I was left behind by the Leave No One Behind bus

The only photo from the bus that shows me. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so this was probably the first day on the bus.

The only photo from the bus that shows me, since I was usually shooting the pics. Probably taken by Mandy. I appear to be engaged in some sort of incantation, probably pumping out a press release or a Tweet. In the background you see Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier, so I’m guessing this was the first day on the bus, when I was still relatively sane.

Ken Kesey had one rule for the Merry Pranksters in their acid-fueled magical mystery tour across America in Furthur, the ultimate, aboriginal psychedelic bus: You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. As you may recall, I’ve used a variant of that as a tagline for this blog in the past.

With Kesey, it was both a practical admonition — if you’re not on the bus when we’re ready to go, we’ll leave you — and a sort of cosmic statement of connectedness, as he elaborated:

There are going to be times when we can’t wait for somebody. Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.

I spent the last week of the gubernatorial campaign on a borrowed RV — which we referred to often as not as “the bus” — that was decorated not with wild psychedelic swirls but with images of the candidates and gigantic representations of our bumper stickers and our tagline, “Leave No One Behind.” In a series of texts with the campaign manager at about 6 a.m. on our first day with the bus, I suggested we call it the “Leave No One Behind Tour,” and that’s what we did.

It was an intense experience. The whole campaign, of course, was an intense experience, unlike anything I’d ever been through, even in my newspaper days. The involvement, and the demand on my physical and mental stamina, was rather overwhelming. For the first month, I didn’t know if I’d make it. Then, I sort of started getting used to it. And then, the pace stepped up, and increased more and more until the end, but my body and nerves kept adjusting. A typical day would involve cranking out my first release by about 6:30 a.m. and continuing at a dizzying speed until fairly late at night — but that doesn’t really fully express it. At first, things would be a bit slower on weekends, but by the end, they were not — a Sunday became like a Wednesday, without end.

But those last days on the bus exceeded anything that went before. And as often as not, I was the only staffer on board for the whole day and into the night with James and Mandy. But as amazed as I am that I made it through, this was only a brief taste of what James, and later Mandy, had been enduring for the past year. For them, and for usual driver Scott Harriford — the first staffer hired way back in the summer of 2017 — the RV was probably more like a vacation.

But they’re all three a lot younger than I am.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

Scott Harriford, who had been The Driver for the last year-and-a-half, actually got some snooze time on the bus tour.

The incident I want to tell about happened the morning of Saturday, Nov. 3. But I’ll start with the day before.

We had a slow start on Friday, not rolling out from headquarters until about 8 a.m. I think that morning I even had a chance to run get breakfast at Cap City between pushing out the morning release and boarding the RV. Our first destination was a meeting with officials at Greenville Health System to talk about Medicaid expansion and other healthcare issues. Just one of many, many encouraging meetings J and M had had in the Upstate in recent months with folks some of y’all might expect to support Republicans. But you didn’t read about it because it was private and therefore I didn’t pump out social media about it. I just sat against the wall of the conference room and sort of half-listened, enjoying the break.

Then, it was off to Buffalo Wild Wings in the same city for a lunch meeting that Patrick Elswick (here’s video of Patrick) had set up with some veterans. Here’s social media about that. It was during that lunch that we learned Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had given to the campaign, and I Tweeted about that, too.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Buffalo Wild Wings with the veterans.

At Wild Wings, I think, was where Campaign Manager Scott Hogan joined us. There had been certain… glitches… the day before, which we had blamed on inadequate advance work, and Phil Chambers had drafted a new schedule for advancing every single stop for the rest of the tour, and Scott had joined us to, among other things, see how that was working.

Next stop was an elementary school in Simpsonville. Since it was a public school, we couldn’t park in front of it, so we parked at a park about a mile away, and someone — Phil or one of the Scotts — drove them over in a car. I was delayed getting off the bus, and they were gone by the time I descended into the rain. But then I got tied up with a couple of supporters who had been attracted by the bus, who wanted to help — with signs, or something — so I got their contact info and arranged with their county coordinator to get with them, and got back on the bus. I had to use pictures shot by Harriford for the school event Tweet. I was for a moment flummoxed as to how to post a picture without showing kids’ faces, and Mandy just took a pic and edited out the kids who were facing the camera. Duh. I was getting punchy by then.

Then, on to a literal town hall meeting at Gray Court Town Hall. By this time, various Upstate media were joining us and we started a series of brief interviews. Tim Waller of WYFF would do two or three live feeds during the next hour or two. The town hall went well. Then, on the way back to the bus, we stopped at an antique store where J and M made a fun purchase — a circa-1940s Erector Set, which included a working motor. They showed it off in a video that I Tweeted.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Tim Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus.

Waller and crew rode back to Greenville on the bus. Then, James and Mandy spent three hours at the Greenville NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. I spent most of that time catching up on stuff on the bus. Phil and the two Scotts went off in search of food, and eventually brought German, the driver, and me some excellent takeout — flatiron steak with tiny potatoes and lightly cooked green beans. Way better than my usual McDonald’s.

Sometime after 10, J and M got away from the banquet and headed for an informal gathering with friends and supporters at a downtown Greenville joint, Ink N Ivy. My old colleague Jim Hammond, who had been a huge help to the campaign, was there, and we chatted for a few minutes. But then I heard Hogan and Phil were going to make a breakout, leave the bus behind and head to Columbia. Matt Gassan, who had advanced the event, told me they were at the corner with the engine running. Tired as I was, the flesh being weak, and knowing the bus was scheduled to leave HQ the next morning at 7, I decided to escape with them….

… and found myself, half an hour later, on a godforsaken, wind-and-rainswept vacant lot in some part of Greenville I’d never be able to find again, helping put up a couple of gigantic campaign signs that Hogan and Phil were determined we should not leave unused back at HQ. Sure, I agreed that we were all determined to leave it all on the field in this race, but somewhere about this time, I privately decided they were both lunatics. Eventually, we headed back, getting home sometime well after midnight. I forget when. I then set my alarm for 6 a.m.

