THEIR VIEW: What in the world happened in the eastern Panhandle?

By The West Virginia Record | Nov 13, 2008


CHARLESTON -- As we look at the results of this election, our campaign plan was ALMOST perfect.

We knew it was going to be close, probably 5,000-10,000 votes either way.

Our goal as a campaign was to build Dan Greear's name recognition throughout the state. We didn't have the money to beat up Darrell McGraw.

But if you look at where we spent money on Dan's positives, we won.

People were very surprised we won Harrison County. We spent money there.

People were surprised we won Raleigh County, McGraw's next door neighbor, we spent money there.

Simply put, where people got to know Dan, Dan won.

There were a few outliers.

The day of the election, I wrote down every county and who I thought would win each one. I missed on four.

I had put Harrison in the McGraw column. A miss.

I had put Greenbrier in our column. A sure miss.

I had also put Hampshire and Randolph in our column, but I think that was more wishful thinking, I thought they would be close, but felt Clark Barnes would win both (Clark didn't win Randolph, but won almost every other county in the district in his beatdown of Mike Ross).

I put Wayne as a toss-up, and thought we might be able to pull it off. That was a pipe dream.

Greenbrier County certainly surprised me. I didn't calculate the large impact the unions support of the Casino would have. It was a county we thought we would win. Pat Via won as the Prosecutor there, but Jesse Guills losing for Judge showed just how kooky it was down there.

We thought we had an outside shot at Monroe and even Summers, but realistically it didn't surprise me we lost those counties.

And, we WON Morgan and Berkeley and lost Jefferson. We planned as much.

But, had you told me we would go into the eastern Panhandle (Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson) down 3,000 votes, we would have popped champagne corks.

And, this was my fault. We just never felt we needed to spend money in the eastern Panhandle because we worked it so hard on the ground. Dan literally spent weeks there, on the ground. Of course, it's tough spending money in the panhandle, except through direct mail and we simply didn't have the money to do it.

We spent significantly from our campaign in Kanawha-Putnam-Cabell and the contiguous counties, as well as Beckley-Bluefield and Wheeling. We had one of our largest showings in Ohio County -- definitely better than I thought we would. And while I had written down Marshall County in our column, I also thought that was wishful thinking. But, we won it.

Overall, our biggest worry was the northern Panhandle. We spent money there and did well. We won Marshall and we won Ohio big. We held our own in Hancock and Brooke is ... well, Brooke.

We won all those counties and pretty much everywhere we expected to win.

We lost where we expected to lose.

What we didn't account for was a loss in the eastern Panhandle. That was simply not forseen. Honestly, I don't know that Darrell McGraw even set foot in the eastern Panhandle. It's baffling.

You get all these crazy theories thrown out there, such as the Chamber ads backlashed. Huh? That's kooky.

The was infighting among the Republicans there. Huh, again? I'm not sure I'll ever be able to wrap my mind around the fact the Charlest Minimah did better in Mineral and Morgan county than we did. Nothing against Charles, but it's inexplicable. Maybe Darrell has some long lost cousins in those counties? Who knows.

And, looking back now, that was my largest miscalculation.

But, this much is true. Had our campaign raised $50,000 or $100,000 more and spent it in the areas where we felt we needed to win, we would have won this election.

And, while the Chamber money did help (it couldn't hurt), it definitely showed that in the future money should be directed to the campaigns instead of independent expenditures. Or, even if those independent expenditures were directed toward the party and the party spent money, that would be better.

But, but, but ... I don't know had we received $50,000 or $100,000 if we would have spent much of that in the eastern Panhandle. Maybe some radio or a little direct mail there, but for the most part, it was the largest miscalculation we made.

We thought footwork would win there. We found out that we needed more money. And, we needed that money spent in the eastern Panhandle.

The other truth that I came away with was that Dan Greear is a phenomenal campaigner. I never thought I would see someone campaign harder than I did, and he blew me away. He made phone call after phone call to raise money. He did everything he was asked. And, often times he didn't need asked.

As I said in a blog earlier this week, I just wouldn't see any scenario that another Republican, other than Shelley Moore Capito of course, would defeat Dan in a primary. I just don't see it happen, Dan and Amy work too hard.

But, outside of that, I came to believe in Dan Greear the person. Someone said this, but he truly is the real deal. He is as devout a Christian as I've ever found. He was the rock on election night that simply believes that God has a plan for all of us, whatever that may be.

He campaigns hard. He raises money. He has built a huge ground organization that is unrivaled in any campaign I've ever seen.

He campaigns hard (did I mention that before?).

He is a phenomenal candidate who has really put himself in a position to compete for any position on the ballot.

Sprouse was a consultant on Dan Greear's campaign for state Attorney General.

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