Why You Should Campaign Like Neel Kashkari

Guest post by Matthew P.

Today, the GOP candidate for Governor of California, Neel Kashkari, released a documentary video and accompanying WSJ op-ed detailing his experiences as a homeless man in Fresno.  He stepped off of a Greyhound bus, clean-shaven and presentable, with $40 in his pocket, a backpack with some supplies, and the clothes on his back. His goal was to spend a week living the life of a homeless man, in search of a job. Some people journey overseas on a mission of self-discovery; Mr. Kashkari didn’t have to travel as far.

Mr. Kashkari’s journey stands out as a supreme example of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, complete with some reflections about what he has taken for granted over the years.  To his credit, this is not the first time he has embraced the poor.  Throughout the primary campaign, he slept in homeless shelters and worked picking produce.  He also paid numerous visits to churches and schools in poor neighborhoods. Many credit this unconventional approach for his come-from-behind primary victory.

The video and op-ed document his undercover experience, complete with his sleeping on park benches, eating at a church mission, and relying on the goodness of strangers to sustain him. The video is worth a watch, and I encourage you to read the op-ed as well. Much of it is oriented toward California’s current economic disorder, but the lessons are palpable.

In the course of writing this blog, we see many examples of good things candidates are doing. Earlier, we praised Rand Paul’s speeches at historically black colleges and universities, along with other efforts to take his message to ears who wouldn’t necessarily hear it in their normal course of life. That may require a few visits to hostile territory, but we encourage you, dear reader, to try it. Respectfully engage people who you may not agree with. Spend less time at Lincoln Day Dinners and more time speaking to ordinary people.

Athletes say, “practice like you play,” and we say, “campaign like you would govern.” It will help you build empathy and credibility among people you will one day serve as an elected official. Here, we roundly discourage the divisive “rile your base with red meat, and turn ‘em out” style of campaigning simply because, while it may win you one election, that model is very bad for your long-term prospects of governing.

Much criticism has been piled on Mr. Kashkari for his background in finance and his wealth. Sometimes candidates counter this kind of criticism de rigeur by discussing their charitable activities, and by doing community service on the campaign trail.  And, if you are the kind of person who has a charitable background and have legitimate involvement in community service organizations, then by all means let that part of your character shine. Mr. Kashkari has a strong history of service, but by taking some time to experience the hardships of poverty, he took the opportunity to build a better sense of the daily lives of these he would like to serve. Plus, he can legitimately build credibility while learning.

Now, we do not expect you, dear reader, to try homelessness for a week. But we do encourage you to take some time and reflect on how your past hardships have helped you to become the person you are.  If your background contains periods of hardship, dredge up those memories, as painful as they can be, and use those episodes to help explain your positions to the voters. Let your human side show. Voters yearn for authenticity, and have richly rewarded candidates who deliver.

In the end, half of all candidates end up losing. Perhaps this isn’t the time for Mr. Kashkari. But he, and you, dear reader, should take a longer view.  Campaigns are long and grueling. Campaigning takes you from your family, and saps your finances and energy. So, please take your time running for office seriously, and do your best to make yourself a better person along the way. It will pay dividends once the voting is done, win or lose.

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Republicans: Who We Are

Governor Andrew Cuomo tells conservatives to get out of New York

Here in the great state of New York, our governor, Andrew Cuomo, kind of put his foot in his mouth recently.  I’m not a journalist, so I’m not going to report the story to you, but you can listen to the whole thing here.  But here’s the important part of what he said:

“You have a schism in the Republican Party.  The Republican Party is searching for an identity.  They’re searching to define their soul.  Is the Republican Party in this state a moderate party, or is it an extreme conservative party?  That’s what they’re trying to figure out…the gridlock in Washington is less about Democrats and Republicans, it’s more about extreme Republicans and moderate Republicans.  The moderate Republicans can’t figure out how to deal with the extreme Republicans, and the moderate Republicans are afraid of the extreme conservative Republicans…their problem is not me and the Democrats.  Their problem is themselves.  Who are they?  Are they these extreme conservatives who are Right to Life?  Pro-assault weapons?  Anti-gay?  Is that who they are?  Because if that’s who they are, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

After this part he discusses some specific state issues, makes up some really, really bizarrely fake statistics, and kinda sorta endorses ‘moderate’ Republicans in general.  As you can imagine, conservatives all over the Empire State are riled up.  I could write a whole other post on how Mr. Cuomo could have more eloquently and less offensively made his point (which has been completely missed by all the media, it would seem), but I’m not here to solve his problems (although Peggy Noonan did a good job of it here).  I’m here to solve yours. At the end of this diatribe, Cuomo poses a really pointed question.  A question every Republican has asked themselves more than once over the past decade–

“Who are the Republicans?  And who wins between the extreme conservatives and the moderates?”

