David Brat Releases 'Underdog Edge'
CINCINNATI, June 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ Not all underdogs are equal, and David Brat's victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia's 7 th district is an example of someone who used the underdog edge to win, according to Amy Showalter, author of "The Underdog Edge," a guide to help citizens accomplish change in Washington, DC., as well as their local districts.
"Context plays a great deal in political campaigns, and the stars aligned at the right time for him. However, he does exhibit several characteristics of winning underdogs," said Showalter, who has consulted with grassroots organizations and associations who want to affect change in government.
"Not all underdogs win. Just because you are perhaps trying harder than another more well-funded opponent, powerful interest group, or business rival, does not mean that you are going to be successful. According to our research for Underdog Edge, we found that winning underdogs are different. They use extreme influence tactics to succeed," she said.
These underdog edge tactics David Brat used to win can be used by any organization that wants to influence public opinion or work effectively with an elected official
- He had street cred. He has a Ph.D. and is an economics professor. He knew his stuff. We know from the Edelman Trust Barometer research that academics are viewed as one of the most credible professions, whether their views are liberal or conservative.
- He used unconventional tactics. Malcolm Gladwell's book David and Goliath also found that underdogs simply do not play by the same rules as their Goliath opponents. Brat stated that he "gave 30-minute stump speeches on issues, and people actually listened to them." He was assuming his electorate was smart and did not dumb down his message - - definitely an unconventional political tactic.
- He had a connected team member. No underdog wins alone. Winning underdogs have a team. And the differentiating factor is at least one team member who is highly connected. See: Ingram, Laura. Her national radio show constantly promoted Brat and his stance on immigration.
- He is nice. Brat did not engage in negative campaigning against Cantor, and said that he respects Cantor as a person and was keeping his campaign about ideals and principles. (Make no mistake, however, research shows that negative ads do work, which is why everyone uses them). But again, this was an unconventional tactic and an example of "nice" behavior that gave his opponents little to criticize him about.
- Brat has grit. Who would want to take on the House Majority Leader? You have to have extreme fortitude to undertake that effort. That means Brat's got grit. And grit requires willpower, the ability to control yourself, to not say the wrong thing in the wrong situation, as we have seen from other candidates who aspired to defeat well-entrenched incumbents,like the "I am not a witch" Christine O'Donnell.
- Eyes up. Brat kept his eyes up into his big dog's (the voter's) world by listening to their concerns and focusing on them at the right time. If the debate over immigration had not been fired up by the recent influx of children of undocumented workers crossing the border, would that issue had as much resonance, benefitting Brat? Fair or unfair, context matters, and the savvy underdog knows when to pounce on the existing context to make their message resonate.
About Amy Showalter