Since the election reporters have been writing stories explaining why George Holding won and Renee Ellmers lost – one of the first to weigh in was the News and Observer saying Ellmers lost because powerful conservative groups decided to make an example of her.
The Club for Growth alone, the N&O reported, “spent nearly $790,000 opposing Ellmers this election cycle.”
Unfortunately, that statement was both correct and misleading.
The Club for Growth did spend $790,000 – but in two separate elections: One in Ellmers’ old district and one in her new district. More to the point, Ellmers, herself, wasn’t penniless. She raised enough money to reach voters with her message.
So why did she lose?
When Ellmers launched her campaign she came out swinging, saying George Holding had opposed the military – an attack George answered by explaining that for Renee to claim he opposed the U.S. Army because he’d voted against Obama’s Omnibus Budget Deal was silly.
Voters heard Ellmers’ attack, heard Holding’s answer, and decided Ellmers was trying to fool them to get reelected and that she was no Conservative. What undid Renee Ellmers wasn’t outside groups’ money – or her lack of money. It was her own message.
But you won’t read that in the newspapers – instead like an urban legend the News and Observer’s story took wing: Other reporters read it, repeated it, printed it in their own newspapers in their own words – and a myth was born.