Public Relations • Strategic Planning • Lobbying • Coalition Development
Grassroots Coordination • Public Opinion Polling

Four More Items for the Campaign Manager’s Checklist

May 12th, 2015

By: Paul Bentz

Campaigns and Elections has a great article from JR Starrett laying out a very helpful campaign manager’s checklist for the first 90 days of the campaign. You can check out the article here. Starrett does a good job of setting out several of the key items that all campaigns should consider in their early stages.

Sometimes it can be difficult to prioritize campaign activities – especially early in the cycle. The list of things to do can be daunting, and early on, every decision made seems monumental. However, if you try to do everything at once, nothing really gets done. It’s like the Three Stooges trying to walk through a door.

Starrett’s strategy is an excellent starting point, but there were a couple of key areas that I believe also need attention early. I’ve added four more items to the checklist to make it an even (and still manageable) ten. Here are four more rules to guide a campaign manager’s first 90 days (Read Starrett’s 1-6):

7. Get your data

To build a pathway to victory, you need to know who you are going to talk to. That means getting your data together to understand your electorate. Work with a reputable firm to model your turnout. You should know how many people you expect to turn out, where they will be coming from, how old they will be, and a whole host of other details. If your list provider can’t get you that data, you need to find someone else. Elections are won and lost on bad data. If resources allow, I would recommend a baseline survey in the first 90 days to better understand awareness, key issues, and fine tune your messaging.

8. Draft a timeline

The 90 day finance plan should come with a 90 day campaign timeline for success. Activities for the campaign should be lined up with the finance activities to maximize success and ensure that your clients feel like both sides of the campaign are being fulfilled – not just the money side. By the end of the 90 days, if not before, you should also have a draft timeline to victory that starts where you are and ends on Election Day. The timeline might change as the campaign progresses, but it will help keep everyone on track and sure that the campaign is setting the tone and pace of the race instead of reacting to whatever is thrown at them.

9. Establish talking points

Message discipline cannot be achieved without a message. Too many campaigns stumble through the wilderness at first while they try to figure out what they want to say and what they believe. Answers to questions like, “Why are you running?” should be nailed down and practiced as early as possible. It’s understandable that key issues may take a little time to figure out, but everyone needs to sing from the same song sheet to make sure that the message is consistent. Ensure that your supporters and key advocates have been equipped with talking points from the beginning so that they are painting the same picture. It’s much easier to start from the same point than try to bring everyone back together later.

10. Set the tone

As the campaign manager, it is your responsibility to set the tone for the campaign. You are responsible for setting the procedures for how team meeting are going to run, establishing how internal communications will be conducted, and setting forth the decision making process. As the manager, you should be setting the meeting agenda to keep things moving and not letting every decision devolve into a monumental debate. It’s much easier to set a tone and then lighten up than it is to be easy going at first and expect discipline later. Pro-tip: save the agenda from your first few campaign meetings to review at your last meeting. It’s fun to watch how things have changed.

Campaigns are fun and challenging. They change all the time, but there are some truths that stand the test of time. If you are interested in running for something, we recommend you check out “So you want to be a candidate?” and then feel free to give us a call to chat.

Can you be a bad person but a strong leader?

April 28th, 2015

It was recently announced that “House of Cards” will come back for a fourth season. There is no doubt that it is a fun show to watch and there are certainly aspects of that program that are rather true to life. Like “The West Wing” and “The Ides of March,” these shows have archetypes that most in politics can identify with – personalities, responsibilities, leadership styles, moralities played out for our entertainment.

In his latest New York Times column, David Brooks explores the reality behind one of these political characteristics by posing the question, “Can you be a bad person but a strong leader?” Read the column.

Like Mr. Brooks, we have come to the same conclusion that the answer is a resounding “No.” Leadership requires strong character and an internal understanding of doing the right thing. It takes a willingness to build coalitions, develop friendships, exhibit loyalty, and bring people together to find solutions.

Ultimately, the Frank Underwood school of taking no prisoners and winning at all costs catches up with people. As Brooks explains, “They treat each relationship as a transaction and don’t generate loyalty. They lose any honest internal voice. After a while they can’t accurately perceive themselves or their situation. Sooner or later their Watergate will come.”

Some would say that too many politicians fall into this category. Brooks says that these people “become consumed with resentments.” We would also argue that they often become consumed with their own importance.

The truth is that we should hold our leaders to a higher standard. We should support and follow those who have both a drive to succeed and a heart for others. That is not to say they should be weak or without cunning. They must be willing to hold on to the bat when the situation arrives. However, their trustworthiness must be commensurate with their leadership.

