Post-mortems are a sad duty in any world, in no small way because it means “after death.” The death in this case are the hopes of thousands of volunteers, donors and staff to send Linda Stender to Congress to represent New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District.
This has been a four year effort for many of us, starting before Linda even decided to run in 2006. It is hard for some of us because we know Linda personally and like her very much, and worked so hard and invested so much in getting her to the finish line.
In 2006 we came within 1.5 percent of the vote against a three term Republican named Mike Ferguson. It was a stunningly unexpected effort that shocked the national party which gave secondary support to the campaign while dumping millions in others where the margin was seven points or more.
In 2008 Linda lost by a little less than nine percent, a stunning defeat in a race where we saw polls putting Stender even or just behind State Senator Leonard Lance in the days before the election. It was made all the more stunning in that 2008 was a better year for Democrats than 2006, yet the Stender campaign fell far behinds its previous result.
How could that happen? Lance didn’t run a great campaign. Stender had lots more money. The DCCC dropped over a million dollars into the district, while the NRCC walked away and focused on NJ3. Registration for Democrats jumped dramatically. And then there was that guy running for President who brought Democratic turnout to amazing levels. The environment couldn’t have been better.
But she lost anyway.
Because, as near as we can tell, they forgot all the lessons of 2006 that got them close. Instead of building on the energy and volunteers from the previous election they brought in an entirely new team from outside the district, ignored the organizations like Democracy for America that supported Stender in 2006, and blew off local expertise in favor of a cookie-cutter campaign.