What’s Next for Spence?
I sat down with Dave Spence to review his experience running for governor.
Turning Point of the Campaign
Spence saw one major turning point of the campaign come in August. After winning the primary handily they ran a poll and were within single digits of Nixon. But, to conserve cash, he went off the air. And during that downtime, Todd Akin gave his famous interview with Charles Jaco. Nixon, meanwhile, ran ads unabated. By the time Spence came back on the air – six weeks later – they were in the hole again, down 20-ish.
Part of the reason they didn’t keep running ads was because Spence never landed the big contributions from the heavy GOP donors. That’s presumably because they assumed Spence could self-fund – which he did. When the 30 Day After reports comes out this week, Spence’s total contribution will likely be in the high $6 million range.
Akin Sucks Attention Away
Spence felt Akin’s controversial candidacy prevented a fuller debate about the issues facing the state. Akin was the primary focus of political writers, and therefore they were less concerned with pinning Nixon down on positions. In fact Nixon got what amounted to a pass on several issues. His recent move on Medicaid expansion, for example, was a surprise because he refused to state a position on it during the campaign. And the press refused to insist on an answer.
The Akin impact changed the trajectory of the race as Spence found it was difficult to raise the issues he wanted. But Spence was realistic in his assessment. He was explicit in saying that he didn’t think he’d necessarily have won without the Akin cloud, only that the dynamic of the race would have been different – and more favorable to him.
What’s next for Spence?
One of his favorite parts of his campaign was meeting new people – particularly in rural Missouri – and seeing first-hand the diversity of the state. Accordingly, Spence is clear that he plans to stay engaged in the future. The form of that engagement has yet to shape. It may be in a role within the state party – formal or informal. And he didn’t rule out a future campaign down the road, but has no plans or visions of that now.