Reaching Out to Election Day Losers

While most are now ready to put elections behind them for at least a little while, this week may be your best opportunity to get a head start on 2014. If you’re considering a run for office next year, consider following Jimmy Carter’s lead in 1974.

In that year, [now MSNBC analyst] Chris Matthews ran for Congress and lost in the Democratic primary. A few days after the election, he received a letter from then Governor Jimmy Carter thanking him for running and urging him to stay active in politics. Carter also asked him for any advice he may be able to provide and invited him to get in touch anytime.

From Matthews’ Hardball:

“I’ve saved that letter from Jimmy Carter back in ’74 and I’m not the only one. Every Democrat who lost a primary election that year received a personal letter from the obscure Jimmy Carter of Georgia.

Smart politics. Carter realized that his best hunting ground for support was among those who had been shut out politically. Jerry Rafshoon, his media adviser, remembers campaigning with Carter for an attractive congressional candidate and telling him he thought the man would do well. But Carter saw deeper. ‘He’s not going to win. It’s a Republican district. He’d be better for us if he loses. He’ll work for me. He’ll bring his organization with him.’

Carter pursued his strategy through the ’74 general elections. When Robert Strauss, then the national party chairman, was calling the Democratic winners on election night, the governor was calling the losers. Many, temporarily shaken and adrift…joined the Peanut Brigade and, with many lesser figures, played key roles in Carter’s dash through the primaries. Those otherwise forgotten candidates who had lost races for Congress became Carter’s local coordinators and political cheerleaders.”

So my advice to you: reach out to those that came up short yesterday. Offer your condolences, and thank them for the time and effort they put into running. A few months from now, when you’re gearing up for your run, their experience, campaign team and donor list might come in handy.

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