And if you’re running for office in 2014, this is the perfect time to ponder this question, because the success of everything you do from this point on – developing a campaign messaging strategy especially – rests on how you answer this question for yourself, and how firmly you’re willing to stand by that answer. Let’s take a look at the history of the GOP, shall we?

Technically, there have been two Republican parties in our nation’s history, and the first one cropped up in the 1790s when the founding fathers were still on the political scene as the Democratic-Republican Party (basically, Thomas Jefferson’s anti-Federalist party).  The party’s philosophy was much more nebulous than would be acceptable as a party platform these days, but generally revolved around Jefferson’s concept of “republicanism” which, by his definition, narrowly focused on the themes of liberty and equality.

“The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.” –Thomas Jefferson

After the Federalist Party petered out and the Era of Good Feelings began, the Democratic-Republican Party faded away as well. Though the first Republican Party became obsolete, the principles behind it–freedom and equality–were the same values that prompted abolitionist political leaders to form the Republican Party that still exists today.  Abraham Lincoln is, famously, the first Republican president.  And is there a greater national representative for freedom and equality?

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

Along the way, we’ve had a few truly legendary men to serve as bastions for the GOP.  But here’s the funny thing–the coolest Republicans have never fallen in lockstep with a boilerplate political platform.  They set new standards.  They think of republican principles first, and only after that do they define Republican platforms.  Teddy Roosevelt was an environmentalist, for example.  That’s not a value typically assigned to the Republican platform, but it should be noted it was there.

“I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Freedom, for our nation as a value but also for  individuals, is the one common thread that has held the Republican Party together for decades.  In his later years, when the issue was thrust onto the national political agenda, Barry Goldwater–the conservative standard-bearer Barry Goldwater–became an advocate for gay rights.  Some people think maybe he was off his rocker toward the end.  I think he understood the republican value that my rights only extend so far as they do not infringe on another man’s freedom.

“Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism.” – Barry Goldwater

So when you’re determining your campaign’s key issues, when you’re interacting with voters–especially those who don’t completely agree with you–and when you’re trying to decide what “type” of “Republican” you’re going to be, please remember Thomas Jefferson’s original vision for what it means to be republican.

“I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts.” – Ronald Reagan

So what is the answer to Mr. Cuomo’s question?  Lincoln said “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and that’s just as true today as it was when our nation was ripping itself in two.  Will the Republican Party split itself out of existence, leaving only moderate Democrats and Socialists to run the country?  Or will we find some common ground to stand on?  If you intend to be a candidate for office this year, no matter how big or small, you are an integral part of answering that question.

What kind of Republican will you be?  Hopefully one who thinks for himself.  Don’t allow yourself to be trapped by terms like “conservative,” “establishment,” “Tea Party,” and so on.  You can be a part of those things without being a slave to them.

“The ultimate determinate in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas – a trial of spiritual resolve; the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideas to which we are dedicated.” – Ronald Reagan

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My Frank Assessment of the NYC Mayoral Race

Lhota, DeBlasio NYC Mayoral Candidates 2013

Caveat – this is by no means comprehensive.

Funny story: On Election Day for the primary this year, I voted very late – got in a few minutes before the polls closed at 9pm.  I recognized the poll worker from my Church :)  She gave me a card and directed me to the voting machine.  I pulled the lever back and tried to toggled my choices for the Republican mayoral candidates, and none of the Republican levers would move.  I stuck my head out from the curtain and asked for some help – I demonstrated that my choices wouldn’t move, and the poll worker said, “Oh, you’re a Republican.”  She and two others needed help figuring out how to switch the machine to allow a Republican primary ballot to be cast, because I was the first – and only – Republican to vote in my polling place!  After a few minutes of discussion they figured it out, and I was allowed to cast my ballot and go home.  On my way out, I chatted with Church-lady, and she confirmed I was the one and only.  Ha!  Life in Harlem…

Anywho.

An intelligent and no doubt attractive new reader that happens to be from my town asked me my thoughts on New York’s mayoral race in the comments of my last post.  And when I thought about it I figured other candidates – especially in big markets – might glean some helpful insights.  So voila, a post is born.

