Helping Conservative Candidates Gain a Competitive Edge

Senate Republicans have announced their ‘First 100 days’ agenda should they become the majority party.

Senate Republicans have announced their ‘First 100 days’ agenda.

Senate Republicans have announced their ‘First 100 days’ agenda.


They will approve the Keystone pipeline, stop environmental regulations, give the President ‘fast track’ trade authority, and repeal the medical device tax.

Whoever came up with this could not sell sex in a brothel. It is boring, meaningless to most, and devoid of emotional appeal. Worse, it looks like (and probably is) the wish list of K Street lobbyists.

Not a word about the tax code, fixing Obamacare, energy prices, immigration, terrorism, entitlements, putting people back to work or helping Americans find a better paying job. Not even a hint of emotional appeal.

How to inject emotional punch into your platform and rhetoric?

1. When you offer an agenda use language voters can understand. Express your ideas in a way that allows voters to immediately grasp how your agenda would improve their lives.

2. Speak to hearts before you speak to heads. We are inundated with messages every day. The ones that get our attention are those that trigger one of the seven human emotions…anger, sadness, happiness, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt.

3. More important than the how, and even the what, is the why. The why lets voters know you are in touch with their pain, that you share their values, understand the daily challenges they face and are worth listening to.

If anyone can explain how the GOP’s ‘100 day plan’ does any of the above, please do tell in the comment section.

(Article: GOP Senate’s First 100 Days by Alexander Bolton.

If you are a candidate for federal office, or helping one who is, don’t wait on the GOP to offer a compelling agenda. They don’t know how. Write your own.

What will you do to replace Obamacare with something that allows Americans to keep the doctors they’ve lost, and buy affordable health insurance policies that fits their individual needs? What will you do to create competition that will force insurance companies to cut their prices, and empower Americans to make their own choices instead of having health insurance plans dictated to them? Ideas here.

What will you do to fix a tax code that penalizes work, savings and investment, and gives American companies an incentive to create jobs here instead of overseas? Ideas here.

How will you stop the invasion of the Southern border, fix a broken immigration system and do something that provides security, speed and clarity to the rules about who gets to come in, work, go to college and when they have to leave? Some ideas.

What will you do to foster more energy exploration, drive down the cost of gas, electricity, propane and fuel oil so that Americans can keep more of what they earn? Some ideas.

What is your plan to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare for the next generation, beef up a depleted military, care for veterans, fix bridges and roads? Some ideas.

Before you publish your platform, scrub the rhetoric and make sure it addresses at least one (or more) of the following…how your policies and ideas will improve the lives of your constituents, allow them to get a better and higher paying job, put their kids through college, save on health care costs, put money away for a secure retirement, buy a better house or car, and sleep at night absent fear that a terrorist cell will blow up their neighborhood.

GOP Senate Leadership 'First 100 Days' Agenda

GOP Senate Leadership ‘First 100 Days’ Agenda

When you are done, send it to the GOP Senate leadership. If you follow my rules, it will be better than anything they have come up with. Even better, send it to me at If it is really good, I’ll share your work so our subscribers can see something with sex appeal instead of the boring blah blah blah blather coming out of Washington.

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You Can Benefit From Some of the Lessons Learned from His Recent and Considerable Stumbles

Humiliation of Governor Andrew Cuomo

An Underfunded College Professor, Zephyr Teachout, Humiliated Andrew Cuomo in Democratic Primary

This post is about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Even if you don’t live in New York, you can benefit from some of the lessons learned from his recent and considerable stumbles.

Cuomo just received 62% of the vote in the Democratic primary; a smaller percentage than he received in the general election four years ago. He lost half the counties in New York. His opponent was an unknown college professor, a woman who until five years ago lived in Vermont. Her name is Zephyr Teachout and she spent about three cents in her campaign.

How and why did the underfunded, unknown, college professor humiliate a Cuomo?

Cuomo looked like a chickenshit, a hypocrite, and acted like a sexist thug. While touting his support of the ‘Women’s Equality Act,’ he spared no penny on lawyers who twice tried to knock his female opponent off the ballot. He refused to debate her, calling debates a ‘disservice to democracy,’ and refused to acknowledge her at a New York City parade where both appeared a few days before the primary. His boorish behavior cost him dearly with female voters.

There is a lesson in this, for all, in how you comport yourself in a campaign. You will look like a chicken if you refuse to debate. And even if you despise your opponent, voters expect you to be civil, especially if you are a man running against a woman. Cuomo treated his opponent in the same manner he treated his wife in their oh-so-messy divorce in 2003, when he used his agents to make sure the details of her adulterous relationship with another man were plastered on the front pages of New York tabloids.