It would be much later that I would figure out what had happened. The thing is, I set my usual weekday alarm for 6. It just never occurred to me that the next day was Saturday.

At 7:39 a.m. the buzzing of my phone finally woke me. Multiple texts had been missed, and Hogan was voice-calling me. The bus was, finally, rolling away from HQ without me. Major panic on my part to say the least.

Hauling my old Volvo down two-lane roads I managed to catch up to them in Greenwood, in time to get some pics and Tweet about that first event. I then drove ahead to the next event, at a restaurant in Spartanburg. Ginger Crocker caught a ride with Noah Barker, who was advancing the lunch event — so she could drive my car back to Columbia and I could rejoin the bus, which I did, and we continued on another long, long day.

Eventually, it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me...

Then it occurred to Mandy what had happened to me…

All that day, I was perfectly mortified. I knew just what had happened, and I had been thinking the very same words about it all day. But very late in the day or that night, I was sitting across the little table from the candidates talking over the day, when the words occurred to Mandy and she said them out loud: “You got left behind by the Leave No One Behind Bus!”

James thought this was high-larious! He roared his appreciation of the irony.

Me, I didn’t think it was so funny. I had let down the side, and was full of self-reproach. And I resolved yet again to do a better job tomorrow than I had today…

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one...

The first morning of that final tour. I was so intent on getting the bus in the frame I failed to notice J and M were in shadow. I did NOT Tweet this one…

65 thoughts on “I was left behind by the Leave No One Behind bus

  1. Ryan

    There is a West Wing episode about this. Maybe “24 Hours in America” or something like that. Josh & Toby get left behind by the bus and have to find their way back to D.C., only to get mixed up by time zones and an argument over gas or diesel.

  2. Brad Warthen

    That was a double episode, actually. It took them awhile to get back.

    And it featured Amy Adams, before she was famous, as the engaging farmer’s daughter with whom Toby and Josh are conversing out in a field when they and Donna get left behind.

    I caught up a little more easily than they did — the hardest part was when I got caught for about 20 minutes behind a pickup truck that was slowly hauling a golf cart on a trailer, and kept making the same turns the GPS was telling me to take. The roads were not only two-lane, but hilly and full of curves, so it took me that long to get to a place where I could pass. I was worried for awhile that I’d miss the whole Greenwood stop, and have to try to catch them in Spartanburg instead. But as it happened, I moved fast enough that James was actually just starting to talk at the breakfast meeting at the American Legion when I walked in. (Unfortunately, the servers had put away the coffee by then, and I had finished my grande from Starbucks that I’d bought on the way out of town.)

    The greatest inconvenience was to poor Ginger, who had to travel to Spartanburg with Noah and then drive my disheveled Volvo back to Columbia. I had to give her a 10-minute primer on what to do when the gearshift won’t move, and when the key gets stuck in the ignition. My wife was very alarmed that an uninitiated person was driving it back, but Ginger made it fine, and was very gracious about it…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, whenever I say I Tweeted something, that generally means I put it on Facebook as well. That was just sort of an afterthought for me. Most of the people I was dealing with were Twitterphiles like me. That’s because the main audience for Twitter is journalists and people involved in politics, and that’s who I dealt with all day.

    But of course, if you want to reach voters, you have to be on Facebook. So I was. I just didn’t much like it.

    But now that I’m saying all this, I’m not sure which of those things I tweeted personally, even when I took the pictures. That last week, for the first time since the very start of the campaign, I actually had help on social media. So many times, I just texted the four best photos I had to the person back in Columbia helping me, who would base the Tweet on what the calendar said about where we were at that time and what we were doing, plus any guidance I gave in the text. But I didn’t always hand it off. Sometimes, it was easier to do it myself than explain to someone who wasn’t there.

    I deeply, deeply appreciated the help I did get, though. At that stage, any little thing I could hand off was a lifesaver…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      One of the perks of this job was that when I spent the day staring at my phone, everyone understood I was actually working, and not just being rude…

  4. Richard2

    Did Mandy ever leave James’ side during the campaign? From the pictures I’d be surprised if he could stand at a urinal without her standing in the one next to it. For two married people this whole thing comes off as strange. I’ve never seen a campaign where the two party candidates were at each other’s side 24/7.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, there were quite a few times when they went in different directions. For instance, the last Sunday, we started out from Columbia with only Mandy on the bus. James had run up to Spartanburg to attend a church service, while Mandy was to start dropping in on a series of four church services in and around Lake City. Then James caught a ride to Florence on Phil Leventis’ plane (if you’ll recall, he flew F-16s in the Gulf War), where a staffer picked him up and they caught up to us at the second of the Lake City appearances. They campaigned the rest of the day together.

      They liked campaigning together, and they were a good team. One of the frequent criticisms I heard of James early in the career is that people thought he was too low-energy (he’s a laid-back kind of guy, which is one of the things I appreciated about him), and Mandy made up for that in joint appearances. Later, I thought his public speaking got more natural and he was fine handling an appearance and firing up a crowd alone, but by then they were just so used to the tag-team approach.

      This was much debated in the campaign, and sometimes schedulers would push to separate them. But whenever we did, that made double work for everybody — twice as much advance work, twice the people to staff them. And for me, it meant swimming against the current trying to get coverage for what she was doing. Media were happy to cover her when she was with him, but seldom when she was alone. In terms of visibility of what they were doing, it seemed a wasted effort to have her campaign separately.

      The thing is, they worked well in their joint appearances, and it showed. And the thing is — and too few people picked up on this even though I kept sending out this release to people to let them know — they very much intended to be a team if elected. The Legislature had blown up the job description of lieutenant governor — no more running the Office on Aging, no more presiding over the Senate — which created a huge opportunity to reinvent the office, an opportunity James intended to take full advantage of. He planned for her to play a big role in shaping the administration through appointments, and then function as a sort of super legislative liaison, pushing his agenda in the State House — something she had a proven ability to do, working with Republicans as well as Democrats.