As Brooks concludes, “But, historically, most effective leaders — like, say, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill — had a dual consciousness. They had an earnest, inner moral voice capable of radical self-awareness, rectitude and great compassion. They also had a pragmatic, canny outer voice. These two voices were in constant conversation, checking each other, probing for synthesis, wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove.” Read the column.

2015 Best of the Capitol

April 27th, 2015

This time of year brings us gorgeous weather, cherry blossoms in Washington DC, and of course, the Arizona Capitol Times Best of the Capitol awards. The 2015 nominations are in and we’re asking you for your consideration. Click here to see the entire list of nominations.

Please take the time to vote for HighGround and our friends in a couple of categories:

22.   Best Political Operative: Chuck Coughlin
23.   Best Campaign Consultant: Paul Bentz
26.   Best Twitterer: Paul Bentz
28.   Best Ballot Measure: Yes on 480
29.   Best Campaign Sign: Supervisor Clint Hickman
30.   Best Web Video: Really!?

Voting this year has been limited to Capitol Times Subscribers only, but they are offering a subscription special for $99. Subscribe, save and vote! Click here to vote.  The deadline is April 30th.

Thank you for your continued support! Good luck to everyone who has been nominated.

Lincoln’s Strength of Character

April 14th, 2015

It was 150 years ago today that our country lost one of its finest Presidents. Abraham Lincoln saw this nation through some of its darkest moments.

In Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin recognized Abraham Lincoln’s ability to understand his own emotional needs and connected it to Daniel Goleman’s definition of emotional intelligence saying, “‘Having hope means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges or setbacks.’ Hope is ‘more than the sunny view that everything will turn out all right;’ it is ‘believing that you have the will and the way to accomplish your goals.’”

Abraham Lincoln had tremendous strength of character.  He is the standard by which all elected leaders must test themselves.

We have been fortunate enough to work for a few that met that bar. May we all be blessed with such an opportunity again.

The Dark Soul of the Tea Party Movement

April 8th, 2015

By: J. Charles Coughlin

In yesterday’s Arizona Capitol Times Yellow Sheet Report, I was quoted as saying that, if the State Senator from Mohave County chose to challenge our incumbent United States Senator John McCain that her candidacy would “die in the darkness of her own soul.”

These are tough words that need, in my estimation, some further explanation.

Gratefulness is the parent of all other virtues. I find that most Tea Party advocates, such as the State Senator from Mohave County, appear to lack any gratitude for the fact that we live in the greatest country on Earth. When I listen to a good deal of their rhetoric, I am drenched in negativity; the politics of vilification, the hatred of those who want to blame others for the challenges that confront our country today.

The Tea Party has become the “Party of No” and that is not the Republican Party I am a part of. It is not the party that John McCain, Jan Brewer, Fife Symington, Grant Woods (all of whom I have worked for) represent. It is not the party of Jon Kyl, Jeff Flake, or Doug Ducey, either. All of these leaders are the products of American exceptionalism, a country based upon the notion that we are all created equal and are endowed by Our Creator with certain unalienable rights and among those is the right to pursue life, liberty and most of all, happiness.

In “The American Crisis,” Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should be not highly rated.”

John McCain has paid the price. John McCain knows the value of liberty and of freedom. John McCain has been an honorable public servant his entire adult life.

As the next election cycle dawns, I hope all Republicans are aware that we have lost the last two elections to arguably the most liberal President in the history of the United States. I am done speaking platitudes to our Party’s disgruntled and ungrateful extreme right wing.

For me, I am going to celebrate the fact that Arizona has a US Senator capable of producing results on important issues like water rights, the fate of our State’s military bases and the future use of our abundant public lands. Most importantly to me, Senator McCain is dedicated to the future security of our State’s border and the resolution of an immigration debate which has the greatest impact on the future of our State’s economy to grow, to thrive, and to create opportunities for others – to continue to give life to the American dream.

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We need more leaders like Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain, who epitomize the opportunity economy of the American Dream, in public service today. For me, I will not let that dream die in the ungrateful, thoughtless hands of yet another Tea Party candidate.

All Americans should ask themselves the question posed by author Robert Thurman, “What is the deepest part of your inner mind, when you get away from all the surface distractions? What is down inside there? Is it a joyful, happy spirit? Is it an open loving spirit? Is it a bubbling well of positive energy? If it is, then that is the place you will be in the future.”

If it is not, well, put down the tea and figure that out for the rest of our sakes.