Cuomo hid under his desk during the month before the primary. Voters expect candidates to campaign, to answer questions, face the media, hold forums and well, act like a candidate. Cuomo blew off the media, refused to engage the public, and conducted what some would call a ‘rose garden strategy.’ That may work when times are great, but it won’t work when half of the electorate thinks the state is headed in the wrong direction. Liz Benjamin, a well read blogger in New York, daily reports the Governor’s schedule. For most of the month of August and September it was the same…’Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.’

Cuomo ran against corruption four years ago, then acted corrupt. After he was elected Cuomo formed something called the Moreland Commission to investigate corruption, endowing it with the power to subpoena whatever records it wished, and vowing that the panel would have free reign and independence to ‘investigate any branch of government it saw fit—including the governor’s office.‘ A New York Times investigation this summer revealed that behind the scenes the Governor interfered with the Commission, told Commissioners to ‘walk back’ subpoenas it had issued to entities close to the Governor, including the Democratic party he controls, and an independent committee that spent more than $20 million in undisclosed donations on his behalf. One would think a man with Cuomo’s political skills would know better than to pull a stunt like this under the nose of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox News. Lesson to readers…don’t try to interfere with a prosecutor investigating corruption. If you do, don’t get caught. If you get caught you will pay a price.

The State of New York is reeling. Why do half the voters in New York think the state is headed in the wrong direction? It is. It has the second highest state and local tax burden in the nation, the highest property taxes, the highest energy costs and the worst business climate. More than three million people have left the state since the year 2000. Despite Cuomo’s $50 million dollar, taxpayer funded ad campaign touting New York’s economic progress, few believe it because it doesn’t square with the reality they know. Voters easily recognize bullshit when they see it. And they don’t fancy seeing it on their TV screens. Lesson here? When faced with the reality of tough economic times, acknowledge them and tell voters what you are doing to fix it. Don’t pretend that things are great when they suck.

Cuomo may win this fall if he chooses to learn from his humiliation. I would not count on it. The day after the primary he pronounced himself pleased. If he really believes that voters like him or his record, he is in trouble.

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Voters don’t know what the GOP stands FOR because the GOP hasn’t bothered to tell anybody…


The GOP Hasn't Bothered to Tell the Electorate What They Stand For.

The GOP hasn’t passed a single bill that offers the public a clue about how it would fix a country.

With Obama’s approval rating in the toilet, the Senate an embarrassment to the Republic, stagnant economic growth, record millions permanently unemployed, Obamacare’s drag on the economy, the spike in health insurance and patients losing their cherished doctors, ISIS beheading American journalists, Iraq falling to terrorists, Putin thumbing his nose at America, and Obama’s listlessness in the face of it all, 2014 should be a wave election.

It isn’t shaping up that way.The latest FOX News poll has democrats up seven in the generic ballot. USA Pew has democrats up five.

The problem for the GOP?

Too few believe the GOP has a plan to make anything better. That is not the fault of the media, or Obama, or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. It is the fault of the GOP, those who speak for it, and the paucity of ideas and policy options being offered by GOP candidates running for Congress and the Senate. Voters don’t know what the GOP stands FOR because the GOP hasn’t bothered to tell anybody, or pass a single bill that offers the public a clue about how it would fix a country.

Say what we will about Obama’s version of tax reform, immigration policy, health care policy, job creation policy, foreign policy or lack thereof…the fact is that the GOP has offered precious little to demonstrate that it has a coherent idea how to make things better.

The warnings are everywhere, and for good reason:

From McLaughlin and Associates, National Review Online…”The Republicans need to get back on offense and set an election agenda.”

From Karl Rove…”It’s vital that GOP candidates give a sense of their governing priorities.”

From the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley…”The GOP might also keep in mind that voters want to know what the party supports.” 

And a WSJ editorial damning the GOP’s messageless strategy…”Maybe Republicans should try to improve their odds by telling voters what they would do if they win.” 

Message to GOP candidates: Invest in positive advertising this season…clearly state what you are for; tell voters what you will do with the job if you get it. It will pay dividends. Voters expect it, and they are going to be really intolerant and antagonistic toward those who offer only anti-Obama blather. They already are.

Message to the GOP leadership: If your efforts to pick up House and Senate seats this fall come up short, save us the excuses and the blame game. It will be your fault.


