In this article, Sharron Angle points out that Presidents Lincoln & Reagan both had prior unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. Presidency before finally prevailing (she forgot to include Richard Nixon, who remains the only person so far to be elected twice to both the U.S Presidency & Vice Presidency but had ran & lost against JFK before becoming POTUS by beating the VP of JFK’s successor).
By MOLLY BALL
You haven’t heard the last from Angle, Miller and O’Donnell.
They divided their own parties, ran unimaginably bad campaigns and drew national ridicule with their antics.
Naturally, all this led Joe Miller, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to believe they had bright futures in politics.
Far from slinking away in shame, these former candidates are using their epic failures as a springboard — making careers of being nationally-known losers.
Miller, the Alaska lawyer who couldn’t beat Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid despite being the Republican nominee, on Wednesday announced he would take the reins of a little-known political action committee, the Western Representation PAC.
He also has hosted a talk-radio show and booked himself with a speaking firm in order to, as he told ABC News, “be a significant influence in 2012.”
O’Donnell, the perennial GOP candidate whose primary election victory over Delaware Rep. Mike Castle dashed a slam-dunk opportunity to win an open Senate seat, also recently formed a fundraising committee, dubbed ChristinePAC.
Though she turned down an offer to be on “Dancing With the Stars,” she reportedly is working on a book — and is the target of a federal investigation for improper use of campaign funds.
Angle, the former Nevada state legislator whose gaffes doomed the GOP’s hopes of unseating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, appeared headed down the PAC route post-election as well, lending her name to the launch of the Patriot Caucus PAC in December. The committee, Angle said at the time, represented her effort “to give back and help our movement take the fight against Big Government to a new level.”
Angle, who has racked up consecutive losses in state Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate races, distanced herself from the PAC a couple of months later and now is running for Congress again. She also is working on a self-published memoir, has appeared in Iowa and New Hampshire promoting a Christian-themed movie and even made an appearance at a cosmetics convention.
“They’ve all, in their own ways, gained notoriety from their losses, and they’re either trying to cash in or further their political careers,” said national GOP consultant John Feehery. “All of them have criticized career politicians, but it kind of takes away their message when they’ve started making a career out of politics.”
Plenty of candidates have lost an election and bravely refused to take no for an answer. That was Angle’s response to the loser rap in a Monday news conference.
“Lincoln and Reagan had losses, and what would have happened to our country if they’d quit?” she said. “A true leader leads by example, and I’m no quitter.”
Other prominent pols have also soldiered on after multiple losses. Newt Gingrich ran and lost twice before being elected to the House of Representatives, going on to serve 11 terms and become Speaker of the House. Ted Strickland had four House losses under his belt before winning the Ohio governorship in 2006.
None of them, however, had made such a splash on the national scene with their defeats.
Thanks to the tea party’s rapid rise and the power of the Internet, today’s failed candidates came away from the election with something perhaps more valuable than a seat in Congress: email lists of supporters and small donors numbering in the tens of thousands.
Angle’s support from national grassroots activists helped her, astonishingly, out-fundraise the most powerful man in the Senate, taking in more than $28 million, though she spent millions in turn on the direct mail efforts that helped bring in the money.
O’Donnell, who was estranged from her own state party, raised $7.5 million — nearly twice as much as the man who defeated her, Democrat Chris Coons. Miller raised more than $3 million.
“It costs an awful lot of money to build a fundraising list through direct mail,” said Chuck Muth, a conservative activist in Nevada. “Once you’ve done that and established relationships with people who have given you money, you don’t want to just let that die. Those people are more than happy to keep giving over and over again.”
That proposition has yet to be tested post-election, as these candidates’ new ventures have not yet had to report to the Federal Election Commission. But Muth said donors who feel they’ve found a sympathetic champion won’t be bothered by electoral losses.
“It’s purely philosophical for these donors,” he said. “These folks share an ideology that they believe these candidates are articulating on a national stage. They’re looking for spokespersons who articulate their views. It’s not whether they can win or lose a race.”
Roger Stockton, a firefighter at Lake Tahoe in Nevada who is treasurer of the Western Representation PAC, said he didn’t consider Miller’s defeat a stain on the Alaskan’s record.
With the help of tea party groups, Miller toppled Murkowski in the primary, only to fall to her long-shot write-in campaign in November. To Stockton, he’s a hero who took on the establishment.
“It’s very difficult for somebody to come from the outside and beat the established candidate,” he said. “Just the fact that he beat an established incumbent in the primary, I think, speaks volumes about the mood of the country.”
Stockton and his son started the PAC in early 2009, seeing it as the best way to translate their concern with the direction of the country into action. The son, Dustin Stockton, allied with the Tea Party Express and spoke on its national bus tour, helping raise the committee’s profile. During the 2010 cycle, it raised and spent nearly $400,000 helping candidates including Miller, Angle, and Rep. Barney Frank’s GOP opponent, Sean Bielat.
Miller’s role as chairman will be to act as a national spokesman for the group as well as participating in strategic decisions, Roger Stockton said. Miller will be paid “in the few thousand dollar range,” Stockton said.
One reason Miller, Angle and O’Donnell could be intent on remaining in the political spotlight is that it may offer more lucrative prospects than their previous pursuits.
Angle lists herself as a “small business manager” in official biographies, but it’s unclear what that refers to. Since working full-time as a teacher in a one-room rural Christian school in the early 1980s, she’s been a substitute teacher and a representative in Nevada’s part-time legislature, which meets once every two years and pays less than $5,000 a year. Angle now lives mainly on the government pension of her husband, a retired Bureau of Land Management worker.
Miller is a Yale-educated attorney who had his own private practice, but he closed the firm recently to focus on politics instead. In the past, he bounced from job to job as a part-time judge and part-time local government attorney. He has had financial troubles, receiving public assistance while living in rural Alaska in the 1990s. And 2010 wasn’t his first defeat, either: He previously ran unsuccessfully for the state House of Representatives.
O’Donnell’s spotty work history and financial troubles, including a foreclosure and unpaid taxes, came to light during the campaign. Her political resume consists mostly of volunteer advocacy; media appearances, including several on liberal humorist Bill Maher’s show; and two previous losses in Senate elections in which she was seen as a fringe candidate.
The current FBI investigation pertains to whether O’Donnell used her campaign war chest as a personal piggy bank to pay her rent and other expenses. But Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, noted that it would have been legal for O’Donnell to pay herself a salary, or to pay personal expenses with PAC rather than campaign funds. CREW filed the complaint that led to the O’Donnell investigation.
From the perspective of these candidates, losing an election, but becoming national political celebrities in the process, may be the pinnacle of their political success. Like the stars of reality TV, they don’t mind being humiliated if it means they get to be famous.
“They exemplify the political truth that once a candidate has been in the spotlight it’s hard to give it up,” Democratic consultant Karen Finney said. “Writing a book or starting a PAC is a way to try and stay politically relevant.”
Political relevance is just what Angle got in her Iowa and New Hampshire swing, where she promoted a film called The Genesis Code.
Jerry Zandstra, a Republican political operative in Michigan and vice president of the film company that produced The Genesis Code, said Angle was received with expressions of gratitude by conservative activists who saw her as a “bold, gutsy person” for taking on Harry Reid and speaking in “defense of issues of family and faith.”
Angle, he said, wasn’t paid to promote the film — she just believed in its message.
“To me, they’re interesting candidates because they’re ordinary people,” Zandstra said of Angle and her comrades in defeat. “It’s when ordinary people decide, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m going to stand up and win, lose or draw, I’m going to make my voice heard standing for certain things.’”