The Hill released their “Best and Worst of the Midterms” today and it included Rick Allen, Congressman-elect from GA-12, as its “Most Underrated Candidate.” Part of their brief review stated:
Allen, who finally beat him, didn’t fare well in 2012, and GOP operatives privately worried the wealthy businessman would be seen as out of touch with the rural district. But he won the primary outright in 2014, retooling his campaign team and message. Allen hammered Barrow as voting too often with the president en route to a 10-point win.
While I am glad that Rick Allen is on the list, the Hill’s analysis is a little lacking. Rick Allen did very well in 2012, losing the primary runoff by only 159 votes against Rep. Lee Anderson in Allen’s first ever campaign. Rep. Anderson was the first candidate out of the gate and he secured key endorsements, including the Governor, General Assembly members, and local elected officials and Sheriffs. Despite all of these challenges, Allen came extremely close to being the Republican nominee. I think that with one more week in the runoff in 2012 that Allen would have won the primary and the general election.
It is also a little off in why Allen won the race in 2014. While obviously GA-12 is a Republican-leaning District and Obama did not fare well here in 2012, it was more than just an anti-Obama message that brought the victory. My personal analysis of the race based upon my experience with GA-12 elections over the last decade is below.
The Ground Game
This was, by far, the best ground game since 2006. The credit for this goes to the GAGOP and the RNC. John Padgett, Adam Pipkin, Bard Hughes, Joe Dendy, and others had the foresight to open two offices in GA-12 at strategic locations. Offices are just buildings, though, so they also had to bring in the right people to run the them. The two regional directors, Ryan Purvis (Augusta office) and Natalie Jones (Statesboro office), led volunteers, including GA-12 Chair Mike Welsh, in making over 300,000 voter contacts since November, 2013. Barrow’s ground game came very late in the election cycle and was nowhere as massive in outreach. Thank you Natalie and gentlemen.
Barrow couldn’t drive the narrative
Since the 2006 election cycle, Barrow was able to keep the Republican nominee on the defensive. In 2006, he used the infamous “Max Tax” advertising against Max Burns that was ultimately too difficult to overcome. In the next 3 election cycles, Stone, McKinney, and Anderson did not simply have the money to go on the offensive or to really defend their positions. Allen had the money to run his message, while the NRCC kicked in their own advertising to go after Barrow strongly.
Allen was a good candidate
Rick Allen did the right things in this election. He hired the perfect campaign manager in Lauren Swing. She listened and was available. He surrounded himself with a strong campaign team that worked hard, yet were genuine and simply good people that were hard not to like.
He actually stayed active and remained in GA-12 after his 2012 primary defeat, which several previous candidates had not done. He was humble, honest, and real. He admitted that he needed help, prayer, and support. He was confident when others were not. Allen was willing to debate Barrow. He honestly thought he could win by the margin that he ultimately did. It was not arrogance, but a carry over from his business experience of seeing positive results from hard work.
Rick did not come off as just an out-of-touch rich man who was born with a silver spoon. Allen worked 37 years building his business from the ground up, which people in GA-12 can respect. He also is quick to give credit to his company’s employees and his wife and family.
Robin Allen is a wonderful woman and her impact on this race cannot be forgotten or understated. She traveled all across this district speaking with voters, both from the stage and person to person. She worked alongside the campaign team and spent countless hours doing campaign work behind the scenes. It really felt like we had the opportunity to elect a strong duo and not just one person.
If you followed the GA-12 race, you probably heard about Barrow voting 85% of the time with Obama. This figure came from a fundraising letter that was sent out by Barrow to several people. The copy used in the advertising came from Ric Stewart, a Peach Pundit commenter and a GA-12 resident. Two years ago, he provided me with a copy of the fundraising letter, which I provided to the Anderson campaign. While Anderson could not fully use the letter to his advantage, the NRCC and Allen’s campaign certainly did. Thank you, Ric.
Feel free to disagree with me. This is simply my personal take. I am an officer in the Republican party, so I may be somewhat biased in my overview. However, if you know me in “real life,” you know that I tell it like I see it.