The Glover Report: Incumbency has its rewards
The Rawlings-Blake Advantage
By Doni Morton Glover, www.bmorenews.com
(BALTIMORE – June 13, 2011) - Time: One, a candidate needs the proper time to prepare for an election. Remember the adage: proper planning prevents poor performance? As is the case with the 2012 Presidential Candidates, most have started campaigning some 18 months out. Hence, one of the advantages of incumbency is having the time to assess one’s chances of winning, effectively develop a winning game plan, a timeline, and measurable benchmarks. Further, taking the time to gather all of the necessary information is crucial – especially as it relates to opposition research, i.e. “the dirt”.
One classic example of “the dirt” came back in 1999 when it was learned that Lawrence Bell had been on a shopping spree in New York in search of the perfect suit. Another example of “the dirt” in the same year was the fact that Carl Stokes did not have a degree from Loyola, even though it was on his resume.
More dirt? An un-vetted candidate is dangerous to everybody involved. “Dirt” can end a campaign as fast as it can begin. With incumbency, the well-planned candidate can invest in a Public Relations strategy to avert onslaughts from the opposition.
Now, it doesn’t always work. Just because one is an incumbent doesn’t preclude them from losing. A classic example was the recent fall of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Patricia Jessamy. Despite having the advice of Larry Gibson, Gregg Bernstein came virtually out of nowhere – with the endorsement of Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld and others – and took her seat after some 15 years in office.
Another advantage of incumbency ought be having the know-how. And, if one doesn’t have the know how, having the time to obtain the expertise required is still critical. On-the-job learning is invaluable and irreplaceable: in essence, learning by doing!.
Incumbency is like having the home court advantage. It is certainly more optimal to already be the champ on your own turf than to be the challenger on foreign soil.
With incumbency, too, comes the opportunity to have some sort of track record. Hence, people have something by which to measure a candidate: a body of work that literally speaks for itself.
Incumbency also brings a certain intimidation to financial supporters, for if they are going to give money to a challenger – they had also better carve out a piece for the reigning champ. To do otherwise would be foolish. After all, the real political players cover the major bets at minimum. Their goal: to always have access, regardless of who wins. That way, the contributor 'wins' no matter what.
In short, Baltimore’s interim Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has all of the right stuff: incumbency; a team – including the support of the Maryland Democratic Party; money; and a bully platform to call a press conference at a moment’s notice. This is her advantage.
Last point: It all boils down to, for one, “the definition game.” He who defines himself and his opponent best wins. Again, with so many candidates in the race, the advantage belongs to the mayor. Put differently, any candidate wishing to win has to define why they are better than the other challengers –including the incumbent.
And lastly, it boils down to poll coverage. This is quite possibly the single-most important ingredient. After all of the door knocking, lit drops, and robo-calls – the GOTV (get out the vote) component is where the rubber meets the road. Commercials don’t vote. Polls don’t vote. Billboards don’t vote. Mailers don’t vote. Only people do. So, whoever is the master of this final step drastically increases their ability to win.
Again, at present – Mayor Rawlings-Blake leads in just about all of the aforementioned categories of political campaign management.