Two of the biggest surprises of election night (or week) ’22 could be the victory by Democrats in House district WA-03, and Lauren Boebert’s near defeat in CO-3.
These two races were given less than a 3 percent chance of victory by FiveThirtyEight.
What put them within striking distance or put them over the top were two things: The first was that the GOP nominees in these seats were so extreme they had no chance of winning over independents and moderate Republicans. And the second thing is that running against loud-mouthed MAGA acolytes often opens the floodgates of low-dollar support.
Now, these races also demonstrate the importance of contesting every race — no matter the odds. Here are three strategic reasons why every race must be contested:
It assists down-ballot candidates.
Having strong candidates at the top of the ticket can help folks running for other offices by drawing out supporters and volunteers, and increasing base turnout. Beto O’Rourke is a prime example. While he fell short in his Texas gubernatorial campaign against Greg Abbott, he stumped across the state with candidates for Congress, the state legislature, and local office. He also ensured that his well-funded effort put money into building a statewide GOTV operation to help him and others running across the state.
It ties up national resources.
With money flying into races left and right, there are only so many resources to go around, and important decisions must be made. When a campaign is tying up an opponent who should be relatively safe, you force their state or national party to spend resources that could be spent more effectively elsewhere. Take, for example, J.D. Vance, who received over $40 million in support from McConnell-aligned Super PACs. This money, if spent in Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, or Arizona could have helped ensure a Republican majority, instead, it was spent bailing out Vance, who Tim Ryan had on the ropes.
You might win the campaign lottery.
Sometimes everything clicks, lightning strikes, and a campaign pulls off a huge upset. We’ve seen in years past scandal wreck a campaign with just a few weeks to go or a wave election help elect candidates who were on no one’s radar.
Simply put you can’t beat someone with no one. There’s no greater example of this than WA-03’s new congresswoman-elect: Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.
The 34-year-old auto shop owner defeated MAGA extremist Joe Kent in a district Donald Trump won by more than five points in 2020. Kent was the exact kind of candidate that didn’t stand a chance in 2022. If no Democrat ran here, the party would have been locked out of the general election, and no matter what, a Republican would have won this seat.
The lesson is: when you run good candidates, you can help the rest of the ticket, you can tie up your opposition party, and sometimes lightning strikes, and you pull off an upset of the decade.
Nick Daggers is a co-founding partner of the 1833 Group, a Chicago-based Democratic political consulting firm focusing on fundraising. He has over fifteen years of fundraising experience working for candidates running from local office to the U.S. Senate.