      Their joint appearances underlined the partnership they would have if elected….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        About that LG release I mentioned…

        The initial release was awkward. James had given Meg Kinnard of the AP an exclusive interview on his plans for the newly constituted LG office. But she didn’t have a chance to write it right away, and about a week later, Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier started asking about the same thing. I let Meg know, but she wasn’t in a position to write it that day, so Jamie scooped her. At that point, I figured I might as well put out the release to everybody, with apologies to Meg.

        But it was late in the day, and (I think) late in the week, and pretty much nobody noticed it. Consequently, over the next month I kept getting inquiries from people about plans for the LG office — people who had received the release but evidently didn’t look at it. So I would send it again — I thought it was an excellent vision James had for the office, and wanted as many people as possible to pick up on it.

        I kept begging people to write about it, or write about SOMETHING that bore on what sort of governor and lt. gov. they would be — instead of the irrelevant nuts and bolts crap that seemed to obsess reporters — “How much money have you raised?” “When does that ad go on TV?” “Now that the ad is on TV, how many markets is it in, and for how long?” “When is Joe Biden coming?” “When are other 2020 hopefuls coming?” and so forth. As a longtime editor supervising political writers, it really drove me nuts — I would have gone postal on any reporter who worked for me and focused on that B.S.

        Finally, realizing practically no one had looked at the release the first time, I slapped a new lede on it and sent it out again on Oct. 16. It still never got much traction, or attention.

        But anyone who has read it and absorbed it ought to have at least SOME appreciation of why they campaigned together so much…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, I just looked back — I sent out the LG release initially at 2:13 on Aug. 17.

          A Friday afternoon. Which is death to press releases.

          As you may recall, “The West Wing” had an episode devoted to the phenomenon, titled “Take Out the Trash Day.” Because anything that happens on a Friday gets ignored.

          One reason for that used to be that on Fridays, newspaper people were snowed under pushing out copy for the weekend papers — they had to leave enough written, edited copy for the skeleton weekend crews to put out the Sunday and Monday papers.

          Nowadays, newspapers pay so little attention to the print product — the Sunday paper, which used to be THE most valued placement of the week, now tends to contain stories that have been online since Thursday or so — that you’d think that pattern would have been disrupted. But it hasn’t.

          And that’s because it’s not just about the journalists — readers are perhaps even less interested in things that happen on a Friday.

          I’ve always thought that was weird. Why would readers be uninterested in something that would have absorbed their attention Monday-Thursday, just because it happened on a Friday? The conventional explanation is that Saturday tends to be a little-read paper. Which I also always thought was weird.

          Why would Sunday be the big readership day? Saturday at least has SOME live news in it — Sundays have virtually none. Sundays have historically been filled with the kinds of stories that Dave Barry has famously mocked, saying they should be accompanied by a helpful warning:”CAUTION! JOURNALISM PRIZE ENTRY! DO NOT READ!

          You want to know what kinds of stories I mean? Look at the New York Times’ tome the other day about Facebook. Or check out the Post and Courier’s big package on problems in public education in SC — which it chose to run AFTER the election, instead of providing the info at a time when readers could actually DO SOMETHING about this and other problems. By, you know, voting. Which I complained about last week:

          Anyway, I’m meandering again…

      2. Doug Ross

        I agree with Richard. To the outside observer it just seemed very weird that the two of them were seemingly together ALL THE TIME during the campaign. First, because Smith was running to lead the state, not to run as co-governor. Second, as you mentioned, when they were together, Mandy always came off better than him in terms of energy. And, third, Smith’s name recognition in the state was already a huge challenge so what not divide and conquer – send Mandy out separately to promote him.

        Using the excuse of having to double the work seems pretty weak. This campaign appeared to be a complete failure in terms of strategy and execution. The event held at the Fairfield County plant after they announced job losses turned into a complete waste of time when Henry pulled strings to reverse it. The attempt to get on the ballot for the Libertarian Party’s votes was an amateurish debacle. The poll that the campaign bought to present a narrative that Smith actually was within the margin of error was a waste of money ($40K?) — either it was a rigged poll or else the pollster should never be allowed to run a poll again. That created a false sense of momentum. I also was perusing the campaign spending documents and it seemed like a ton of money went into ad buys that didn’t help one iota. Smith basically got all the votes he would have got even without campaigning.

        I have a few questions for you that I’d love to hear the answers to:

        1) Did you believe Smith has a chance to win on election day before the votes were counted? If so, based on what information? If not, then at what point did you realize Smith was not going to win?

        2) Was there any voice of the “devils advocate” in the room who tried to balance out the delusions of electability that seemed to permeate the Smith campaign? Was there ever any difficult conversations about the strategy and tactics and whether they were working?

        3) How much responsibility did you end up giving to the 18 year old social media kid, Noah Barker? At least from his twitter feed he didn’t appear to have much of a role in the campaign.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Doug, I’ll have to get into the weeds at another time when I have time for longer answers, but to answer the parts that can be answered quickly:

          1. Of course.

          2. I’m not sure what one should do about “delusions of electability.” Quit, I suppose. But we didn’t. We tried as hard as we could. I’ve never tried harder to do anything.

          3. Actually, Noah was 17 until just days before the election. As it happened, he shifted to other duties soon after he and I got on board. His duties ranged widely from handling mail to distributing signs across the state to advancing campaign events, and he was a great asset to the campaign, adding value far beyond his years. I’m glad to have had the chance to get to know him, and I see him having a bright future. If you spoke with him, you might find his youth hard to believe…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And as I said from the start, we needed Noah because he was the only one among us who had ever won a campaign for governor… 🙂

            Just for fun, here’s the video I shot of Noah ‘splaining why he was for James. I shot a bunch of these, from a wide variety of people ranging from fully committed staffers like Noah to longtime Republicans. It was a fun chore. Initially, I had hoped to inspire others to shoot their own vids and submit them, and I got a lot of help from Michelle Edgar and Jim Hammond, each of whom contributed multiple videos. But I really enjoyed doing them myself…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Here’s one of the best of those video endorsements, which in this case also links to a fuller, written endorsement:

              By the way, this was shortly after I was a witness against Hunter’s client, Jim Harrison. Ours is a complicated state, with complicated relationships — something that people who think entirely in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans tend to miss…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                The same can be said of those who in any way try to separate the world into bad guys vs. good guys. They miss a lot of complexity.

