Politics is notoriously brutal, filled with wildly ambitious characters jockeying for influence in a competitive world, where money goes a long way and nobody is safe.
Incidentally, that summarizes most of the plot of the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, based on a series of popular novels by George R.R. Martin.
Just like in Washington, competing factions loaded with cash are fighting for their political survival, with all eyes on the top prize.
Here, we dissect some of the best political lessons from the land of Westeros.
Note: This slideshow contains spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 only.
At the start of the show, King Robert Baratheon has run the crown into a vast amount of debt to the richest man in Westeros, Lord Tywin Lannister.
As a result, Baratheon's obligations to the Lannister family make effective management of the seven kingdoms difficult. He's married to a Lannister, protected by Lannisters, advised by Lannisters and eventually killed by particularly ambitious Lannisters.
The main takeaway from this? Owing a debt to one group -- whether it's sovereign debt holders, lobbyists, interest groups or campaign donors -- risks both your occupation and ability to govern.
In one of the final episodes of season two, Tyrion Lannister returns from being held captive to learn that his father Tywin has started a war with the Starks.
Normally, Tyrion would have been disregarded and removed from the family business, but he returned with a hoard of hill people eager to kill in exchange for superior equipment.
The main takeaway? One of the best assets for a politician is a wildly energetic base of support -- be they Rep. Ron Paul's libertarians, President Obama's organising for America, or the crowd of people waiting for the word to run Hilliary Clinton's 2016 campaign.
In season one, Ned Stark is brought to the capitol city of Kings Landing to serve as the Hand of the King.
Ned quickly placed his trust in Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, the well-connected Master of Coin. This went very badly for Ned, as Baelish was more concerned with his own financial and political stability than advancing Stark's career.
Eventually, Baelish assisted the rival Lannister faction in arresting and eventually killing Stark.
The situation could hold a lesson for the Republican Party. In the wake of the 2012 election, many conservatives have claimed that the party trusted political consultants too much during the course of the election, and contributed to the GOP's losses.
At the start of the second season, Robert's brother Stannis is vying for the Iron Throne against a number of other claimants.
Stannis, however, has picked up a fancy new religion with ravenous followers led by a Priestess named Melisandre.
Throughout the second season, Stannis repeatedly uses religion to further his own political aims.
In America, using a committed base of values-oriented voters has been a time-tested strategy for both parties. By relying on the most faithful, politicians can develop a volunteer base who are willing to advance their mutual aims.
Besides the Lannisters being the richest and most powerful family in the realm, a number of characters use their or other people's money for their own advancement.
An example of this from season two is Renly Baratheon, who uses his new wife Margaery Tyrell's vast fortune to fund a campaign to get him on the throne.
Even though Renly has one of the worst claims to the throne, he is a top contender strictly because of the vast wealth behind his bid.
In American politics, the candidate with the most money wins the election in 9 out of 10 races, making it worthwhile for a politically ambitious individual to cultivate some wealthy friends.
Seeing that his brother Renly has amassed an army much larger than his own, and in the interest of avoiding a battle that would hurt both factions, Stannis sends the red priestess Melisandre to kill Renly.
This action -- accomplished via a magical smoke monster (it's complicated) -- ends Renly's bid for the throne and cements Stannis as the superior Baratheon claimant.
In politics, the pervasive power of a negative attack ad can spell doom for an otherwise well-run campaign.
Daenerys Targaryan -- the last surviving member of the exiled Targaryan royal family -- hatched dragons at the end of season one, and since then those dragons have become her primary asset in her bid to retake her ancestral seat.
However, when she spends time in the city of Qarth, her dragons are stolen by an unknown malefactor and used against her. Only when she is able to reclaim the beasts is she able to gain back her lost power.
The same thing takes place in American politics. For instance, Mitt Romney's extensive private sector experience -- one of his major successes in life -- was turned against him by President Obama's campaign. But unlike Daenerys, Romney was unable to reclaim his asset and went on to lose the election.
At the Battle of the Blackwater, Tyrion plans a ruse to blow up most of Stannis's oncoming assault fleet with wildfire, a highly flammable and explosive chemical. It's designed as a complete surprise.
The plan works, for the most part. While vastly outnumbered, Tyrion is able to diminish Stannis's ability to invade.
For candidates, it's always convenient to have a surprise up their sleeve. The concept of the 'October Surprise' -- a last minute hit piece that gives your opponent a small amount of time to recover -- has been around since at least the late 1960s, and has had devastating effects on candidates in several elections.
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