When we heard that Washington State Wire had broken down and graded each aspect of the failed Jay Inslee Presidential campaign, we here at Shift were curious. Then we were shocked when we saw they gave an overall “B” grade to a campaign that was broke, obtained 0% support in nearly all polls, and dropped out five months prior to the casting of a ballot. While the other bottom-tier campaigns of Bullock, Steyer, Bennett, Sestak, Delaney, de Blasio, and Williamson were slugging forward, Inslee was left behind, stuck in the mud. We decided to review Wire’s grades. Yes, we are grading the grader.
Wire graded Inslee’s Media Relations an “A.” Wire cited a January The Atlantic’s puff piece (did anybody read it?) and a rushed awkward farewell appearance on Rachel Maddow’s show as proof that Inslee’s “media relations team hit home run after home run throughout the campaign.” In reality, the first example (The Atlantic) was a bloop single in spring training and the second example (Maddow) was a sacrifice fly.
A sitting liberal governor running on THE liberal hot button issue should receive hundreds of flattering portrayals in the liberal media. The environmental candidate should be competing with Beto O’Rourke for number of puff pieces. It is an easy task to book an appearance on Maddow to say he was quitting. All shows on the 24-hour news networks would book any candidate who will break the news they are dropping out. Rarely does anyone receive an “A” grade for completing a couple of easy assignments while failing to complete hundreds of others.
Wire graded Inslee’s Messaging a “B+.” There are many examples of how Inslee failed to message properly his “climate change” message. The most noteworthy was during the first debate when Inslee could have responded that climate change was the greatest threat to our security. Instead, Inslee went for the quick applause line and said Trump was the biggest threat. Wire admits that the campaign failed to communicate any other message besides “climate change.” To not “message” your primary issue and fail at messaging all other issues certainly does not warrant a “B+” grade.
Wire graded Inslee’s Fundraising an “A-.“ Wire claims the high grade is due to reaching the 130,000 contributors (of $1 or more) threshold needed to appear in the 3rd debate. It took Inslee’s campaign five and a half months to reach this threshold while it took fellow candidate Tom Steyer five and a half weeks. Wire failed to evaluate that during the second quarter Inslee spent more money than he raised, failed to report over a hundred thousand in bills to make his Q2 FEC report look better, and only obtain eight contributors to his Super PAC. One would need a strong pair of blinders to give this campaign an A- grade for fundraising.
Wire graded Inslee’s Field a “D.” Wire cited a Politico story that said Inslee had no field operation in Iowa. This is not the fault of the field team. It is impossible to organize supporters if there are no supporters to organize. In a Manmouth poll of Iowa taken in early August, Inslee had 0% support. It is the media team, the messaging team, and the candidate who are responsible for attracting supporters. Even if there were supporters, there was no money available to organize them or provide them with materials. It is a bit harsh to grade the field effort so negatively when there were no willing volunteers to do the work or any money to give them materials.
Wire graded candidate Inslee a “B+.” Wire stated, “He is affable, informed, and passionate. He’s charismatic and charming,” as the reason for the high grade (the same could be said about 90% of all candidates running for local offices across the country). Wire went on to say, “folks appeared to gravitate to him on the trail in meaningful ways.” If this is true, why did he end up with 0% support?
Wire then went on to blame Inslee for the turning point that led to the campaign’s downfall – his performance at the first debate. Wire wrote, “When the lights were on, when the nation was watching, Inslee didn’t seem up to the task.” How can you grade a candidate so high when he fails to attract supporters and is the cause of the campaign’s downfall?
Wire graded Inslee’s Management a “C.” The folks at the Wire gave them this average grade because they believe they didn’t support their “strong” fundraising and communications efforts and didn’t do enough to build a field effort. This is an odd assessment because the communications effort failed to attract supporters and even if they did, the fundraising team didn’t raise enough money to pay for a field effort. The Management probably deserves a low grade, but not for the reasons given.
An overall “B” grade is an extremely high grade for the effort put forth. This would be like giving a “B” grade to a student who showed up to class for a couple of weeks, completed a few of the easy tasks while either failing or not handing in the other assignments, then left school before any test were taken. At best Inslee’s campaign deserves a D-.