                I testified against Jim Harrison, but bear him no ill will. I simply appeared in response to a subpoena, and answered Pascoe’s questions — and, in cross-examination, Hunter’s — as accurately as I could, given the 12 years since I had written that blog post

          2. Doug Ross

            Why did you think Smith could win when the polls were so obviously showing he had no chance? That’s what I’m trying to understand – was there some analysis within the campaign that showed an actual path to victory?

            The delusion of electability seemed to be a function of living in a positive reinforcement echo chamber rather than stepping back and assessing the reality of the situation. Your were 8-10 points down at the start and that’s where you finished. I wouldn’t have suggested quitting, I would have suggested taking a different approach. The opportunity WAS there with a different campaign that didn’t follow the same playbook we’ve seen from Democrats for two decades. But if you were inside the bubble thinking all the hard work you were doing was actually flipping the votes you would need to win, then trying your hardest to do the same things over and over would likely lead to the result you got. I would compare it to a football team that is down 28-0 in the 4th quarter and keeps running the ball because they are getting 4 yards a carry.

            That’s why I am really interested in the internal workings of the campaign and whether there was ever any real self-criticism of tactical mistakes that were made and/or a discussion of how to do something different to attract the voters you would need to flip from the Republican side.

            I can understand you feeling defensive about any criticism since you were so engaged in the process. But unless there is recognition of the problem, Democrats have no chance to win in this state.

            1. Bob Amundson

              “You were 8-10 points down at the start and that’s where you finished.” My recollection is different – perhaps Brad can share some early polling data. It seems in the early summer (July), James was within “striking distance.” The polls definitely change significantly in Henry’s favor over the summer. Is that decline due to tactical errors (they did occur, as they do in any campaign) or other factors?

              Hurricane Florence was a great opportunity for Henry to shine, and he did fine. However, another factor is the amount each campaign raised. The various Democratic funding machines essentially ignored SC, focusing on FL and GA. That decision affected the Smith campaign financially, as in the end the Smith Campaign was outspent nearly 3-1.

              James and Mandy both spoke proudly of their record of raising much of their money through small, in state donors. What else can you say publicly? If you are outspent by that margin, it is essential to run a nearly perfect campaign – the results indeed show some flaws in the campaign.

              Brad, what could have the campaign done better to overcome some of the spending gaps? If you do a post about that, I’d love to discuss some of the errors I observed.

              1. Doug Ross

                That poll you saw was paid for by the Smith campaign – $40k according to campaign filings – specifically for the purpose of making it appear that Smith was closer than he really was. It was done by a Democratic polling group that likely will skew the results to however the buyer wants them.

                It was the first in a number of tactical mistakes the Smith campaign made.

                1. Bob Amundson

                  I only follow 538 when I look at polling. Polls for SC Governor’s race were not available (or easy to find) on their website yesterday.

                2. Phillip

                  Doug, if you are talking about the Democratic pollster’s August poll that showed Smith within 4 points, that’s not nearly as inaccurate as those polls by Republican-leaning Trafalgar Group, which had McMaster 24 points up in mid-October and still 16 up a week before the election, when he only won by 8.

                  Short of any egregious errors by McMaster (for example, in spite of his early embrace of Trump he seemed for the most part to avoid doubling down on Trumpian divisive rhetoric), plus the “hurricane advantage,” plus the money differential, plus Smith’s not being that widely known statewide, etc., I still think 46% (i.e, in a group of 20 people, that’s 11 for McMaster and 9 for Smith) is pretty good in this basically one-party state. Bigger gambles by Smith might have won over some constituencies in a bigger way but lost others. Just having that “D” by your name is a big liability in this state. I’m sure there are a number of things the Smith campaign might do differently if they had to do it all over, but unless McMaster had gone full Katie Arrington and scared off more moderates, I don’t think there was any way Smith could have done better than he did.

                3. Doug Ross

                  The only reason I voted for him was his lukewarm support for medical marijuana.

                  He should have known he would get 45% no matter what and work on nl getting the extra five by finding issues that would get crossover votes.. something bold like a flat income tax or casino gambling. Or he could have gone after his colleagues in the Senate who are the true roadblock to progress in the state. But he played it safe and by the book.. And lost in a boring, uninspiring way.

                4. Doug Ross

                  Smith also brought in a guy from Indiana to run the campaign. Did he have a good understanding of SC politics and what it takes to win here?

                5. Bob Amundson

                  Being outspent nearly 3-1, with D beside your name, had nothing to do with the loss? Really Doug? I agree with some of what you say – but money and D did affect the outcome. How much, I can’t say.

                6. Doug Ross

                  I’m not convinced spending matters that much. And if it does, that’s on Smith and the Democratic Party to raise more. As I said, I donated c money but never was even asked to donate more.

                  I looked at Smith’s fundraising data. Most of the money came from lawyers. Maybe Smith didn’t have the desire to go out to do the fundraising outside his own circle.

                  And any Democrat who wanted Smith to win but didn’t donate a dime should look in the mirror. At least I put my money into the race.

                7. Doug Ross

                  Here are the top 10 occupations and total dollars contributed to the Smith campaign:

                  Occupation Sum of Amount
                  NOT EMPLOYED $257,493.56
                  ATTORNEY $256,691.78
                  RETIRED $171,811.26
                  MISSING $143,576.14
                  REQUESTED $94,691.55
                  PHYSICIAN $24,370.00
                  CONSULTANT $22,325.00
                  PROFESSOR $19,460.00
                  WRITER $10,849.00

                  Do we want a candidate who is basically funded by lawyers and retired people?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Or “missing” people? How can we ever trust someone who is just “missing?” 🙂

                    Seriously, I’d as soon have it funded by lawyers as anyone. It’s a category of people who have a greater tendency than average to understand public policy and be able to analyze it and recognize which candidates are offering viable solutions. In me, this inspires confidence.

