Hat in the Ring, Not on Your Head!

Political candidates should not wear hats.

Apparently, this is a thing.  I’m amazed I made it this long without discovering this hard and fast campaigning rule.  But really, it’s probably rarely an issue in local campaigns.  How often do local elected officials or candidates get asked to wear hats, really?

At the higher echelons, however, this is a rule you’ll need to be aware of. To prove the point, politico.com has provided a brief history of this rule:

And–this is the best part–a little tidbit from the Nixon Campaign Plan Book:

“The 37th President of the United States of America NEVER WEARS HATS…no honorary hats…no protocol hats…no “great photo” hats…no “the law requires” hats…no “it’s the custom” hats…no cute hats…no beanies…no stovepipes…no firehats…no captains hats…no caps…no Indian headdress…no feather hats…no hard hats…no soft hats…no ladies hats…no mens hats…no fur hats…no paper hats…no grass hats…no thorn hats…no “Nixon’s The One” hats…no nothing.  HATS ARE TOXIC–AND CAN KILL YOU.”

Even if you’re the President of the United States, standing in the middle of Ground Zero among hundred of other people wearing protective hats…

no hat bush

NO.  HAT.

I can understand how a presidential candidate could easily be made to look foolish by wearing inappropriate headgear.  Now, the chances of a hat bringing an equally devastating effect upon a town or county campaign are probably slim, but…why risk it?  Besides, City Councilmen become Mayors, State Representatives become Congressional candidates…do you really want a picture of you in a dorky hat surfacing during an election for higher office down the road?

Leave the hats at home!

Try a lapel pin instead.  Those never go out of style, am I right???

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Carol Way – Doing GOTV Right

It’s Friday before Election Day and I get a text from my husband at 6:30am – “Hey, guess who’s at the train station!”  Followed by this pic:

IMG_6110

It’s my hubby Matt with Connecticut State Representative candidate Carol Way, whose clever and memorable yard signs I simply LOVE.

The day before (5 days before E-Day), we got a nice mail piece from the Way campaign – I saved it to remind myself to contact them about getting a yard sign of my very own.  I finally remembered around 11pm, and shot off an email via the campaign website asking them to get me a sign.

By 11 am the very next day – *boom* – a volunteer had plunked a yard sign in our yard, and it’s a good thing, too, because despite covering the city pretty well, it’s the only one in our neighborhood.

I just moved to this area a few months ago, and therefore have zero name recognition with any of the candidates starting out in this election cycle.  A blank slate!

So let’s run this GOTV effort down:
First contact – Excellent yard sign distribution effort, most likely driven by a great group of dedicated volunteers
Second contact – One well-timed mailer, 5 days before the election – I’m curious to see if another hits on Monday
Third contact – Met candidate in person at the train station, the perfect hub for greeting large numbers of voters in a short amount of time.

So far the Way campaign is doing fantastic!  Let’s hope for her sake it continues.

Now let’s compare this to her opponent, Cristin McCarthy Vahey.  This campaign has clearly sunk a lot of money into mail drops, because I’ve gotten at least five separate mailers from them.

There’s nothing wrong with a focused mail effort.  However, there’s something very wrong with a mail effort that starts dropping pieces months in advance of the election, and then sends nothing in the weeks and days leading up to the election!  At least not yet; we’ll see what happens Monday!

I will give the Vahey campaign credit for putting together a decent door-to-door effort over the summer.  But her yard sign coverage is anemic at best.  Compound that with a longer and less memorable name and you get low name recognition numbers.

I do, however, recognize her tag line: Community. Service. Integrity.

It’s memorable because she’s using my 3-Word Campaign Slogan Strategy!  Kudos, Vahey communications team.  Clearly the Fairfield Dems are reading GOP Campaigner.

And finally I have to give a special mention to State Representative candidate Tony Hwang, whose campaign came up with the positively brilliant idea to advertise here:

Tony Hwang for State Representative

You know that restaurant in town that serves breakfast 24-7 and is positively packed on Sundays?  Every town has one, right?  That picture is of the placemat at ours.  Depending on how many franchises they did this in, I’d wager thousands of voters spent a lot of time with Hwang’s full-color campaign message right next to their orange juices and coffees.  Genius!  Definitely worth the money on the weekend before Election Day.  The Hwang campaign also has a solid yard sign presence.

Earlier this year, an editorial opined that Fairfield County would be make-or-break for the 2014 Connecticut Gubernatorial election.  If the local candidates’ ground game is any indication, I’d say Fairfield GOP has their act together and will likely pull through for repeat candidate Tom Foley.  Those factors coupled with the Independent candidate dropping out and endorsing Foley add up to very good news for CT Republicans.

I’m excited to watch the results come in Tuesday and see which strategies win out!

What’s the take-away for you future candidates out there?

Be where the voters are!
(and not just where they expect to see you)

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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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