Idaho’s Raul Labrador won his May 25 Republican primary for a seat in the U.S. House with a brain trust that included a high school student and a budget so meager the campaign’s ad operation consisted of a few radio spots and a flier mailed to 2,500 voters.
“We hoped most of them had multiple personalities,” joked Labrador adviser Dennis Mansfield.
Labrador, along with Senate candidates Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sharron Angle, R-Nev., and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., won their races in part because they didn’t come across as overly polished pols. Their shoestring budgets and rickety campaign operations gave them an authentic, unpackaged appeal.
But while “tea party” and other grass-roots activists may have helped to propel these candidates in the first round, phase two requires competing in “very sophisticated, expensive and probably negative” general election contests, said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “That calls for a different kind of discipline and expertise.”