Understandably, public interest in a losing candidate plummets almost to zero the moment the election results come in. As a former holder of the short end on Election Day myself, I can say from first-hand knowledge that this sudden drop – the abrupt braking from 100 MPH to dead stillness – is one of the most jarring and disorienting aspects of the whole candidacy process.
It might be an exaggeration to say public interest drops all the way to zero right away. Your supporters are still there; some of them – the very young ones especially – are nearly as deflated as you. And a few members of the press are tasked with asking the same question that your friends and family want answered: what’s next? That too is jarring. Especially following a closely-contested election, you don’t know what’s next. You had other plans.
Some defeated candidates all but disappear. This is the course recommended by many professional political “strategists” – you lose, you ‘go away,’ at least for a while. Any continued public presence risks charges of sour grapes, pitiable denial, or both. I’ve never really bought into that school of thought. It seems to me that even in a losing effort, a major candidate has a whole lot of people invested in him (or her). Those people don’t want to see you just shrug and disappear. They still care what you think; often they still hope to elect you to office one day.
Others just swing right into the next campaign (see, e.g., John Edwards, who basically ran for president non-stop from the day he was elected to the US Senate in 1998 until the moment in 2008 when he found himself trapped in a hotel restroom stall, trying to get away from the National Enquirer).
Still others take the organizational, leadership and fundraising skills honed by political campaigning and put them to use in service to a cause(see, e.g., Kerry Healey, who – as barely anyone in Massachusetts knows – since 2006 has spent most of her time and energies working in conjunction with a State Department-sponsored program to bring a modern criminal justice system to Afghanistan, and to empower female Afghan attorneys to help lead that effort).
Charlie Baker has taken a combined approach, and it seems to be serving him well. He has moved on with his professional life, joining a health care-oriented VC firm. At the same time, he has remained engaged with his supporters via frequent Facebook posts and email notes. He does not criticize Governor Patrick in the press, but neither does he feign disinterest or disengagement. Last month, Baker put his time, his political/fundraising network, and even a number of his staff to work pulling together a fantastic tribute to retired Veterans’ Affairs Secretary (and Medal of Honor recipient) Tom Kelley, at an event that raised around $300K to help send the children of fallen Massachusetts service members to college.
Consequently, Charlie has managed to stay in the public eye – well above that zero-interest mark – without drawing those sour grapes/denial criticisms. For those of us who ardently hope he decides to give it another go in a couple of years, this is all to the good.
All of which is a lengthy preface to me telling you not to miss Charlie’s article in the online edition of Commonwealth Magazine. Titled “10 thoughts about campaigning,” it is a candid, upbeat and even enthusiastic set of observations about the rigors of a statewide campaign that doubles as a good primer/checklist for anyone toying with the notion of running for office… READ THE REST at CriticalMASS