Campaigning is stressful, and there’s no more stressful time than the home stretch. At the same time, there’s a sort of relief that it will soon be over. I wrote this column as the 2014 civic election campaign wrapped up. For me, it was the end of several weeks of campaigning for a seat on the TNRD. I think the following excerpt from Nov. 18, 2014 likely expresses the feelings of quite a few candidates as this, the 2018 civic election campaign, nears the end.
YOU HAVE TO RUN for public office to understand campaign stress.
Candidates go through their own private hell during campaigns, one they can’t share because it’s a solitary experience. They internalize.
It is now that questions are constant. Should I have done things differently? Could I have done them better? Should I have gone on the attack? Should I have bought more advertising? Should I be doing more door knocking? Are my brochures hitting the right points? Have I peaked too soon? Are my signs in the right places? Should they be bigger?
Should I take it personally when my signs are vandalized, or simply disappear like enemies of the state? Should I worry about unfounded rumors about my policy positions?
Life outside the campaign gets placed on hold. The wider world out there ceases to exist. Nerves become raw — every word said, every word written about you brings intense self-examination and suspicion about hidden meanings. You suspect the twisting of words, or words taken out of context.
In reality, people don’t see or feel what you see and feel in what is said and written about you, but so focused are you on the prize, so raw are your nerves, that you must always be on guard against over-reacting.
On a given day, you despair at your chances. On another, you take heart, alternately feeling drained and re-energized, like a 12-volt battery left out in the weather.
Every time you see an election sign coming toward you as you drive down a road, there’s a short stab of fear that your opponent has out-signed you. Then you realize it’s a candidate’s sign who’s not even running for the same position, or that you are driving through a different jurisdiction — your antennae are so alert that they have transmitted warning signals before your brain can process reality.
The campaign, by now, has become your life from dawn to dusk, and during the night you dream only of the campaign. As morning dawns, and dreaming and rational thought begin to mingle, panicky thoughts take over about the shrinking amount of time you have to get everything done.
And in the last few days, as time shortens, you go into hyper mode, squeezing as much as you possibly can into the hours available. By then, it’s as much about keeping busy and making time pass as it is about being productive. It even crosses your mind that the outcome is less important than the fact that you’ll soon be able to rest, but you carry on because you know one missed opportunity to get a vote could make the difference between winning and losing.
On voting day, you must remain active — phoning supporters to remind them to vote, door knocking, waving at street corners or simply driving aimlessly around with your magnetic campaign signs stuck to your vehicle, whatever’s legal under the new election-day rules. You have to make those last few hours go by somehow or the tension would be unbearable.
Then, there’s the wait after polls close, and the joy or disappointment of winning or losing. If you win, there are high fives and celebration, and phone calls to thank supporters. If you lose, there are the same phone calls, plus one to the candidate who defeated you, congratulating him or her and wishing them all the best.
On Sunday, there’s the happy or lonely job of taking down the campaign signs. Then, you sleep. For a long time.
And gradually get ready for whatever is next.