                    Juan would no doubt differ. Smiley face again…

                8. Doug Ross

                  And here’s the entry for the rigged poll that was paid for to pretend Smith was in striking distance:

                  Hart Research Associates
                  1724 Connecticut Ave NW
                  Washington, DC 20009
                  Polling $49,000.00

                  Either the poll was accurate and then the campaign did nothing after that to improve Smith’s chances or the poll was inaccurate and the campaign should ask for a refund.

                  It’s also interesting to see just how much of the campaign budget was spent outside the state of SC on media buying, etc. Canal Partners Media of Atlanta got about $400K of $1.2M spent. DO Big Things LLC from California got 120K. Various Washington DC based entities got another $120. That’s more that half… did they get their money’s worth?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, there was no “rigged poll.” There was a poll — a real poll, a legitimate poll — that told us that at that moment, we were doing better than expected. After thinking it over a few days, we decided to do something we hadn’t necessarily planned to do — release it. Because, as stupid as it is (I’ll never fully understand why anyone would be more inclined to support someone who might win over someone unlikely to, but we know that happens), we thought it might help our momentum.

                    And if you ever call it a “rigged” or “fake” poll again, or in any way suggest that I or James or Mandy was involved in perpetrating any kind of a fraud, I’m going to delete that comment.

                    It’s hard enough to run a hard, honest campaign and lose. I’m not going to let anyone impugn our characters on top of that, not on my own blog…

                9. Bob Amundson

                  “I’m not convinced spending matters that much.” Obviously – but where’s the data to back that up? Making a bold statement like that without ANY supporting documentation shows some type of bias, IMHO.

                  Show me some data that money and D make no difference in this State. Make it good – if it’s not, I won’t waste any more of my time.

                10. Doug Ross

                  Not in this state but:

                  Hillary outspent Trump by a wide margin.
                  Beto O’Rourke outspent Ted Cruz in Texas.

                  All my evidence is anecdotal.. but there is no way good formula to determine what a dollar buys you in terms of votes. Spending more doesn’t guarantee a win.

                  In this state, John Warren spent $4 million dollars and lost the primary to McMaster and it wasn’t close.

                  In Richland County, Craig Plank (Dawndee Mercer’s husband) spent more than all the other candidates combined ($13K) and didn’t reach the top 4. A guy named James Mobley who has run every time since 2002 spent ZERO and got 12,123 votes compared to Plank’s 17,313.

                  In 2010, McMaster outspent Nikki Haley $2 million to $800K and lost the primary.

                  There are numerous examples of spending not translating into winning. There are many more factors involved – including having a campaign that generates FREE advertising and word of mouth. Smith didn’t do anything to create any buzz to take advantage of it.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, I’m not going to waste time on my blog arguing with people who just KNOW everything we did wrong in the campaign. I get enough of that from people I meet on the street.

                    But I will point out one flaw in your thinking…

                    Money DID matter, and the key to why was in the poll we had that, in your mistaken confidence in your political acumen, you call a “fake poll.”

                    The poll told us what we needed to do — make James known to the people who didn’t know him, for two reasons. One, Henry had an advantage because he had TWICE the name recognition. Second, when people DID know James (after respondents were read a positive statement about both candidates), we won.

                    That meant we had to raise his name recognition and in a positive way. The only way to do that that you can control (free media being a crapshoot that can help you or hurt you or simply not happen because the media don’t pay attention to the right things) is by spending on advertising. We didn’t raise enough money to do that, early enough and persistently enough.

                    Money isn’t everything. But money matters, and in our case it mattered for very specific reasons.

                    If we could have sat James down in front of every voter in the state and let them get to know him and answer every question they might have, there’s little question that we would have won.

                    In the absence of that, you’re working against the problem that in the absence of being able to sufficiently get your own argument across, most white people in South Carolina are going to vote for the guy with the R after his name. We knew that going in. We tried with all our might to get him known well enough to overcome that. We didn’t succeed.

                    In a nutshell, that’s the answer to what Clark keeps asking…

                  2. Bob Amundson

                    I appreciate the reply Doug. Yes, your evidence is anecdotal, and you mention a couple of races that are exceptions to the rule. In most every race, money does make a difference – not all. Usually incumbents (like McMaster) win – not always. Looking for exceptions to those rules to prove those rules are wrong is confirmation bias.

                    Nice chatting with you!

                11. Doug Ross

                  Brad – the fact is the Smith campaign paid for the poll. $49,000. The polling group is known to be a group that favors Democrats (just like there are those that favor Republicans).

                  The poll results were stated in The State as : “McMaster has the support of 47 percent of voters, the poll says, to Smith’s 43 percent, with 10 percent undecided.”

                  I watched as the Smith campaign used those results to push the idea that Smith was closing in on McMaster. The echo chamber was relentless for a few days. Nobody outside of the Smith campaign actually believed it — in fact, most of the political pundits I read at the time thought it was laughable.

                  So in the end, the actual result was that Smith lost by 8 points.

                  Think about that. Either the poll was wrong and overstated the situation for the campaign that paid for it or else — and even worse – the Smith campaign did more to lose votes than gain them in the months after it was released. All the efforts apparently to raise Smith’s name recognition apparently resulted in very few people choosing to vote for him – if you think the poll was accurate. If people with money actually thought he had a chance, you would have seen more money flowing to the campaign. But then I’m not sure what was going on with the fundraising when the campaign didn’t even contact someone (me) who donated twice to ask for more.

                  Unfortunately, the campaign was run to win the votes of people who already were going to vote Democrat. It was never about crossing over to get votes (except for trying to steal the Libertarian votes).

