2006 – “Mom, Dad, I don’t think we’re going to make it”

If you haven’t been following along, in honor of our recent sale of the original headquarters, I’ve been throwing it back with old stories about where this company has been.

Two stories about the 2006 election cycle – the last cycle where we focused 100 percent on raising money for Iowa candidates.

So let’s recap the political state of play.

Iowa had five Congressmen, four Republicans – Nussle, King, Leach, and Latham and one Democrat – Boswell.

Jim Nussle’s would-be run for Governor was the world’s worst-kept secret. He did not immediately clear the GOP primary field. Rumors persisted through early 2005 that Doug Gross would run again, although he ultimately did not. Bob Vander Plaats was in.

Bill Dix, Brian Kennedy, and Mike Whalen were all in for the open Nussle seat. Leach and Latham ran for re-election. Jeff Lamberti ran against Leonard Boswell. Christopher Rants was Speaker of the House.

Nussle, Dix, Leach, Latham, and Rants were all our clients.

Two things happened in 2006 that would foretell what was to come for Capitol Resources and eventually for the business you’d come to know as Campaign Headquarters today.

Of all the candidates we worked for in 2006, we had the most direct connection with the Dix family. I cannot count the number of afternoons at his dining room table, drinking Gerri Dix‘s lemonade dialing and dialing and dialing for dollars.

Bill Dix was the last candidate for whom I wrote speeches. I helped write his announcement speech and the stump speech he gave at Republican dinners the first few months. While his platform was pretty typical for a Republican at that time – lower taxes, less government, pro-life – Bill had a unique voice and a special way of delivering that message that was his alone.

For those of you who worked in the 2006 election cycle, you probably remember it was the last mid-term cycle of the Bush 43 Presidency. The Iraq War was immensely unpopular, and Republicans had voted for the largest increase in government entitlements in a generation. It was the year Republicans lost the House and made Nancy Pelosi speaker. If Republicans weren’t going to be Republicans … well, you might as well vote for Democrats.

So when you convince a candidate like that to deliver a Washington, DC-style speech over and over again … well, it’s not going to work. Bill stopped saying “change the status quo.” His yard signs lost his trademark slogan, “Let’s Make it Happen.”

When I expressed concern, I was told in no uncertain times to stay in my own lane. And to this day, I regret that I did indeed stay in my own lane.

On primary night, I watched as Bill told his parents, “Mom, Dad, I don’t think we’re going to make it,” before making his concession speech.

Bill may have lost that primary no matter what. He was running against a self-funder. He wasn’t from the right part of the district. He had a statehouse record that an outsider could attack. But the fact is, I didn’t fight as hard as I could.

As I told you before, a fundraiser may get their paycheck from the candidates … but you work for the donors.

Nearly every donor I knew had maxed out to Bill Dix. And I had to answer for that.

These days, we make phone calls and text messages for hundreds of campaigns. It’s easy to forget as they fly across your desk one after another that running for office is the culmination of a life’s dream for someone, whether it’s Congress or Town Council.

When we jam them all in the same bucket, with the same tired old talking points, we are failing them mightily. When I start to forget that, I think of Bill Dix, and I know we can do better.

Stay tuned for the second story…

Nicole Schlinger always hard at work for CHQ clients