'One of the worst campaigns I've ever seen run'
The story of a golden boy candidate who looked like he had it all until he ran.
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That the result of the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania was never in doubt for weeks and even months is largely a story about hubris.
John Fetterman was a statewide elected official who had run for U.S. Senate before and built a cult-like following through his early support for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and his everyman image that was punctuated by consistently dressing like your hungover uncle hitting Wawa. (Even though he holds a Harvard degree.)
This was well-known 16 months ago when he got into the race and nine months ago when Conor Lamb, a congressman from a snippet of a large state, joined the contest.
Still, the Fetterman-Lamb face-off began with the high expectation of creating a single-digit contest that would keep all us up late on primary night.
Instead, it was Republicans which produced the erratic nail biter where a few thousands votes separate the candidates.
As I write for McClatchyDC, the Democratic primary that began with two lions, went out like a lamb.
Fetterman was routing Lamb by 33 points with nearly 90% of the vote counted. Just a few days ago Lamb mockingly dismissed on live television a Franklin & Marshall survey that pegged Fetterman with a 39-point advantage.
It’s not that Fetterman won this primary, it’s how he won it. Without a sweat. Without an aggressive case against him.
When I began asking Democrats why and how Lamb could flop so badly, there were a multitude of reasons served up, which you’ll see in my story.
Lamb waited too long to get in. His campaign misread the changing whims of the Democratic base, even in Joe Biden-lovin’ Pennsylvania. And his insular campaign team refused to heed advice from outside allies and internal voices alike.
“It’s one of the worst campaigns I’ve ever seen run,” said Mike Mikus, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic strategist. “Strategically it’s been mind-boggling to watch this. They completely blew an opportunity…Conor should be the nominee and it’s the campaign’s fault.”
Doc Sweitzer, a Philadelphia-based Democratic media consultant:
“Hubris is the right word. I don’t know what they were thinking.”
Marcia Wilson, chair of the Adams County Democratic Committee in Gettysburg:
“I think it was a little cheeky, if you will, to go up against John Fetterman.”
Maybe by Wednesday we’ll learn Fetterman’s Republican opponent.