Here’s his question:

“I just found your interesting site by chance while researching materials for an NYC grassroots campaign. Are you still located in NYC? If so, what’s your critique of the Mayoral Race conducted by Republican candidate, Joe Lhota?”

This is for you, Thomas! (Also because I’m too lazy to write up a review of the whole race for non-New Yorkers, I’ve included links – like this one – in case you want to get an idea what current events I’m referencing).

Interesting question! You know, I’m surprised he hasn’t wrapped himself more around the issue of school choice. Last week charter schools took a half day off to march in the streets with parents and children – Lhota marched with them, and if it hadn’t been for the debate, I wouldn’t have known about it. De Blasio is staunchly anti-school choice – this should be a single issue campaign!

Now, I live in Harlem, so my on-the-ground perspective may be a little skewed; school choice
would be a super-hot topic here, and in a good way for Lhota.  Don’t forget – parents who care about their kids’ education are much more likely to be registered/reliable voters. But I would expect a Republican campaign in the city to start in SI and Brooklyn and work from there, so Harlem may be the last place on their mind (and rightly so, story above is exhibit A).

One other issue is that this biking/road-rage incident harkens back to the bad old days of ‘wilding’ in the late 80s/early 90s. Manhattanites who’ve been around long enough may fear the results of rolling back Giuliani/Bloomberg policing policies and that could be a winning issue for Lhota, too. Here in Harlem, those bikers are a real problem. I often see them tearing down Fifth Ave from the Bronx, popping wheelies and caring very little about pedestrians.

I realize this critique sounds pretty negative on Lhota, but it’s hard for me to get a frank assessment on the positives because I don’t see anything from the campaign, no doubt because of where I live.

I will say in regards to the debate (which was a little pointless since De Blasio chickened out – he can only hurt his campaign if he exposes just how liberal his platform is), Lhota didn’t seem as calm, confident, and prepared as Carrion – not as prepared, perhaps, or simply not properly prepped on how to respond to questions you’re not expecting.  Be decisive, not flustered!

Holy smokes, I just realized I haven’t seen any Lhota commercials…I don’t watch a ton of TV, but that should start soon, if it hasn’t already.  You can’t even hope to win city-wide in NYC if TV and radio aren’t a major part of your communications outreach.  Well, I guess there’s always hope.

And before I close out the topic, I can’t resist mentioning that Lhota’s nomination in the first place is classic establishment-Republicans-shooting-themselves-in-the-footism.  They chose to back the man they thought could win, instead of the best and most genuine Republican choice.  When will they ever learn that the voting public has an eerie knack for seeing through that play?

Thomas mentioned he was researching for a grassroots campaign in NYC.  So come along with me on a stream-of-consciousness ride through that subject, will you please?

I have no idea what your issue or candidate is, but I’m betting this post about fundraising will be helpful, along with  this one on GOTV organization, and this one on 72-hour campaigning.  There are more, but three self-promoting links is enough for now, I think.

Here’s the rub – “grassroots campaigning” doesn’t really exist in NYC.  There’s always some loon on the corner using traditional grassroots techniques (that work out in the real world of ‘Murica) to try and recruit Communists, or that guy who runs for whatever race is happening every single year on the Upper West Side – you know, the one with his name plastered on a van he leaves parked on the street – but he never wins, of course.

What “grassroots” would translate into here in the Big Apple (and most major metropolitan areas) is actually ‘influencer collection.’ I just made up that term, because as far as I know there isn’t a formal term for it yet, but the concept is not new.  The book Applebee’s America digs into the idea much deeper, but in summation, it’s the practice of locating significant members in a community – organization leaders, respected pastors, other politicians, union leaders, neighborhood/apartment complex/block association presidents, etc. – and convincing them to support you, thereby winning the votes of all the people they ‘influence.’  And because this city doesn’t have any real community, this system strangely works really well.  Influencers direct, and followers do what they do best.

Now, this phenomenon does work in more average towns and cities, too.  But not nearly in the extreme way it does here.  I believe it’s partly out of necessity.  With so many dwellings being locked-up apartment buildings and gated/guarded condos and townhomes, traditional door-to-door is impossible.

The point?  Aim for community leaders.  Get your candidate/representative in front of their organizations.  If that ends up being difficult – maybe your issue just isn’t in play right now and you can’t get the attention of any of the typical, busier influencers – aim for the tenant and block association leadership.  At the very least you can plan your grassroots effort around getting into those buildings so you can actually talk face-to-face with voters, leave campaign literature, and push your issue’s name ID.

