A lifelong resident of Minnesota, Michael Brodkorb is an experienced communications, social media, public affairs & research consultant and is an observer of all things political. He also blogs at politics.mn. He lives in Eagan with his family.

The phone call no candidate wants to make

Posted by: Michael Brodkorb under Minnesota campaigns, Politics Updated: August 16, 2014 - 5:18 PM

On Tuesday evening, dozens of candidates lost their campaigns for numerous offices in Minnesota. The winners of their individual primary elections are featured on the front pages of newspapers and their smiling, happy faces are flashed across our television screens. 

But soon after the final results have been reported and a winner has been declared, the losing candidates traditionally make a phone call to the winning candidate to congratulate the candidate and offer their full support.

The most famous concession call in American politics occurred in November 2000, when then Al Gore called George W. Bush to "retract" his earlier concession call to Bush after a dispute erupted over Florida's 25 electoral votes. The media reported that Bush was not happy about the second phone call from Gore, who reportedly responded by saying, "You don't have to get snippy about this." 

Over the last four days, I spoke with numerous candidates and their staff about the phone calls made to the winning candidates by the losing candidates. For this post, I had no interest in naming the candidates or staffers I spoke with, as losing the race was tough enough. Who was calling who, was not as important for this story, as the behind the scenes details about the calls and what was said.

So to quote Dragnet, "ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent." A bit dramatic, but you get the point.

All of the candidates I spoke with were defeated this past Tuesday or in the previous few years. While many thought they could win on election night, most had planned in advance for the possibility of losing their race. They had a concession speech prepared and they ensured the personal phone numbers of the rivals were in close proximity, should they lose. 

Multiple staffers I spoke with had contacted their counterpart on the rival campaign to discuss a procedure and process for the candidates to speak with each other on election night. This task was taken on by the candidates themselves in multiple instances, as the candidates exchanged contact information when they crossed paths on the campaign trail. 

The individual concession calls are usually very awkward. On staffer told me, "It's like calling to congratulate someone who just got asked to the prom by the captain of the football team, while you'll be sitting home alone with your little brother."

Most of the candidates connected within minutes of the election results being announced, with others receiving or making calls in the following hours. A few candidates I spoke with exchanged repeated phone calls with their opponent and eventually speaking days after the election. 

For all the advancements in technology, none of the candidates or staffers I spoke with considered it appropriate to withdraw from a race with an e-mail or text message to the winner. In fact, one candidate I spoke with who won her race, has yet to hear from her opponent. She said, "campaigns are exhausting and losing is a tough thing to accept."

As of last evening, she still had not received a phone call, but wasn't dwelling on the fact that she had not spoken with her opponent. "I called and left a message, thanking [my opponent] for a spirited campaign," she said, adding, "but I still have to focus on my own campaign."

In this campaign, the phone call most people would not know about may never actually happen. 

Picture source: Newsweek

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