The Washington Post

The top 5 most disastrous campaigns of 2014 — so far

This Tuesday, June 3, 2014 file photo, Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., leaves the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite,File)

Happy Labor Day weekend! In politics, this marks the final period of calm before a whirlwind nine weeks leading up to Election Day.

It's also a good time to reflect on the 2014 election cycle so far -- full of dramatic twists, turns, unexpected triumphs and bitter disappointments. Sometimes all in the same day.

There have also been a handful of unmitigated disasters. We're talking about the campaigns that failed miserably, after kicking off full of promise, in most cases.

Today, we take a look at the five most disastrous campaigns so far -- although there's no doubt that between now and Nov. 4, we'll find a few more to add to this list -- in alphabetical order. Who did we miss? The comments section awaits your input!

1. Kerry Bentivolio: Bentivolio is an incumbent congressman who raised hardly any money. His campaign manager left in the middle of the campaign. He only received about half (!) the vote of his primary challenger.

The Michigan Republican arrived on Capitol Hill as an unlikely winner. He's headed home after a single term.

2. Matt Bevin: When you take on the top-ranking Senate Republican in a primary, you'd better be ready to run a flawless campaign. Bevin's, a Louisville businessman, was anything but. He suggested that legalizing gay marriage could lead to parents being able to marry their children. He railed against the TARP bank bailout program in the campaign, only to be embarrassed by the revelation that he'd once backed it. He appeared at a pro-cockfighting rally. (Yes, cockfighting is illegal in Kentucky.) And Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) crushed him by 25 points.

3. Ed FitzGerald: Democrats had high hopes for the Cuyahoga County executive's general election battle against Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). Those hopes were crushed this summer, as The Fix's Aaron Blake explained this week:

First was the poor fundraising, then a report that he was found by police in a car at 4:30 a.m. with a woman who was not his wife -- and that he didn't have a driver's license for a decade -- and finally nearly all of his top campaign staff deserting him.

FitzGerald's campaign has all but packed it in, announcing last week that he would make a "significant investment in [the Ohio Democratic Party's] field and voter turnout program." In other words, they don't want to drag down all the other Democrats on the ticket -- the ones who have, you know, an actual chance of winning.

4. Ed Jany: After Democrat Alex Sink lost to now-Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) in the most closely-watched special election of the year, Washington Democrats didn't fret. They kept talking about how the electorate would be so much more favorable in the fall, allowing them a great chance to recapture the swing district just west of Tampa.

But you can't win if you don't play. And Democrats aren't playing because they don't have a candidate. After Sink declined to run again, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pinned its hopes on retired Col. Ed Jany, a political newcomer. After launching a much-hyped outsider campaign in May, he abruptly dropped out less than two weeks later, citing an inability to balance politics with his professional career. A Tampa Bay Times report that found Jany fudged his educational background probably had more to do with it.

5. John Walsh: For a while, things were looking good for the Montana Democrat. He was appointed to the Senate in February, affording him more visibility back home. His fundraising pace picked up as the year went on. But those were reduced to non-factors after a New York Times report revealed Walsh had plagiarized large chunks of a paper he submitted for his master's degree. His campaign handled the whole thing poorly, too, only half-admitting what he did was wrong and making a factual error in its explanation. Walsh dropped out and was replaced by a no-name Democrat. Now, Montana is firmly in the Republican column heading into the fall.

He may be off the ballot, but that achievement did land him on another list: the five most spectacular political flameouts of 2014 -- so far.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debated Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Highlights from Saturday's GOP debate
Except for an eminent domain attack from Bush, Trump largely avoided strikes from other candidates.

Christie went after Rubio for never having been a chief executive and for relying on talking points.

Carson tried to answer a question on Obamacare by lamenting that he hadn't been asked an earlier question about North Korea.
The GOP debate in 3 minutes
Play Video
We have all donors in the audience. And the reason they're booing me? I don't want their money!
Donald Trump, after the debate crowd at St. Anselm's College booed him for telling Jeb Bush to be "quiet."
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She's planning to head Sunday to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 38%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.