They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  While I disagree with most interpretations of that quote, I agree that NYC politics is about as harsh as it gets.  Anyone who simply survives it deserves a merit badge, and if you can win here, you can be successful in most of the rest of the political world.

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Politics And Parenting – Are They Mutually Exclusive?

I recently read this Washington Post article about Rick Santorum and his daughter Bella that compares his parenting situation to Sarah Palin’s and analyzes the media reaction to both.  It’s a good read, especially for a parent of young or handicapped children, and it certainly gives a candidate pause when thinking about his own campaign.

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding to run for office is the effect it will have on your family.  Your children will see a lot less of you (especially hard for daddy’s girls and mama’s boys) and your spouse will have to pick up a lot of slack, and you may have to lean on extended family to help fill the gap as well.  And as the above mentioned article points out, dealing with family issues while standing in the media limelight can be a tricky game to play for both mothers and fathers.

So how do you decide if running for office is right for your family?

  1. First and foremost, talk to them.  Even your smallest children should be in on the discussion.  Explain to them what running office will mean to them and why you want to run.
  2. Make them a part of the campaign.  Presidential candidates may be walking a tightrope with this one, but you don’t have to.  By all means have your kids with you when you go door-to-door or to public events.  Chances are they’ll love the activity and the attention, and real voters (not journalists and political commentators) will identify with you as being down-to-earth and real.  Bringing your family along says ‘hey, I’m a parent, I know what it’s like to want the best for my kids – I want the best for yours, too.’
  3. Set up a support network, both within the campaign and within your family.  There are going to be sick days, dance recitals, and other special circumstances.  There are also going to be evening debates, candidate meet & greets and Lincoln Day dinners.  Enlist your children’s godparent to be that special someone in your stead for a few family things, and tap your campaign staff and supporters to speak on your behalf at the Republican Women’s Club Luncheon.  Be sure to talk to these people well in advance of the campaign and make certain they know how important they are in your support system.
  4. Be completely honest with your constituents.  If you can’t someplace for family reasons, say so.  Voters will understand.  They really will.
  5. Build in some spa time for your spouse periodically to relieve the extra stress you’re putting on them.  Since my husband’s much more likely than I am to be a candidate again I thought I’d throw that one in.  But it’s a good idea, right?

Warning:  Tangential Rant Below

The Rick Santorum article mentions this Post article by Sally Quinn, who writes the thinly veiled left-leaning “On Faith” blog, where posed this somewhat naive question shortly after Sarah Palin was chosen as McCain’s running mate, “When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make?”

I hate idiot rhetorical ultimatum questions like this.  It makes me want to answer them.

When your kid is sick and the phone rings at 3 a.m. with Putin or Cameron on the other line, you do the same thing you would if you crashed at midnight after a 20 hour workday and your kid wakes up with a nightmare:  You get your butt out of bed and deal with the monsters.  

Or at least Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum would.  I doubt I can say the same for Sally Everything-Is-Black-And-White Quinn.

Back to Parenting and Politics

Despite what the television wants you to think, campaigning and parenting are actually quite symbiotic.  You’re showing your children how to lead by example.  You’re teaching them core principles by living them, voicing them, and hopefully protecting them with your vote in office.  You’re teaching them the importance of serving, giving back, and supporting your community and the democratic process.  Your children will potentially gain loads more from the experience of tagging along on the campaign trail than they could ever lose.

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I Don’t Care About Gay Marriage

gay marriage, political campaign, rick santorum, new hampshire, primary

"Damn! All the good ones are either married or gay..."

As I write this, the hammer is coming down on GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum for his very conservative views on marriage, sex, and abortion.  I’ve been avoiding this divisive topic for months because it’s a crazy sticky web of complicated B.S., but what better time to talk about the issue of “gay marriage” than now, when it’s so fresh in the political debate?

First, I’d like to give a little (very unofficial) history of gay marriage and what it is.  I should preface by saying I’m not an expert on gay rights, but I am an expert on how they affect political campaigns.

For several years political issues surrounding homosexuals had been classified under the heading of ‘civil rights.’  Homosexuality has kind of been given the same status as gender or race is this regard, and rightly so, since (as far as I can tell) its just another trait you get at birth.  In 2004, however, President George W. Bush’s campaign forever altered this perception of homosexuality.