                  Feel free to delete this comment because there is nothing you can say that will convince me that the poll the campaign paid for wasn’t tailored to provide a result that was positive for Smith. Even if it wasn’t explicitly stated, the pollsters know what they have to do to keep getting business.

                12. Doug Ross

                  “In most every race, money does make a difference – not all.”

                  Ok, now let’s see YOUR evidence. Show me the formula that removes incumbency and party affiliation from the voting and then tell me how much money a Democratic candidate for Governor would have to spend to beat McMaster this year. Is it $1 more? $100K? $1 million? Because 2022 will be here soon and all the Democrats need to do is get to the magic number to guarantee a win.

                13. Doug Ross

                  An analysis of the polling done by Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group showed the following average biases:

                  D +2.4640
                  R -1.9125
                  I +4.5147

                  Gee, if you take that supposed 4 point gap in the poll and add 2 to the Republican and subtract 2.5 from the Democrat, well, gee, you end up with the same result as the election. How convenient that the error just happened to fall in Smith’s favor for that one.

                14. Bob Amundson

                  538, “How Money Affects Elections.” As I’ve stated (more precisely this time), there is a strong correlation between spending and winning. As is often the case, to make the conclusion that correlational means causal is wrong.

                  “… the strong raw association between raising the most cash and winning probably has more to do with big donors who can tell (based on polls or knowledge of the district or just gut-feeling woo-woo magic) that one candidate is more likely to win — and then they give that person all their money.”

                  “ ‘Money matters a great deal in elections,’ Bonica said. It’s just that, he believes, when scientists go looking for its impacts, they tend to look in the wrong places. If you focus on general elections, he said, your view is going to be obscured by the fact that 80 to 90 percent of congressional races have outcomes that are effectively predetermined by the district’s partisan makeup — and the people that win those elections are still given (and then must spend) ridiculous sums of money because, again, big donors like to curry favor with candidates they know are a sure thing.”

                  So, money and party do make a difference – but sorting out cause versus correlation is complicated.

                15. Doug Ross

                  Isn’t that what I am saying? Money isn’t the most important factor in whether someone wins or loses an election. It can help but I am not convinced that if James Smith spent the same amount of money as McMaster that he would have won. There is the law of diminishing marginal returns in effect where it would take more and more incremental dollars to flip a person’s vote. And at some point, spending MORE money on advertising could have a negative effect where people just feel bombarded by the constant messaging.

                  That is why I believe Smith would have had a better chance to win had he done three things that don’t require spending more money: 1) Court independent leaning Republicans by supporting some of the issues that they are concerned with — the number one issue being taxes and number two being the inefficiency and waste in the government. Both of those issues could be framed in a way that would not lose Democrat votes. 2) Do more to engage the black voters in the state to drive up turnout — even if that meant dropping Mandy and selecting a black running mate. 3) Been much more vocal about corruption in the State House. Smith didn’t even try to push that topic — probably because he’d have to explain why he was oblivious to it going on around him for years. Smith should have tried much harder to tie McMaster to the Quinns.

                  None of those things would cost an extra dime.. but may have had the effect of getting more votes thru increased turnout and more crossover votes.

                  1. Bob Amundson

                    I agree with your second paragraph. However, it is CLEAR money and incumbency make a difference. How much depends race-to-race.

                  2. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, you keep mentioning black turnout.

                    Personally, I haven’t looked at black turnout or anything else since Nov. 6. I’m busy doing other stuff.

                    But I know what it was in the absentee voting — higher than the overall black turnout for Barack Obama. And most Democrats will tell you they’d take that any day…

                    Maybe that pattern didn’t continue on Election Day. Are you saying it didn’t? (I’d rather ask you than go try to look it up…)

      3. Doug Ross

        “The thing is, they worked well in their joint appearances, and it showed. ”

        Not to me (and others). It came across as weird – like a married couple where they take turns finishing each others sentences. And a couple where the wife is the interesting member…

        The people were voting for a Governor. Not a team. That was a mistake to present it that way. People expect a Governor to lead, not share his power. Smith could have changed the role of the LG AFTER the election and nobody would have cared. But to run as a team gives the perception of “I’m not capable of doing this job myself”.

        And you know this is not Monday morning quarterbacking on my part. I’ve been saying the same things to you in emails since early on in the campaign.

  5. Doug Ross

    A good article in the Free Times covering why Joe Cunningham won (with some asides about why James Smith lost).


    Some quotes:
    “Of particular note was the race for governor, where incumbent Republican Henry McMaster ran a sort of keep-away campaign and easily dispatched Democratic challenger James Smith — a decorated war veteran and 22-year member of the state Legislature — by eight percentage points in a contest that was never very tight. ”

    “Cunningham’s embrace of an issue that was directly pertinent to his constituents was critical, according to former Democratic state Rep. Boyd Brown. He says Democrats in the Palmetto State are often too vague when campaigning on issues. He specifically referenced Smith’s campaign for governor, where the Columbia Democrat attempted to gain traction on the idea of bolstering education.

    “James ran a campaign where he wanted to be our ‘education governor,’” Brown says. “Well, that’s all well and good. But, I’m not really sure what that means. … Democrats in South Carolina have long failed to get behind issues that motivate people. Does education poll well? Absolutely. Who’s going to tell a pollster that they oppose better education? Nobody. Who’s going to tell a pollster they are against better health care, you know?

    “To use a term my buddies say back in Winnsboro, that doesn’t make it wiggle. Joe found an issue that made it wiggle. That’s something Democrats in South Carolina have been lacking for years.””

    And then there is this which echoes my thoughts on what it will take for a Democrat to win a race for Governor:

    ““That issue is, to me, and always has been, casinos or luxury casinos,” Brown says. “If Democrats would embrace that, then all of the sudden they’ve got an appeal to independent voters, the Bubba voter, if you will, that we haven’t been able to get in South Carolina since ‘98 and the Hodges election. … Do a casino, do sports betting, do pari-mutuel betting on horses and whatnot. Then you’ve got the agricultural community behind you, because the equine industry is huge. … And there’s folks who want to go roll the dice every now and then. You get a coalition built up and pair that with the traditional Democratic coalition, and you’ve got a winning team. “You’ve just got to have a candidate with the guts to do it.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, Boyd always pushes that casino idea. He did it all during the campaign. He’s got quite a spiel.

