Moving on from losing an election is hard. But you’re not alone.
When my dad was inducted into Medical School, the Dean addressed his class, ‘Each and every one of you has been in the top 10% of every class, working group and school you’ve ever been a part of. As of this moment, 90% of you no longer are.’
It’s a simple mathematic truth but it was shocking to them! These were high-performing individuals who had rarely known failure and whom each believed they had what it took to be a good doctor.
How does this translate to campaigns?
Well, in a similar way, most candidates (at least the serious ones…) are familiar with success. They’ve built a strong reputation and have enough ego to believe they are the person best capable of executing on the public’s trust in office. However, 50% or more of candidates will lose any contested election. In the 2016 Presidential race, more than 30 candidates ran but only one could win the race. Many primary elections have 3 or more competitors and the winner potentially faces a runoff election and 1 or more general election opponents.
Few candidates run for office with the intention of losing (…yes, believe me, some actually do intend on losing…) and losing is never a fun experience. However, how you behave after you lose can have huge implications on whether or not you can run again or remain an effective advocate for conservative policies.
I’ve coached several candidates who lost on their first race but came back from that loss and won on the second time around. The fact is that winning, on your first race especially, is tough. You start out with zero dollars, zero volunteers and very low name identification. You have to build the whole thing, including your knowledge, from scratch.
How to Cope with Losing an Election
Wendy Day is a good friend of mine, a former guest on the How to Run For Office Podcast and someone who knows the pain of losing a race. She recorded a short video a few weeks ago that has some great advice for candidates who lose their election.
I recommend that ANY candidate watch this video, because it gives you great perspective that can help whether you win or not.
Key Problems Wendy Discusses in Her Video:
- Silence: The day after losing an election, the silence is deafening. You don’t have doors to knock, meetings to attend, donor calls to answer, to-do list items to crush or staff to manage. Going from 100mph to zero in a few hours can really shake your bearing.
- Debt: Most campaigns involve the candidate putting in significant funds, and some involve taking on real debt. A few candidates even put a second mortgage on their home in order to fund their race. Losing a race that you’ve financially invested so much in can lead to incredible stress, especially in your marriage.
- Emotional Baggage: Campaigns involve incredible highs and lows. You see the best and worst of people…and sometimes you lose close relationships. You have to go back to seeing people who have said nasty things about you at the monthly Republican Club meeting and sometimes even working with them to support common fights. It can be incredibly hard to let things go and move on…but you must. Dealing with that emotional baggage can cripple your longterm ability to impact the movement.