Democrats have been all about moral victories in the age of Donald Trump, and Jon Ossoff's $30-million misfire in Georgia's sixth congressional district this week is no different.
We have already been treated to sad talking points from the likes of Tom Perez and Nancy Pelosi about how they closed the gap and they have momentum and all is well after the four-point loss. Now joining the mix is a classic Washington story about failing up, in the form of a puffy Roll Call profile on Ossoff's campaign manager Keenan Pontoni.
In a story that was clearly written in anticipation of an Ossoff victory (note the staff photographs peppering the piece of him doing campaign things like looking at a laptop or looking away from his laptop), Pontoni is presented as a "rising star in a party desperate for fresh blood."
I found little to indicate rising star-ness. I did, however, find these parts of the story amusing.
Despite back-to-back losses in Congressional races, Roll Call declares him a "man in high demand."
Last fall, Pontoni managed Democrat Gretchen Driskell’s campaign against Michigan GOP Rep. Tim Walberg. She lost by 15 points. Up until that point, Pontoni wasn’t used to losing. He’d previously managed a successful county commission and state House race in his native Michigan.
But despite back-to-back losses, Pontoni’s now a man in high demand, with a bright future in a party that desperately needs fresh perspectives.
I won a student council election in high school once, so, you know. I'm not used to losing either.
Later in the piece, Rep. Dan Kildee (D., Mich.) said Driskell's 15-point loss was one of the best-managed races he'd ever seen. These are the kinds of guys who tell themselves they're happy because their football team covered the spread.
A Democratic pollster says Pontnoi should be put in charge of a presidential race.
"Maybe he should go from this to running a presidential campaign," said Democratic pollster John Anzalone, who worked on the Ossoff campaign. "He has the mettle to really do any type of race."
If memory serves, an aw-shucks wonder kid ran Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016. Donald Trump is now the President of the United States.
He seems to have perfected the art of absurd, political corporate-speak.
He started out as a numbers guy. "When I was younger, I really loved the idea of trying to quantify social outcomes," he said in an interview the Sunday before the election.
But over time, Pontoni, an economics major, has lost his devotion to data. As a math teacher in the Bronx with Teach for America, he didn’t like the way test scores dictated education policy. In the campaign world, he’s troubled by the prioritization of certain metrics.
"Most Democratic campaigns have got to a space where their reliance on efficiency and measurable voter contact strategies comes at the cost of many other unmeasurable effects," he said.
Those paragraphs seemed like a complex way of saying Democrats need to do a better job of turning out their base instead of trying to turn suburban Republicans onto the idea of living in Silicon Valley South. Still, when I was younger I was more into targeted brainstorming in the pursuit of dynamic brand solutions, so what do I know.
He has a low bar for what constitutes "deep, analytical questions" by his candidate, to whom he remains loyal.
When Ossoff first called him for a job interview, Pontoni wasn’t prepared. There’d been a miscommunication about time zones.
"He woke me up. And I was not ready at all. I had no notes, I didn’t even have my laptop open," Pontoni recalled.
"And he’s just grilling me with deep analytical questions like, ‘How much tey do I have to raise? How many doors do I have to knock?’ All this stuff, like, ‘What do you think about investing in TV?’" he said.
"Should I live in the district I want to represent" apparently did not come up during their discussions.
Ossoff was impressed at all the things Pontoni did not know in their initial phone call.
By this point, Pontoni had powered up his laptop and was Googling gross ratings points in the Atlanta media market.
"I told him a lot on the call, ‘I don’t know, I’ll have to get back to you.’ But I guess the fact that I said ‘I don’t know’ a lot was one of the reasons he wanted to talk to me more," Pontoni said. "He said a lot of campaign managers weren’t willing to admit that they didn’t know things."
This clip leapt to mind when I read that.
A good poll for Ossoff in April made Pontoni emotional.
"I just instantly started having a lot of fun out there," he said of his early days in Georgia, when he was working out of Ossoff’s parents’ basement.
The first time he thought about winning was a few weeks before the April 18 jungle primary. He happened to be driving when the campaign received a poll that showed Ossoff at more than 40 percent.
Pontoni pulled over and cried.
Pontoni didn't vote for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the primary, but he did participate in Jill Stein's ridiculous recount effort/fundraiser in Michigan.
He didn’t vote in last year’s Democratic presidential primary because he couldn’t decide between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (He later directed Jill Stein’s recount effort in Michigan because, he said, "I was willing to do anything I could to stop Trump from getting elected.")
Between that and Ossoff's race, that's two impressive wastes of Democrats' hard-raised money in less than one year.
He can't get people to shut up when they need to.
It’s a campaign tradition for managers to give a speech on the eve of Election Day. On Monday night, Pontoni took the microphone. But after several tries, the soft-spoken manager couldn’t silence the crowd. It took another member of the Ossoff team, with a much deeper voice, to hush the room.
Pontoni closed his remarks by saying how cool it was that some volunteers bought a bus and others dressed up as dinosaurs.
I'm sure Kildee thought it was the best speech ever that's mentioned dinosaurs and buses.