imagine if he had called Snitker (and Hawkridge, and Kirkland, and the rest) out .

    Maybe Nolan will wake up about how parties like the LP Florida are being taken over by the right-wing kooks, with Christian propaganda on their website all through the election. They’ll gun for him next.

    Sheesh. Glad I’m moving out. No point in waiting to be purged.

  12. david

    According to my Green friends, this is the same stuff that poaralyzed the Greens a few years ago. Maybe the same faces. Comments?

  13. Robert Capozzi

    david: Snitker was a GOP plant, so the GOP plants here rush to defend him even when he’s not named…and use the occasion to attack Nolan (Snitker called Nolan an enemy of freedom on IPR BTW, so why be surprised) for what he didn’t do. Imagine if he had called Snitker (and Hawkridge, and Kirkland, and the rest) out .

    me: Who are the “plants” you allude to? Calling people out might be something to do as a last resort, but the point is any fair-minded reader would see that Nolan’s analysis was weak and ill thought out.

    Alluding to “plants” and taking unsubstantiated swipes at unnamed targets is NOT, IMO, an adult conversation.

  14. paulie Post author

    Snitker called Nolan an enemy of freedom on IPR BTW

    When and where exactly? We’ve had well over 100,000 comments on over 7,000 stories, so a more specific reference would be appreciated.

    e GOP plants here rush to defend him

    Who here is a “GOP plant” in your opinion?

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