In last few weeks before election day, most candidates are running blind (Capitol Updates)

blindfolded manSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Just 24 days until November 8th, election day. That’s the day every candidate running for office — from President of the United States to local office — is looking for. Most candidates don’t know for sure whether they’re winning or losing. Some, usually incumbents, have a good feel for where they stand because they’ve been there before. They’ve learned how to gauge the response they’re getting from voters, and they can evaluate whether their challenger is running a good campaign. But they don’t know for sure.

And candidates never know what’s going to hit them between now and election day that could change the race. The last few weeks of a campaign can bring anything from the spreading of false rumors to your opponent unexpectedly going up on television with a blockbuster new message. If your opponent thinks he is losing, he may dig up something from your past that you won’t have time or money to explain. Campaigns can get nasty toward the end. No one likes to lose, and some will throw anything they can at you to see if it sticks.

Most races short of statewide races and perhaps larger metropolitan local elections don’t have the money to do late-race polling. What money candidates have is better spent on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. So most candidates are “flying blind” at the end of the race. There’s really only one thing to do, and that’s to keep working as hard and long as you can right up to the last hour of the last day of the campaign. No matter how tired and worn out you are. Candidates in competitive races spend every last bit of their physical and emotional energy. For most serious candidates it’s like the stretch run of a long, hard race, except you can’t let up because you can’t see if you’re ahead or behind. And you know that defeat or victory is right around the corner. I’ve tried both, and victory is a lot better.

So it would be the rare candidate who, at this stage of campaign season, is not counting the days until it’s over and they can return to being a normal human being. Whether you think you’re ahead or behind, you’re leaving it all out on the field, to use the sports metaphor. You don’t want to lose because of that door you didn’t knock or that meeting you didn’t attend or that post card you didn’t send. Candidates are running on adrenaline now. When election day comes and the votes are in and the watch party is over and they’re headed to the house, they will be very, very tired. But they’ll be a lot less tired if they won.

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Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

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