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The Risks of Being a Political Outsider The Risks of Being a Political Outsider

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The Risks of Being a Political Outsider


Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.(Chet Susslin)

Along with perks of being an outsider comes the baggage. Such candidates are not as vetted, they are inexperienced with the rigors of a yearlong political campaign, aren't media-savvy and some even struggle fundraising. They don't always take well to the marching orders delivered by their consultants and other campaign personnel. For all of these reasons, they're likely to make a lot of rookie mistakes - and in some cases, have trouble getting past the starting line. (Just look at Herman Cain, who only ran unsuccessfully once for the Senate before mounting a presidential campaign.) One of the main keys to Johnson's success was his ability to stay on message. He relentlessly focused on his jobs message and as a plainspoken but knowledgeable Midwesterner, was an effective communicator. Who can forget his effective UPS-esque television ad? Even as Democrats tried to take him off his game and portray him as a right-wing extremist akin to Sharron Angle or Christine O'Donnell, Johnson maintained a steady message. Meanwhile, Feingold tried a number of strategies and advertisements, as his team searched for something that would stick. In Missouri, GOP businessmen are running in the Senate and gubernatorial races. Businessman John Brunner is running for the Senate, and has a chance to make a splash in a GOP field that has thus far underwhelmed. But Brunner was taken off message recently, with word that his business suffered layoffs. He's already released a couple of television ads, but he appears a little stiff and not completely at ease in the spots. Businessman Dave Spence, who is running for governor in the Show-Me State is very wealthy and could put a lot of personal money into his campaign. But he served on the board of a company that received TARP money, which could be an issue in a GOP primary. Elsewhere, we've seen some candidates fall flat, while it is too early to pass judgment on others. Wisconsin Democrat Rob Zerban, once a highly touted recruit against Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the House Budget chairman, hasn't been able to raise money at anywhere near the clip many expected to see from him. Neither has Ricardo Sanchez, the retired lieutenant general-turned-Texas Senate candidate who entered the race to much hype. He's barely raised any money, and Democrats are now privately writing this open seat contest off. Then there are the candidates who made a first pass at politics, struggled, and are now back for more. Republican Linda McMahon spent $50 million of her own money in Connecticut last year, lost in a terrific political environment for the GOP, and is making a second bid for the Senate this time around. McMahon's 2010 campaign had its strengths, but her personal background in professional wrestling left doubts about her character in the minds of many voters and alienated many women who did not take well to the world of professional wrestling and the industry's treatment of women. She's spending much of her early time this cycle tying to reach out to female voters. In New York's 1st District in 2010, self-funding Republican businessman Randy Altschuler lost by a very slim margin to Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop. During the race, Democrats pored over details of his business outsourcing jobs overseas for attack ads. He's seeking a rematch against Bishop in 2012. In Pennsylvania, Republican businessman Tim Burns fell short in a 2010 special House election - and was attacked by Democrats by being a wealthy businessman out-of-touch with the interests of the working-class. In 2012, he's making a Senate bid. While many have fallen short, Johnson's not the only recent political newcomer to find success. Republican governors Rick Scott in Florida and Rick Snyder in Michigan won in 2010, and their personal fortunes went a long way in propelling them to victory. In California, however, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman waged competitive statewide campaigns last year, but neither won. And Democrat Jeff Greene's Florida Senate campaign was a bust as his economic message fell victim to salacious stories of debauchery aboard his yacht.

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