When the war issue was getting too stale to inspire the GOP voter base for Bush’s second presidential run, the Bush campaign decided to light a fire under the ass of a great sleeping giant of GOP base supporters:  ‘Evangelical’ or ‘Fundamental’ Christians.  So Karl Rove in all his brilliance thought up the idea of grabbing hold of a very liberal fringe issue that had hardly made any traction whatsoever on its own and flipping it on its head to turn it into the firestorm now known as “gay marriage.”

You see, gay activists had been struggling to get the same privileges for monogamous gay couples that married couples get, like tax privileges, adoption rights and healthcare rights.  They wanted some legal entity to acknowledge the relationship as valid so that they could, for example, visit each other in the hospital.  There were small battles being fought, but no major media was picking up the issue and putting it on a national agenda.

The 2004 Bush campaign pointed a big, national finger at these activists and said “Look!  Look what they want to do.  They want to be married.  They want to have all the same rights and privileges as married people.  But the Bible says being gay is wrong.  If the U.S. government gives them those rights and privileges, that’s like we’re saying being gay is A-OK.  Do you, America, want to go against the Bible and put your seal of approval on something the Bible says is wrong?  If not, vote for Bush again and he’ll ban gay marriage with a Constitutional Amendment.”  From that point on, the homosexuality debate quickly became not a civil rights issue, but a moral issue.  Moral issues are incredibly emotionally charged and legally murky – the perfect environment for waging a fantastic political ambush.

And everyone in America whose ever read at least most of the Bible said “Oooh, that sounds logical, I think I really need to vote for Bush again.”  That is how Bush turned out spectacular numbers within the party base in 2004, and how he even squeezed a few independents over to his side to squeak through the November elections without a getting pink slip.

For the gay activists, well, whether they’d admit it or not, it actually did them a favor, because now everybody in America was thinking about their issue, and all the political commentators were talking about it.  There have been a lot of local and state level victories in the area of gay rights/privileges since 2004, much more rapidly than they ever would have occurred before.

That’s the history.  So what’s my point in this post?  “I thought this blog was about campaigning!” you say.  Well it is!

I hate, hate, hate the issue of gay marriage.  Quite frankly, I’m annoyed that Rove came up with this whole scheme, because it’s made political campaigning even less about real, important, quantifiable, life-affecting issues than it already was.  Being on one side or the other of this issue helps only a few candidates in a few parts of the nation, at particular times in the political media cycle.  If you go around stumping on the maladies of gay marriage when you’re running for state senator, then guess what?  It will bite you in the ass when you run for Congress!  That’s right!  I say stay as far away from this issue as humanly possible.  Dodge and redirect questions from the media.  Heck, I’d even skip the vote if it came up, maybe, or at least do everything in your power not to let it come to a vote.

As you can see on the news, the social conservative ‘traditional marriage’ message plays very well in Iowa where people are mostly white, middle class, church-goers.  But look at what is going on in New Hampshire.  The East Coasters are having none of it, and it could mean a surging primary win for Mr. Moderate Mitt Romney, crowning him the unofficial GOP nominee for president.

All that being said, I hereby declare that I retain the right to say “I told you so” when Obama handily pulls off winning a second term, or worse yet, when America comes to realize that the Romney administration is a carbon copy of the last four years.

When it comes to state level policy, yes, the issue is relevant.  But the Constitution of the United States makes it abundantly clear that the federal government has absolutely no jurisdiction in the area of ‘marriage’ or anything even closely related to it.  So why are we talking about this at all in a presidential campaign?

When it comes to national politics, I don’t care about gay marriage.  I really don’t care, because,

  • It should be a state issue, always and forever.
  • Unemployment is too high
  • The tax burden is too high
  • Government spending is way too high
  • We obviously have more important things to do!
America has allowed issues like gay marriage, abortion, immigration and healthcare to be the “Hey! Look over there!” tactic that both Republicans and Democrats use to distract us from the fact that they don’t have a real plan to fix any real problems.  The Republican primary debates began being about one thing: Economy, economy, economy.  Jobs, jobs, jobs.  Now it’s a three ring circus, with MSNBC and CNN as the ringmasters and the Tea Party swinging precariously from the trapeze.
**Here are a couple of good resources for further info on the topic:
buy the campaign planbook

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Hot Damn! Rick Santorum Is on Fire!

rick santorum wins gop iowa caucus republican presidential

While he’s been one of my favorites all along (as well as Cain and Bachmann, both of whom are sadly already out of the race), I didn’t expect to see such a slam dunk performance by former Senator Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses yesterday.  Congratulations to you, Sen. Santorum, and for God’s sake, keep it going!