      And every time Boyd pushed that idea, I thought, “Doug would LOVE this.”

      Basically, Boyd has no faith in people wanting to have a good governor. He thinks you have to dupe them into voting for you with some sort of gimmick. Something that appeals to some emotional impulse in the electorate.

      A lot of Democrats think that. A lot of them think that since the last Democrat elected governor ran on a gimmick — specifically, a gambling gimmick — then that’s what you have to do. They’re convinced that having ideas about how to govern well are worthless.

      And Boyd is being disingenuous by claiming he didn’t know what James meant by being an “education governor.” James talked specifics all the time, everywhere he went. People might forget some of it, but I refuse to believe that they never heard him say, over and over and over and over, that he would raise teacher pay to above the Southeastern average, and do it without raising taxes.

      That and expanding Medicaid were the two specifics he talked about the most. He didn’t say “Hello” to you without working those in. And I pushed it out CONSTANTLY, day after day, through every kind of communication you can name.

      So, to say the least, I have a lack of patience with people who say they didn’t hear him say what he intended to do…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I like Boyd, and he’s a really smart guy, but I find it pretty irritating when he says things like this: “You’ve just got to have a candidate with the guts to do it.”

          It doesn’t seem to occur to him that someone might have all the guts in the world, but simply not think Boyd’s idea is as terrific as Boyd thinks it is…

          1. Doug Ross

            Even if you think the casino idea is a bad one, if it gets you the votes you need to win, then you can do whatever else you want after the fact. The idea is to win first, then govern after. Smith ran a campaign to win the votes he would already get. Medicaid expansion won’t win over many Republicans.

            Also, is Smith’s plan for how he would raise teacher pay without raising taxes out there somewhere? If that is possible, what stopped him from proposing it before the campaign?

            1. Doug Ross

              The article also mentions that Cunningham blocked off 2-3 hours every day to do fundraising calls. Did James do the same?

              1. Bob Amundson

                Same article:
                “Ingredient Two: Raise, Spend and Communicate

                While seizing on real issues important to local voters is key, in politics — in South Carolina and beyond — the coin of the realm is still, well, who has the most coins. And bills and checks.

                Indeed, fundraising proved critical in South Carolina races where Democrats were able to flip seats, particularly in the First District congressional race.

                In a rarity for a big race in South Carolina, Democrats won the fundraising battle in that district. According to Federal Election Commission records, Cunningham raised about $1.9 million, as of the third quarter reporting period, while Arrington had raised about $1.4 million. Additionally, the National Republican Congressional Committee paid for more than $200,000 in ads on Arrington’s behalf, while the 314 Action PAC spent roughly a half million dollars on Cunningham’s behalf.”

                1. Doug Ross

                  That’s fine.. but there are still a lot of other factors. Arrington’s car accident surely impacted her campaign. And Cunningham’s personal charm and energy can’t be bought. It’s why I think Nikki Haley won – in person, she just comes across as a vibrant, intelligent individual. That helps.

                  I’m just skeptical that there is any amount of money that would flip certain areas of the state like Greenville/Spartanburg to vote Democrat. I was surprised to see that Smith lost Mandy’s home county of Lancaster.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Lancaster went for Trump by more than 60 percent, if I recall correctly. Not a surprise. They love Mandy there, but that doesn’t mean they’re gonna love that guy from Columbia.

                    Look instead at things like the city of Greenville. We lost there by 16 percentage points, in spite of a great deal of time and energy spent there. But that’s not the whole story. Vincent lost there by 36 percent. So maybe our efforts there paid off — just not enough.

                    Of course, we’ll never know how much of it was what we did. The reason we were spending so much time up there was that we knew Henry was, for a Republican, weak there. We’ll never know how much of the gain was the underlying weakness, and how much was the effort we put in BECAUSE of that weakness…

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                On the fundraising calls — yes. If you look at the calendar, you’ll see that time blocked off, day after day.

                But… I honestly can’t say how much of that was spent on calling. Some in the campaign maintain that, like so many candidates, he wasn’t doing the calling. I heard them gripe about it all the time.

                But I was there in his office listening to him make those calls on many occasions. Of course, truth be told, I was there to distract him from calling with media requests and other communications stuff. I did that a lot, because that was MY job. There was never enough time, and the competition between different priorities for every minute was fierce….

              3. Scout


                My precinct in West Columbia – Saluda River – went blue for James/Mandy. To my knowledge that has never happened ever except for Nikki Setzler.

                James got significantly more votes than Sheheen did against Haley the first time around in actual vote numbers (not percentages), but the turnout was just bigger all around, so it still wasn’t enough.

                Clearly James got more democratic votes than typically happens around here. But again, It just still wasn’t enough.

                Which still boggles my mind. Especially since you point out that Haley came across as vibrant and intelligent. You can’t seriously think that McMaster does.

                And in the debate McMaster totally threw his wife under the bus and then also tried to claim he’s a gentlemen.

                I think people just don’t pay attention.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Smith lost by 145,000 votes. How do Democrats make up that number in four years especially if they will have to start from scratch again with a new unknown candidate? Or will Smith run again? I doubt it. Whoever is running should start today…

                2. Doug Ross

                  I suppose Democrats can just wait for demographics to give them the advantage. That’s not too far off.

                3. Scout

                  Maybe he’ll run again. I agree, starting today is a good idea. Perhaps the answer to making up that difference is getting people to pay attention. I really believe that if people would actually look at the differences between McMaster and Smith, more would choose Smith. Like Brad said, where people knew anything about him, they chose him.

                  But people have to pay attention and want to educate themselves to see those differences. They have to be consciously engaged and be willing to have an open mind. That’s the battle.

