If you want a real shot at running for office, following these 11 rules for campaign success could get you there.
The rules come from Jeff Smith’s “Campaign Management Boot Camp” at The New School, where he is an assistant professor of Politics and Advocacy.
But he’s not only an academic.
Smith served in the Missouri Senate from 2006-2009 as the nation’s only white state senator from a majority-black district. He later ran for the congressional seat vacated by Dick Gephardt in 2004, losing a close race to Rep. Russ Carnahan.
That campaign was the subject of a critically-acclaimed documentary Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?
Here, Smith tells us his 11 steps to running a successful campaign.
Instead of staffers waiting for someone to tell them what to do, Smith says they should be allowed to be bold and creative. 'Don't ask for permission. Don't even ask for forgiveness,' he says.
One example he offered, is if a junior staffer starts calling every labour union leader in the state for support -- when they would expect a call directly from the candidate.
Instead of the campaign manager scolding them, they should say, 'Don't ever call that guy again, but I like the way you're being aggressive out there.'
If you're looking to do something that hasn't been done before, extensive experience on the campaign trail can be a negative, according to Smith.
Instead, campaigns should opt for newcomers that can bring fresh thinking into a race.
'Karl Rove was the most experienced guy in American politics and he didn't even know when his guy lost. Having done something before can help you, but it can constrain you in the future.'
Those bold thinkers you've hired as staff, volunteers, or interns need room to grow, so Smith advises giving them an opportunity to lead -- and float the possibility of a full-time position.
They can write a direct mail piece, a fundraising letter, or an ad script -- 'you'll be surprised how often they do it better than the pros,' he says.
And he offers some bold leadership advice:
'Don't ever ask a member of your staff to do something that you wouldn't do yourself,' Smith says. 'Yet most campaign managers do just that.'
For innocent mistakes or mistakes of enthusiasm, Smith says campaign managers should give second chances.
And if the person is really worth it, give third chances.
But some transgressions should be dealt with quickly.
'For disloyalty, expel the offender,' Smith says. 'Loyalty is tough to teach.'
According to Smith, when you think you know who to talk to, you're usually wrong.
As explanation, he gives a personal anecdote: The richest woman he met while running for Congress gave him only $25 -- and a list of more than 800 names that provided a foundation of support.
'They became my strongest supporters. They all gave money, and took yard signs.'
During his campaign, Smith said he received what amounted to a veiled threat of violence from the opposition.
'Instead of saying 'are you threatening me?' I smiled and laughed,' Smith said.
When candidates are with their base -- the 'true believers' -- they should never discuss campaign strategy unless someone asks. The base wants to hear about the issues.
The same goes for lobbyists, although they may press to know more about campaign strategy so they can be sure their is a path to victory.
'They just want to be with the winner,' Smith said.
Instead of the big shots in office, it was the owner of a local coffee house that became Smith's most influential supporter.
'Everyone in the coffee house knew her, loved her, and respected her,' he said. 'The fact that she supported me was probably more influential than the leading gay rights organisation.'
'They say that any lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. It's the same in politics,' Smith said.
In his campaign, Smith went the inexpensive route and hired a former student, shying away from the entrenched political class.
'I never hired anyone that was technically qualified to do the job they were required to do.'
And it turned out well.
'We far exceeded expectations in both of our races. They worked hard, they were loyal. They figured it out on the spot. They just figured it out.'
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