Do you ever wonder why there are political upsets? Sure there a plenty of times when the underdog wins, but how do you explain the times when the underdog wins and no one seem to anticipate it? When you look back on an underdog's surprise victory, you will usually find a factor that doesn't show up in the polls and is missed by the chattering class. Maybe you will find that the winner was unusually dynamic, good at the door and spent month after month talking to thousands of voters.
Traditional sources don't usually track a story like that, so the pundits usually miss it. But occasionally, someone makes such an extraordinary effort that it gets national attention. Check out this article about District 17 Senate Candidate Wendy Rogers--in of all places, AARP Magazine.
...Wendy Rogers does her bicycle campaigning solo, while her husband, retired Air Force major Hal Kunnen, keeps things running at the home-inspection and termite-eradication company the couple started in 1995. (Their 23-year-old son just completed a tour of duty in the Marines and has moved back to Tempe to get his Ph.D. in electrical engineering; their daughter is a junior at the Honors Barrett College at Arizona State University and is living in a house her parents helped her buy using the first-time homebuyer's tax credit.) "I miss my partner," says Kunnen. "She's the outgoing type and has a skill set that she's able to use in our business. But I believe we need people like her to do what needs to be done at the state level."
When the voter in the Tempe tract house finally opened his door, Rogers stepped back as she appraised her potential constituent. A registered Independent, he was a burly man wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt, with multiple facial piercings and tattoos on every limb. Rogers quickly listed the issues she's most interested in: tax problems facing small business owners, Arizona's education budget, and increasing the effectiveness of the state's mental health services. The voter's eyes grew wide. He told Rogers that he worked at a group home for mentally ill adolescents and the state had slashed its funding. All the employees voluntarily took a 15 percent pay cut to keep the home open.
As he spoke, Rogers's eyes grew moist. "That's an issue that means a lot to me," she said. "I got my master's in social work, focusing on the mentally ill, and I started out in the Air Force as a social worker. I think Arizona can do a lot better with the resources it has."
The voter's eyes also welled up, and Rogers asked for his cell phone number and e-mail address. "If I get elected, I want you to be on my advisory committee for mental health," she said. "We need people with your real-world experience advising on policy." She reached out to shake his hand. "You're a great American."
As she headed to the next doorstep, the voter called after her, "Good luck!"
Rogers turned back, grinning broadly at her newfound ally. "I'm gonna win!" she said.