Ballot Box

The rituals: Politicians hope, pray and wait

Greg Nash

Throughout campaign season, every step is deliberate. But once Election Day rolls around, there’s little more to do than hope and pray the strategy worked. 

Some politicians and political operatives fall back on superstition to give them an extra edge, or ritual to calm them down after months of hard work — and get them through what is typically an eerily slow Election Day. 

“You’ve been going for 100 miles per hour for a long time, so you still have the adrenaline pumping, but there’s not a whole lot you can do that day except get ready for the evening and thank all the volunteers,” former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said.

{mosads}Kyl served in Congress for 26 years, and on each Election Day, he had a fairly predictable schedule: always a dentist appointment, and if he could fit it in, a trip to the doctor.

When The Hill asked whether he scheduled that to distract from the stress of the campaign or because he simply had the time now that he wasn’t campaigning, Kyl laughed.

“About 90 percent the former, 10 percent the latter,” he said. “You have to do something that’s productive because you have a lot of pent-up energy.”   

He also regularly took a 90-minute hike at Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. 

“You need to do some physical things, too, because there’s a lot of psychic energy that’s churned up when you have to be on all the time, which is what the campaign is all about,” he said. 

Other politicians have Election Day rituals, too. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, likes to go outlet shopping, according to his spokeswoman, Samantha Slater. Former GOP presidential candidate and Sen. Rick Santorum tries to go to Mass, said spokesman Matt Beynon.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) has eaten at the same Burger King in Connecticut and wears the same suit whenever he’s up for reelection. And it’s well known that President Obama squeezes in a game of basketball whenever he’s on the ballot.  

Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the oldest lawmaker in the House, took the pre-Election Day ritual to new heights for his 2012 primary election. Only one Texas congressional district is typically up for grabs in November, so primary day is effectively Election Day for most House races. In the days before his primary, The Dallas Morning News reported that some had questioned Hall’s health; there were even rumors that he had suffered a stroke. In attempt to show voters his vigor, Hall went skydiving, and three days later, he cruised to a decisive 37-percentage-point victory.

But in 2014, Hall lost a tough primary runoff by less than 3,000 votes. The kicker: He had tried to go skydiving. The weather didn’t cooperate.

— Updated at 12:49 p.m.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Chris Murphy Ralph Hall

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