Although the mayor’s race is apparently a dead heat, in a few days after next Saturday’s election, commentators will trot out authoritative explanations on why the winning candidate prevailed, as if they knew what would happen all along. It’s an age-old convention of political journalism. In the wake of a tight, unpredictable election, write a definitive account that makes it seem like the outcome was preordained. We’re not putting down this practice; we plan to do it ourselves. In fact, here’s a rough draft of our post-election spin, four days before the election:
Why Leppert Won:
Focused, disciplined campaign concentrated on the candidate, not his opponent
Not getting in the mud with the Oakley campaign convinced voters he was the right man to lead City Hall
Solid effort in Oak Cliff and South Dallas sealed the win
Why Leppert Lost:
Campaign was too set in its ways, unwilling to engage Oakley
Failing to respond to Oakley’s attack ads proved fatal
Lame effort in Oak Cliff and South Dallas took away time and resources from his base in North Dallas
Why Oakley Won:
Aggressive, rough-and-tumble campaign bruised and battered the soft Leppert
Emphasizing Leppert’s Republican roots was a brilliant maneuver now that the Democrats rule the roost in Dallas
Effort in North Dallas and Lake Highlands sealed the win
Why Oakley Lost:
Mean-spirited, misleading campaign backfired badly
Emphasizing Leppert’s Republican roots flopped in a city that takes a nonpartisan view of its mayor’s race
Lame effort in North Dallas and Lake Highlands took away time and resources from his base
The truth is nobody really knows how Saturday is going to turn out. Oakley’s negative advertising, which is largely unfair, dim-witted and sometimes flat-out inaccurate, may be have wounded his opponent or it may come back and damage only him. How can anyone really tell?
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On the other side, Leppert’s campaign from the clouds, in which he has yet to give a clue that he knows anything about local government, may be turning off voters or it may be cementing his status as the type of fresh outsider the city needs. I can’t tell that one either. I suspect Leppert will win this one, but I suspected he would lose the last one. So clearly I don’t know a whole lot other than how to explain away both outcomes. --Matt Pulle