There are some truths that aren’t just hot takes.When someone comes to the table with actual math, data, or knowledge, that isn’t so much a hot take as it is information about what happened inside a campaign. So, for example, if members of a campaign staff or party apparatus were to come out and say: “Okay, we don’t know about the rest, but we know this one part really did go wrong, and here is what we think” that avoids just the blanket statements that make big assumptions. In many states, you are going to have races that can be quickly summarized: a candidate didn’t work. They didn’t raise any money. They didn’t have the prerequisite desire for the position. Those things can all be done in a way that leaves a path forward and says: okay, here is how we fix things.- Advertisement – I look at the Kansas map and one race that stands out to me is House District 70. Here, the same two candidates have faced off multiple years. They faced off in 2016, 2018, 2020. In the first two years this Republican district went, well, Republican. With the Republican representative receiving roughly ~5,400 votes. In 2020? There were 8,186 votes for the Republican—almost a three thousand vote bump this year. I’ve observed similar trends in a lot of red states where looking at the data, it was often Republicans who didn’t normally turn out who came to the ballot box. I have some theories on that—but until we start seeing better data, all we can do is say: wow, that is interesting and start listening.UGHIt is often easiest to blame everyone but the campaign itself. To say: hey, it was a vendor. It was a national trend. It was the environment. It was any other reason. All of those things have an impact. That, however, doesn’t mean that every campaign can’t learn a little bit every cycle. Campaigns can run in absolutely unwinnable districts and still come back to the table and say: okay, what went right? What went wrong? Be candid with yourself. Don’t start yelling and screaming and blaming, but start openly assessing the things that were under your control that you wish you had done differently.- Advertisement – When I talk to campaign staff and candidates, most will tell you they are open to a postmortem, a reconsideration, second-guessing, even some blame if it is due. If you are going to state your opinion though, keep it directed and specific items that you can address or are things that can be rectified. Saying: “We need a better long-term investment strategy into party infrastructure, and that may not pay off for years” is different than saying: “our party sucks.” There are, in fact, bad county and state organizations. Throwing bombs at them though has to come with a combination of truth and solution. Before you pronounce problems, see if you can find out solutions and talk to those who know if there was ever any attempt at solutions to problems you see, and how those worked out. Your criticism can help make organizations better if you do it productively—and if you decide yourself to take on that change, just do it, run for your own local party office, whether it is a county chair or a position on a state committee.Most precinct-level data isn’t available … yet.It will be some time before complete precinct-level data is back that can be matched with voter targets and ballot returns. Before we know how many of our voters actually came out and voted, or how successful our voter contact plan was, keep in mind we don’t know the entire universe of the election just yet.- Advertisement – Being willing to do that makes you better—every single cycle. Part of the growth you want to have as a volunteer, a campaign worker, or a candidate is to sit back and say: hmm, I liked this, and I didn’t like this item in our campaign. Hindsight is always 20/20. Even if it would have made no difference in the outcome of your race, looking back at those decisions can give you something to pass on to the next candidate to run or to yourself if you run again. Too many candidates say: “wipe it from your mind, just pick up and move on.” While you don’t want to dwell on a loss, taking some time to plot back through it is often comforting and can help you think about your race from a new perspective.If a take can be summed up in 140 characters or by people who don’t live by you … it generally sucks.It takes a lot more time to develop a really informed situation. There are a lot of people who will want to make assessments about your county, campaign, state, or district who have absolutely no idea what your district looks like. Value those closer to the situation far more than people far away. They have a better understanding and they have institutional knowledge that just can’t be gained from a big board. – Advertisement –
MATTHEW KUTZ/Herald photoThe Badgers’ high-flying offense, No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring, will test the conference’s best defense when it takes on the Penn State Nittany Lions this Saturday.Led by running back and Heisman candidate Brian Calhoun, who leads the nation with 21 rushing touchdowns and is fifth in all-purpose yards, the Badgers look to tame the Lions.With matching records in the Big Ten (5-1) and overall (8-1), the Badgers and Nittany Lions find themselves fighting for a chance to rise to the top of the conference standings all alone. Penn State, with versatile quarterback Michael Robinson, has the athleticism and quickness that could cause headaches for a slower, less experienced Badger defense.”These guys bring just a more comprehensive look of speed from sideline to sideline,” defensive coordinator Bret Bielema said. “There’s also some nuances and you know [Michael Robinson] probably runs the quarterback draw better than everybody we’ve seen to this point. Obviously he can run the football, but also, he’s developed his throwing skills — he has a very strong arm and can throw the ball very effectively on the move to one of his four or five wide receivers who can change the ballgame in one play.”While his defense hasn’t performed as well as he had hoped, Bielema credits his unit for never giving up.”We’ve given up a lot more yards than I ever anticipated or wanted to, and same thing with points, but the bottom line is, I think we’ve been able to have guys that compete on every play,” Bielema said. “They haven’t given up at any given time, and I don’t expect that to happen anytime in the future.”Defensively, Wisconsin has been banged up, and although they’re not making leaps and bounds in returning guys from injury, they’re gradually getting key players back. Middle linebacker Mark Zalewski is practicing again and expected to play on Saturday after having missed last week’s game.”[Zalewski] looks pretty good,” said Bielema. “I think he’ll be 100 percent.”As for Robinson, at a solid 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, he not only likes to make the big plays but is willing to take the big hits as well.”[Robinson] is a strong one,” Bielema said. “He made some people look silly out there on just his ability to lower his shoulder. He’s another running back out there and he isn’t going to run out of bounds, he’s not going to look to take a knee or a slide or anything like that — he likes to get as much as he can out of every opportunity he has.”As it is, Robinson has gotten plenty of opportunities and no matter where his coaches put him he has been successful. Last year he played at tailback, took snaps under center as the quarterback and even slotted up as a receiver.His versatility can hurt a team in many ways — like throwing to one of his big receivers or tucking the ball in and running for a big gain. He definitely can do it all. Cumulatively, he has 23 touchdowns, including 10 on the ground to go along with 570 yards and 13 via the air as he has accumulated 1754 yards passing.”Robinson makes the whole click,” Bielema said. “He makes the wide receivers good, the running backs good, but pieces it all together, and he’s the guy that comes through for them.”On the offensive side, the Badgers will try to wear down the Nittany Lions’ front seven by giving the ball to their workhorse, Brian Calhoun. Although this front seven is good at nullifying the run, holding explosive Lawrence Marhoney of Minnesota to just 48 yards on 16 carries, Calhoun can still come out of the backfield and be very effective on screens.But the ingredient to success for the Badgers is ball control.”It’s a time-management game,” said Bielema. “Coach Alvarez is a big believer in time of possession.”While that may be a challenge against the top defense and against the explosiveness of Michael Robinson and the Nittany Lion offense, the Badgers will have to contend with the fans as well. Beaver Stadium is the second-largest stadium in the nation and with a Big Ten title on the line, they’ll be that much hungrier.But Bielema stressed that he and the players are not too concerned about the fans or the monumental weight of this game and will just stick to the game plan, hopefully coming out on top.”I don’t think our guys are going to get caught up in anything other than trying to be 1-0 this week,” Bielema said.