Carter said a “celebrity” campaign was different. Now I get it. Working with Clay Aiken is unlike any campaign I’ve seen.
Aiken starts with the most valuable quality a candidate can have today. He is a genuine political outsider in a time when voters are disgusted with politics. And he has near-universal name recognition. He doesn’t have to buy that on TV.
His challenge as a candidate is – or, was – different. Call it the WTF Factor. As in “Clay Aiken for Congress? WTF?” People know who he is, but is he qualified?
Aiken put that to rest in his five-minute announcement video. It has been viewed more than 600,000 times. Then he walked a gauntlet of interviews in the state and national media. When people hear him and talk to him, they realize he knows the district, knows the issues and knows what people are going through.
Now he’s on a roll. People react to him like to no other politician. I saw it last weekend at the College Dems/Young Dems convention and at Lillian’s List this week. The room buzzes when he comes in. People watch him. They take his measure. They want to take pictures with him.
Aiken seizes that moment. He takes their cell phone and snaps a selfie with them. Now, “#selfieswithclay” is a thing.
All this explains why he has a 20-point lead in the Democratic primary. And why the DCCC has put this race on the radar. And why Renee Ellmers suddenly looks spooked.