As I’ve mentioned before, we Republicans have been blessed with an awesome field of primary contenders to choose from.  Unfortunately, however, the trend for the past several months – impacted in no small amount by the mainstream media political talking heads, of course – has been a rousing game of musical chairs.  King Romney has been planted firmly in one seat and a slew of other (much, much) more conservative candidates taking the remaining seat.  One by one they have been picked off, not only by strong media criticism, but also by the factions within our own dismal party.

Ever since Rick Santelli’s iconic rant on CNBC, the sleeping giant within the GOP now known as the Tea Party Movement has placed a firm grip on the true conservatives of America, and placed themselves squarely at odds with the strangest of adversaries – no, not the bleeding heart liberals in the White House – our own stodgy, GOP political elite, also known as ‘the Establishment.’  Mwahaha!  It sounds so powerful and daunting, doesn’t it?  The Establishment has become such by riding along with the status quo, compromising conservative values in order to stay in office, and racking up an enormous federal budget in the meantime.

The make-up of the GOP has been firming up for the past nearly three years, and it looks like 2012 could be (dear God, please let it be!) the year that the Establishment is kicked to the curb and conservatives grab the GOP wheel and yank us all back to the right.

What Santorum needs now is a solid New Hampshire victory next Tuesday to push him over the edge and into front-runner position.  Hopefully right now he’s getting floods of donations and Republicans all over the northeast are driving in to help his team go door-to-door and make calls.  If you haven’t gotten involved in this race yet (and I am definitely one of the folks that hasn’t), now is the time!  This next weekend/week is going to be fun!

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12 Lessons Learned: A Critique of the 2012 Presidential Campaign Slogans

rick perry campaign slogan humor

Campaign Slogans.  How much do they matter really?  Let me tell you, a TON!

If you only spend three whole days working out your written campaign plan (which you could conceivably do with my Campaign Planbook), you should spend at least a day and a half of that coming up with your campaign slogan.  Why?  Because chances are no matter how many words you say, the most you’re ever going to get a voter to remember is this one, 5-10 word phrase – and that’s only if you repeated it a GAZILLION, MILLION TIMES.

With that in mind, I thought we’d take a look today at the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls and see what they came up with.  I’m hoping through this constructive criticism, you’ll be able to glean some idea of what *works* in a campaign slogan, and what doesn’t.

 

First, let’s review the 2008 general, in which, as is ever the case, messaging was everything.

country-first john mccain campaign slogan

“Country First.”  Dull.  Vague.  Much like absolutely everything he said during the campaign.  Sorry, it’s the truth.  Dare I even say, too short?

obama campaign slogan
“Change We Can Believe In.” Woah, what’s this???  Where did this word ‘change‘ come from?  Oh, that’s right, everyone in America was already saying it!  All the democrats had to do was LISTEN!

Lesson 1: Put your ear to the railroad tracks and listen to what the voters want.  They will tell you what they want to hear!

So, on to 2012, yay!  This is going to be exciting.

rick perry campaign slogan

“It’s time to get America back to work again.”  Let’s see, where shall we start?  First of all, *duh.*  I think everybody knows it’s time to get America working again, but what the hell does it say about you Rick Perry?  Nothing about this sentence automatically makes me think of Rick Perry.  Also, he’s seriously pushing the word limit.  9 wordy words?  Couldn’t you have made it something pithier?  And how about inciting some action?  This sounds like he’s making a casual observation, not trying to call people to action.  Maybe something like “Let’s get back to work.”  Even better, find a way to say ‘jobs’ instead of ‘work’ – it’s more concrete.

Lesson 2:  Always choose concrete words over conceptual words.  

Lesson 3:  Always use active rather than passive voice.

bachmann michele campaign slogan

“American Jobs Right Now.”  It’s short.  It’s concrete.  It’s simple and singular.  I’d wager ‘American’ and ‘right’ are unnecessary.  The Bachmann team could have given more strength and motivation for action with some other choice.  In general, however, it’s really not bad.  Everybody likes to throw in ‘America’ at the national level. but it’s a little cliché.  She has room for more words and could tweak this to make this a more direct call to action: “Let’s Create American Jobs, Right Now.” or something like that.