                  People don’t watch the debates. They don’t go to websites. They just go to the voting booth and choose the R.

                  So that’s how you make up the difference. Get people to pay attention and be actively engaged. But I don’t know how to do that.

  6. Doug Ross

    Well, I don’t think you can expect 145,000 people to pay attention unless there is a reason to. The Democratic party needs to get on board with issues that demand attention.. And that’s not Medicaid. Like it or not, casinos and legal pot will get attention.. as would an overhaul of the tax system. You want Republican votes? Come up with a simplified income tax system.

  7. Doug Ross

    And if Mandy is running, she should start now by pushing for bills that prove she has executive leadership skills. Don’t tell us in 2022 that she is ready to lead. Prove it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, because a House member in the minority party, one of 170 in the Legislature, can accomplish just as much as a governor, the one person in the state that people pay the most attention to.

      You have the strangest standard for suitability for high office. It’s impossible to meet, and therefor disqualifies everyone to whom you apply it.

      A few days ago, you disqualified James by citing one of the things he was running on and saying, “He should have accomplished that in all those years in the House.”

      This, of course, ignores the main point. If you were able to accomplish all you wanted to accomplish in the lower office, why run for the higher office at all? Why not just remain a House member (something difficult to do if you believe in term limits, but perfectly OK in my book). One of the greatest motivations for running for high office is to accomplish the things you could NOT in the lower office.

      Do you see how the standards you apply doom everyone to fail?

      1. Doug Ross

        No, I don’t see it at all. According to the Smith campaign’s own website:

        “In the SC General Assembly, James has been a tireless advocate for a variety of issues. He has championed issues facing our veterans and active military. He has been a vocal leader for public education and governmental and ethics reform; fought for increased jobs and economic development across the state; provided protections for the environment, healthcare and the arts – all to make South Carolina the best it can be and a great place to live and raise a family. During his tenure, he has earned the respect of legislators from both sides of aisle and has established a solid reputation as someone who gets things done for South Carolinians.”

        So did he get things done for South Carolinians or was he powerless? It’s one or the other.

        If Mandy is powerless too, she should just admit that now. Tell her constituents that she doesn’t have the capability to take on Leatherman/Peeler/etc. and just sit in the back row and vote present.

        You don’t get to be a leader by saying you will be a leader one day. LEAD NOW!

        1. Doug Ross

          A leader would file bills to accomplish her goals, work the room to get votes, debate her colleagues with passion, forge partnerships across the aisle, call out the present leadership when she believes they are wrong, and work for the people – not for her political capital.

          Or she can talk about what she would do if she could if she wasn’t just a lowly female in a world run by men. Nikki Haley didn’t play nice.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I invite you to head over to the State House in January and try following Mandy around for a few days — if you think you can keep up.

            I found it pretty difficult, myself…

            But anyway, this…

            “A leader would file bills to accomplish her goals, work the room to get votes, debate her colleagues with passion, forge partnerships across the aisle, call out the present leadership when she believes they are wrong, and work for the people…”

            … pretty much sounds like a description of Mandy.

            By the way, if you’d like to see her doing that without waiting for January, check this Tweet:

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That was on my birthday. I think I posted that from the parking lot outside the Verizon where I had just activated my new iPhone, which made the rest of the campaign MUCH easier, as my old iPhone 5s had been on it’s last legs.

              Just BEFORE I went into Verizon, I had posted this, showing the vote on what she was talking about…

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              I suspect that somewhere in all the posting I did on social media during the campaign, there’s probably a good answer to any point y’all raise that’s remotely related to the campaign…

              I feel pretty confident that if everyone in South Carolina had been following that feed and really paying attention, we’d have won. Because if you roll all those hundreds — or was it thousands? — of Tweets together, the total argument is pretty overwhelming.

              Meanwhile, if you had followed Henry on social media, you’d have found, well, next to nothing. There just wasn’t much going on there…

              1. Doug Ross

                Sorry, but speaking about overriding a veto that ends up with 100% support isn’t exactly leadership.

                Let’s see her do something from the start with her own bill that is meaningful. How about the medical marijuana for vets? Is that something she can push through or not?

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Maybe she will. Although I identify that one a bit more in my mind with James.

                  Again, you’re building an interesting logical trap for people as you judge them. Some would say, “Hey, she did a hell of a job selling that override — not one member voted against her.” But you say, “Obviously, that was no accomplishment on her part — they all agreed!”

                  But you’re right, in this case. Lawmakers were pretty ticked at the gov over that one. I only used it because you were asking about how she conducts herself as a lawmaker, and I happened to have video handy of this one thing.

                  Of course, that brings up a larger point. Lawmakers are ticked off at Henry a LOT, and for the same reasons they didn’t like Sanford or Haley.

                  Henry does what his two predecessors did — take positions purely in order to strike a pose. He doesn’t seem to care whether he gets overridden or not. As long as he has struck his pose — against “sanctuary cities,” or against Planned Parenthood — he’s satisfied.

                  This is why one GOP lawmaker said to me months ago that he couldn’t publicly support James for governor, but thank God we have a secret ballot. I’m thinking there might have been quite a number of Republican lawmakers who voted for us.

                  Why? Not because they agree with James on everything (for instance, they sustained Henry’s Planned Parenthood veto), but because they knew he would work with them in good faith, listening to them and respecting them, and would sincerely try to get things done for the people of SC. That’s why… remember when you asked me how he’d raise teacher pay without raising taxes? I seem to recall a conversation like that recently. Well, his answer wasn’t one that fits easily in a soundbite. He said he’d sit down with the chair of Ways and Means and the other leaders and revamp priorities to find the money for it. He wasn’t going to try to dictate in advance where the money would come from.

                  To me, that was the best possible answer, and it’s one of the many reasons why he would have been a far better and more effective governor than Henry.

                  The sad thing is, lawmakers thought Henry would be a governor who would work with them to try to accomplish things. They were bitterly disappointed to find out how little he cared about actual policy and how it affects real people…

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