04 May, 2011

Why This Year's Math Favors Tennant But Her Strategy Doesn't

"Much of what political consultants do amounts to exploiting the mathematical quirks of the plurality vote." - William Poundstone, Gaming The Vote: Why Elections Aren't Fair


Yesterday I wrote that in a year when all her opponents are male and running like Republicans, Natalie Tennant's clearest path to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination is to run like a girl. The anti-choice boys are splitting the male, conservative vote 4 ways which means that if Tennant can motivate women and liberals to come out and vote, Tennant wins. So why is she running like one of the conservative boys?

My friends and I have been swapping theories about why Tennant is running such a bad campaign. Several people have cited her inability to raise money. Others have speculated that this special election run is just a dress rehearsal for the real race a year later. Some have even suggested that she doesn't really want to be governor.

It's also just possible that Tennant thinks she doesn't have to compete for the female vote and doesn't have to play the I'm -the-only-pro-choice-candidate-in-the=race card because her women friends will get that message out leaving her free to run like one of the boys.

If that's what she thinks, she's wrong and she's getting bad advice. 

West Virginia women don't like the TV ads the boys are airing. They make fun of them. Perdue has some kind of creepy obsession with telling us how "big" he is. Thompson thinks all he has to do is play gospel music and tell us about his sad childhood and we'll forget that he's otherwise indistinguishable from any Republican. 

Tomblin tried to deprive us of the opportunity to vote at all. 

West Virginia women want an excuse to vote for Tennant but she's not giving them one. Her phone bank scripts look as if they were lifted from the Tomblin campaign and in her TV ads she is dressed like one of the boys and she doesn't say the one thing that would mobilize the female vote against the boys: that she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race.

If Tennant were in a 2-way or 3-way race for the Democratic nomination I might understand her reluctance to bring up the controversial subject of abortion, but this year's Democratic contest has rules that favor a pro-choice woman. 

Secretary Tennant, the kind of voters who would vote for anti-choice conservatives like Tomblin, Thompson, Perdue and Kessler will never vote for you so stop trying to get a slice of that demographic.  Give your natural constituencies - women and liberals - an excuse to come out and vote for the only pro-choice candidate in the race. 

Today's governors become tomorrow's US Senators and Presidents. Women know this and that's why Natalie Tennant can own the female vote if she just lets West Virginia women know that she's the only pro-choice candidate in the race. If Tennant brings out the female vote and the boys split the male vote, Tennant wins. If the boys split the conservative vote and Tennant brings out the liberal vote, Tennant wins.

Run like a girl, Secretary Tennant, run like a girl.  Never again will the math actually favor the pro-choice woman so this could be Tennant's year to beat the boys if she'll just run like a girl.

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