There are three things that the average man thinks he can do better than anybody else. Build a fire, run a hotel, and manage a baseball team. – The Great Rocky Bridges
Our illustrious Reds utility infielder and third base coach should’ve added “and run a political campaign” to the list because every candidate and their uncle thinks they know how the game works, when with very rare exception, THEY DON’T.
And with so many candidates convinced they hold the keys to the electoral kingdom, it makes it that much more difficult for the pros to get clients. Politicians are notoriously cheap, too, which doesn’t help matters much, either. And this “I know exactly what I’m doing” dynamic is so strong I’ve actually lost friends because of it!
Back in my official newspaper days, a co-columnist was drafted to run for Aurora, Illinois, alderman and her sponsor instructed her to seek me out as her unofficial campaign manager. But when I warned the candidate that her messaging methodology of distributing a two-page single-spaced “biography” on 8.5 by 11 lavender paper at front doors would doom her to a last place finish, her entire family went after me.
We’ll cover how listening to family members’ campaign advice is a recipe for complete disaster in a future column.
The abuse got so bad that I walked away from that unpaid role and my former friend did, indeed, finish fourth in a field of four. She had a promising future as a candidate despite of that faux pas,, but after that stark loss she never ran for office again. I’m not quite sure what internal mechanism convinces regular folks they know exactly how to run a campaign, but as previously indicated, it’s a powerful one.
Think about it! Would anyone consider interrupting a surgeon mid operation to tell them they’re taking the wrong approach, using the wrong sutures, and mismanaging the OR staff? Would a courtroom observer stop the proceedings to explain that the prosecution’s theory is bunk, they haven’t laid the appropriate foundation for the line of questioning, and they’re so boring they’ve lost the jury? Would an accountant burst into a NASA meeting and insist their gravity calculations are wrong, the rocket engines are underpowered, and the guidance system wasn’t programmed correctly?
But despite having absolutely no electoral experience, EVERYONE thinks they know how to run a campaign and they have no problem telling the professionals exactly where they’ve gone wrong.
Rather than go on a lengthy rant about former and potential clients, which might be a lot of fun but isn’t good for business, let’s take a Jeff Foxworthy approach to this conundrum. Instead of ending each proposition with “you might be a redneck” we’ll finish them off with something to the effect “you’re not a campaign manager.”
If you can’t tell me the specific distribution of Democratic versus Republican voters in your district, even in non-partisan races, then you’re not a campaign manager.
If you don’t know how many registered voters there are in your district, how many turned out in each of the last three election cycles, and the percentage of first-time voters in each cycle, then you can’t run a campaign.
If you can’t recite the Party trend in your district off the top of your head, then you have no idea how to run a campaign.
If you don’t implicitly understand that the average American voter has the attention span of an off-meds ADHD 6th grader coming down from a three-day sugar and videogaming binge, then you’ll never win a campaign. (Unless your opponent’s campaign manager is even worse than you.)
If you believe there should be more than three bullet points on the front of a doorhanger then you’ll never be a successful campaign manager.
If you don’t know what a doorhanger is, their dimensions, the most effect means of messaging thereon, and how to accurately target their distribution, then you shouldn’t be a candidate or a campaign manager.
If you haven’t pored over the Votebuilder numbers to determine your strongest and weakest precincts, then you can’t effectively manage a campaign.
If you don’t know how to handle campaign volunteers, who love the title but not the work, then you’ll never win a political campaign.
If you think social media is the place to greatly expound upon your political platform, then you will lose every election.
If you can’t tell me how to design a yard sign for the climate and the most effective places to deploy those yard signs, then you don’t know how to run a campaign.
If you can’t tell the difference between a good and bad campaign photograph, then you’re not a campaign manager.
I could continue, and I’d certainly like to, but I’m sure you get the idea by now.
The truth is, most self-anointed campaign managers can’t run an election, so what makes you think you can? The good campaign managers aren’t cheap (they’re not that expensive, either), but considering what some elected officials are paid, a pro with a reasonable track record who can answer each one of the previously posed questions is worth their weight in gold.