Lesson 4:  Your slogan should be a strong call-to-action.

herman cain campaign slogan

“It’s Time to Renew the U.S.A.”  Hmm, ‘U.S.A.’ might be worse than ‘America.’  And ‘renew,’ while a fresh and interesting word choice, is still kinda vague and conceptual.  When you think of Herman Cain, you’re more likely to recall: “9-9-9,” a freakin’ brilliant unofficial slogan that pulls everything together.  Yes, it takes a little bit of explaining, but once you’ve heard it one time, you’ll never forget that ‘9-9-9′ means 9% flat income tax, 9% corporate tax, and 9% sales tax.  And nobody can forget it belongs to Herman Cain.  It really doesn’t get any more concrete and action-oriented than ‘9-9-9′ this campaign season.

Lesson 5:  Numbers sky-rocket your credibility and understandability.
Lesson 6:  New and different = High risk, high reward.

gingrich- campaign slogan 

“Win the Future.”  This campaign slogan actually riled up several commentators since Newt stole this phrase from Obama himself, and it can be abbreviated WTF.  Who doesn’t love that?  This country could use a little winning.  I’m still mulling this one over.  I’m torn between this slogan falling into the ‘too abstract’ category or the  ‘high risk, high reward’ category.  I guess we’ll wait and see.

Lesson 7:  If you’re the wittiest candidate of the year, you can get away with more.

jon huntsman campaign slogan

“Be A Part of The Solution.”  It’s a call to action.  I like that part of it.  But it doesn’t address a single issue, nor a single character trait of the candidate.  This could be anyone’s slogan, running for anything, anywhere.

Lesson 8:  Your campaign slogan is first and foremost about you.
Lesson 9:  Close #2 priority (after YOU) is mentioning your most resonant issue.

ron paul campaign slogan

“Restore America Now.”  I love three word slogans.  They just stick.  And if you choose the perfect three words, you have the most perfect slogan for your campaign.  This particular campaign slogan is perfect for Ron Paul.  It wouldn’t necessarily work for other candidates, and it wouldn’t necessarily resonate with a different voting base, but it certainly rings loud and clear with his base.

‘Restore.’  Everything that comes out of Ron Paul’s mouth ties back to the belief that America needs to go back to its constitutional roots and get rid of the piles and piles of legislation that has junked it up, and his supporters eat that up like candy – so ‘restore’ is very fitting.

‘America.’  This is the only use of ‘America’ that is not superfluous.  Other people said it to be patriotic; Paul is saying it because he’s talking about America.  He could have said ‘our nation’ or ‘our country’ but America is one word – more concise – and therefore the best choice.

‘Now.’  Well, he needed a third word.  ‘Now’ adds a sense of urgency that the public is desperately searching for right now.

Lesson 10:  Three word slogans stick.

RomneyBelieveInAmerica

“Believe in America.”  Another gratuitous ‘America.’  ‘Believe’ is worn out, thanks, Barack.  The fact that it’s lifted from John Kerry’s 2004 campaign is irrelevant because the voters didn’t remember it when he used it, either.  So if you haven’t gathered this already…

Lesson 11:  SAY SOMETHING THAT MEANS SOMETHING!

rick santorum campaign slogan

“The Courage to Fight for America.” Ah!  Enough ‘America’ already, guys!  Anyway,  ‘courage’ and ‘fight’ are great word choices – they both evoke strong imagery and emotion, and they’re kinda manly, don’t you think?  Which is a quality voters look for in a Republican candidate.  I like the direction Santorum is going, he just needs to get there more directly.  It’s not enough to insinuate positive qualities, you have to shove it in the voters’ faces.

Lesson 12:  Be brutally blunt with your audience.

 

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Candidates – Do NOT Jump on the Occupy Wall Street Bandwagon

I just read this disastrous political advice from – you guessed it! – a political consultant – and while most first-time candidate’s aren’t into Campaigns & Elections quite yet, I think it’s imperative that this ridiculous idea be rebutted.  I posted a long comment on the original post, but of course it’s ‘waiting for approval.’  Yeah, I won’t be standing by the mailbox for that one.  So here is my comment, and then some, in response to this heinous, heinous, heinous post:

Wow.  This is the worst, worst, worst idea ever.  In what area/district would this micro-strategy ever work?  I’m thinking, if you’re running in a district solely composed of liberal professors and college students, you might have a thin chance of scraping by in an election, if it’s THIS November. As a ‘youth engagement political consulting firm,’ (ha!) you can’t deny the statistics that have said for decades that young people don’t vote.  Don’t get me wrong, I used to think we were on an upswing ten years ago, I even did an in-depth study citing valid statistics, but time has proven that that’s just not the case.

