The worst campaign of 2013

December 10, 2013

On Monday, we chose the best campaign of 2013.  Today, we pick the worst one.


This is a sad face. Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post

NOMINEES FOR WORST CAMPAIGN

* Barbara Buono (D-N.J.)

* Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D-S.C.)

* Ken Cuccinelli (R-Va.)

* Chris Quinn (D-NYC)

* Anthony Weiner (D-NYC)

And the winner is...Chris Quinn.

Chris Quinn had been running to be the next Mayor of New York City for most of the 12 years of Michael Bloomberg's three terms in office. And that candidacy was entirely centered around a single idea: New Yorkers loved Bloomberg and whoever was seen as his natural heir would have a major leg up in the Democratic primary to replace him.

That theory was what led Quinn, as speaker of the City Council, to fatefully support Bloomberg's successful effort to repeal the city's two-term limit in 2009. And it's why, at least in the early going, Quinn had a wide lead over a group of has-been's (Anthony Weiner) and who-the-heck-is-that's (NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.)

Then it all went wrong for Quinn. Rather than seeking a continuation of the Bloomberg Administration, Democratic primary voters turned against the Mayor and began to agitate for a major break from his style of leadership. Suddenly Quinn found herself strapped to the hull of a sinking political ship. While de Blasio was blasting Bloomberg's policies as favoring the one percent at the expense of the average New Yorker, Quinn was slowly but surely realizing that she needed to get out from under the Bloomberg blimp as soon as humanely possible.

(Make sure to check out the New York Times' awesome mini-documentary on Quinn's campaign -- "Hers to Lose".)

She tried to do just that by forcefully condemning Bloomberg's "stop and frisk" policy but that move was undermined by the fact that Quinn had previously said she would retain NYC police commissioner Ray Kelly, who had put that policy into action, if she was elected mayor.

The die was cast. Quinn was the status quo candidate in a change election. (The parallels -- and mistakes -- that Quinn made are strikingly similar to the missteps of Hillary Clinton's campaign against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.)  Wrote New York Daily News columnist Josh Greenman of Quinn's campaign:

When, rightly or wrongly, you’re perceived as a wholly owned subsidiary of someone who’s commanded the New York City stage for a dozen years, you are compromised.

And, given the electorate’s increasingly restive mood, the Bloomberg association was compounded by Quinn’s support from all three newspaper editorial boards — which may well have given voters the sneaking suspicion that a fix was in.

Quinn made avery big bet in 2009 that Bloomberg's popularity would sustain all the way through 2013. That big a miscalculation -- and the anchor it became on her chances -- makes her a worthy pick for the worst campaign of the year.

Tomorrow: The best ad of 2013

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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