I’ve mostly checked out of politics in the last year because I can’t stand the hysteria ginned up by the media anymore. The special election in Pennsylvania is interesting, though. While still too close to call, it looks like the Democrat, Conor Lamb will eke out a win in a heavily Republican district (one which Donald Trump won by almost 2 to 1) against his Republican rival, Rick Saccone.
The usual suspects will call this a referendum on President Trump and a predictor for November. Certainly, it’s not great news for the Republicans, but deeper, more ancient forces are at work here.
Longtime readers of The Masculine Epic will know that people almost never make decisions rationally. Emotion and primal instinct are what sell people on decisions. Logic only justifies them later. Rick Saccone vs. Conor Lamb is a good example of this truth.
The district is in western Pennsylvania, which is heavily Republican. So why is Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate, struggling so much? Simply put, Conor Lamb has him beat in pretty much everything that actually sells people on something. The ways people actually make those decisions when it comes to voting are explained in a neat 9 point list in Stumped.
In simpler terms, Conor Lamb has all the Stumped factors while Rick Saccone looks like doesn’t have one.
First, let’s have a side by side comparison:
Lamb is obviously younger and better looking than Saccone. Better looking people are liked more than worse looking people, and liking is one of the universal principles of influence.
Next, let’s see a comparison of how they talk.
Conor Lamb has more charisma. He’s not the most charismatic guy in the world, but it’s not a chore to listen to him. Listening to Rick Saccone is a cure for insomnia.
Reputation matters too. Conor Lamb is a former marine and a prosecutor. Rick Saccone is a professional politician, which people hate nowadays.
Finally, we can look at social proof. Keep in mind, I haven’t been paying too much attention to this thing, but Saccone has had issues raising money, right? That’s a good sign that people lack confidence in him. He needed Trump to bring some excitement to his campaign.
As far as I know, Lamb has had no fundraising issues.
There’s also an interesting twist in the race in that Conor Lamb essentially ran as a Republican even though he was a Democrat. He’s basically a relict Blue Dog Democrat, which is a species that is almost extinct. That’s what he says, anyway. His campaign rhetoric is a good way for him to remove doubts after the initial sale was made through the emotional factors I described above.
Running as a Republican while not being one was also a way for Conor Lamb to show empathy with the tribe and speak its language.
As a result of all of this, Conor Lamb currently leads Rick Saccone by a razor thin margin. Absentee ballots still need to be counted, but don’t be surprised when Conor Lamb wins. It looks like he’s persuaded just enough of the people that could be swayed to pull out a victory. It helped that “the resistance” is motivated because anger motivates better than happiness, and they have Trump to focus that anger on.
People are irrational. Persuasion matters. Policy doesn’t.
To find out how to sell to people’s emotions like Conor Lamb did, read Stumped.