Additionally, the Gen Y’ers – the proper term is Millennials, or Millennial Generation, by the way, Mr. Youth Engagement Expert –  are graduating college and many have been in the workforce (or not) for 5-10 years now (the link is to the ground-breaking book written on the Millennial generation 11 years ago, that this “political consultant” obviously hasn’t read – I highly recommend it).  They are PAYING TAXES and therefore have a much deeper level of understanding of how important smaller government and lower taxes are to improving the economy.

It’s ridiculous to make a comparison between the revolution of the Middle East, in which there is legitimate and serious oppression being felt, and a group of protesters made up primarily of young adults who are still living at home with their enabling parents complaining that they aren’t being handed everything anymore (I’m generalizing here, of course.  In fairness there are folks with legitimate concerns involved/stimulated by this movement, but the kids in Zuccotti Park are not them).

I would NOT recommend that any serious candidate for office, Republican or Democrat, touch this issue with a ten foot poll.  For the vast majority of candidates (state and local), it should not be an issue at all – deal with your local politics.  For national campaigns, this protest will fizzle long before November 2012, so you really don’t want to hitch your wagon to that horse.  It won’t sustain an entire campaign.

Here are a couple shocking facts for you:

  • Young people don’t vote.  Never have.  Maybe never will.  And that’s okay.  Who cares?  If you look at the statistics and cross reference age with voter turnout, people generally vote more and more as they get older.  The last stat I saw on senior citizens said that 68% of them vote, about 10-15% more than the general electorate, depending on the election.  Just because kids don’t vote now doesn’t mean they never will.  They grow up, they begin to notice how government affects their lives, they get more involved in the political process.  And that’s perfectly okay.
  • Young people are growing more conservative.  There is a ton of research and statistical evidence to support this.  Here’s a story I found quickly for the point of this post about how young people want more traditional values, but there are plenty more.  To sum up, young people are more involved in their community, more fiscally conservative, and more socially libertarian.
  • There is always a vocal minority who gets an insane amount of media coverage that makes them look like a huge crowd.  This is what is happening with Occupy Wall Street.  It sucks, because they don’t really represent 99% of us, but they get 99% of the attention.

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“Mitt Romney Is Our John Kerry”

I didn’t say this.  My husband did.  And it’s a good observation.  Mitt Romney is the candidate that sticks out as the one that ‘fits the mold’ – the mold that Republicans so desperately need to break out of.  When stacked up against President Obama, he doesn’t offer much “change” or “hope” compared to his primary opponents.  And his message is bound to be lost in the media’s death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts methods of tearing down boring candidates, just as they did with John Kerry.

Republicans are perfectly poised to have a sweeping victory, if only they would nominate a fresh, new face (literally) instead of a middle-aged white businessman/politician.

Let’s take a look at Herman Cain.

cain obama campaign

The pros:

  • He’s got a plan.  And more importantly, he’s got a plan people can understand.  None of this “I have a plan – I can’t explain it on TV because it’s an extensive 7463935 point plan that makes everything 362740 times more complicated to understand than it already is – but trust me, I’ve got a plan, and it’s fantastic” crap.
  • He’s a good communicator.  With some professional support, he’ll be a great one.
  • He’s not a politician.  Thank God.
  • He’s got a fantastic story.  The man beat stage four cancer for crying out loud!
  • He’s black.  That takes away Obama’s worn out race card.  If you think he’s not planning to pull that puppy out this go around, you are gravely mistaken, my friend.
The cons:
  • He’s not a politician.  It hasn’t really happened yet, but if they get desperate and he seems like a big enough threat, Cain’s primary opponents will call it a sin that he’s never held a political office before.
  • He’s black.  There are still bigots.  Besides the crazies who are probably also felons and therefore not allowed to vote, there are old people who wouldn’t vote for a black man even if two black men were the only names on the ballot.  They are dying off, thankfully, but unfortunately they vote more than any other age group.  I’m hoping that most senior citizens are NOT those people.
Note that those cons are really only valid in the primary race, and become a moot point, for the most part, in a Cain v. Obama scenario.
It’s my personal hope that the GOP finally wrenches itself from it’s establishment fetish and jumps at the opportunity to join the 21st century.

 

 

 

 

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