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How to Ensure That Friendly Super PACs Help, Not Hurt…

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Making Sure Those Friendly Super-PACs Help, Not Hurt, Candidates They Hope to Get Elected

How to ensure that friendly Super-Pacs help, not hurt. Image by Donkey Hotey.

Friendly Super-PACs, like Citizens United, may be hurting candidates, as much as helping.

Anybody who has ever been in charge of a competitive, high-stakes campaign knows the drill. Painstaking research, poll testing strategic ideas, finding what works, crafting the complicated into a compelling message, war-gaming and anticipating how the opponent will respond to the strategy, and making sure there is enough money to prosecute the advertising effort.

The Citizens United decision changed everything. Because the Super-PACs have more money and easier access to it, they can and often do overwhelm the firepower of the candidates, and their message. When the Super PACs are setting the agenda, the candidates become mere pawns on the chess table.

Bad enough that candidates must face down their opponents and their Super PAC allies, but as Karen Tumulty recently noted in a Washington Post story, the Super PACs that are ‘friendly’ to a candidate are often the ones causing the greatest headache. According to her story, a left wing Super PAC running an ad aimed at helping Democrat Bruce Braley in Iowa’s Senate race has Braley’s manager baffled and “Iowans scratching their heads.”

The Problem with friendly Super PACS?

Problem One: They don’t have access to the same information that candidates do. They don’t have the same research, the same polls, the same playbook, or the same understanding of local politics or issues. In fact, they are often written and produced by professional character assassins who know little about the people, culture, jurisdiction or state where the ads are aired. Worse, some of the ads have all the originality of a McDonald’s hamburger.

Problem Two: Super PACs are not accountable to the candidate. They answer only to the donors that fund the expenditure. They don’t have to “live” with the outcome, or their mistakes the way a candidate’s team or campaign manager does.

Problem Three: When an IE or Super PAC is confusing the electorate, or overwhelming the message of the campaign, or defining the election in a way that hurts the candidate, it’s illegal for a candidate or their staff to pick up the phone and ask that they knock it off.

Below are some Solutions. Not perfect, but it beats having a Super PACs running ads about the virtues of prayer in school when the strategy calls for defining the election on taxes, energy costs, health care or creating new jobs.

Solution 1. Post the Television and radio ads you are running…on your website, in email blasts, and social media…in a prominent place on the homepage, and under a tab on radio and television. Make it easy to others to download your ads and the scripts. You might even post the scripts or storyboards of an unproduced spot, entitled “Ads we’d run if we could afford to.” Be sure to put up your ‘b-roll’ so friends have footage they can use.

Solution 2. Put your mail on the website, and a clean copy of your logo. Hi-res, so that friends can download camera ready artwork. That lets Super PACs know what you are doing and what your message is. Along with the mail, post flattering, hi-res photographs that Super PACs can download and use in their mail pieces. Likewise, post pictures of your opponent so Super PACs don’t have to go looking for them.

Solution 3. If you really want to be aggressive, have your creative people design and post mail pieces even if you can’t afford to print them or pay the postage. Create a tab called “Mail we’d send if we could afford to, and who we’d send it to.”

Solution 4. Repeat steps above for phone call scripts, digital ads and targets, and newspaper ads so that your friends know how to help instead of hurt, and promote you in a way that enhances your chances of winning.

Solution 5. Post your best oppo research. The stuff you want the public to know. The contrasts you want the public to see. And make sure it is accurate. It is the most valuable information you can offer someone who wants to help.

I’ve given up on the notion that any controlling legal authority will ever be able to stop or stem the flow of money in American politics. Perhaps one of these days we’ll come to our senses and let candidates raise all they want from whoever cares to give it. It would not be a perfect system, but it would be better than what we have now with unaccountable committees and unaccountable people usurping the message of candidates for public office.

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Congrats GOP Establishment. Now what?

You Beat the Tea Party.
So Why are You Still losing in the Court of Public Opinion?


GOP Establishment has beaten back the Tea Party Faction but will Republicans win in a landslide by ignoring the battle of ideas in the court of public opinion?

Beware GOP Establishment. You’ve beaten back the Tea Party Faction but ignored the battle of ideas in the court of public opinion.

A congratulatory message is in order for the GOP establishment. It has beaten back the tea party faction of the Republican Party in Senate and House primaries this year. (That would be the faction that provided the energy, manpower, drive and determination that put the GOP back in the majority in 2010).

In concentrating its cannons and millions on the tea party however, the GOP establishment has ignored the battle of ideas in the court of public opinion. Silence on that front is not a good political strategy.

Ask a patron of Walmart or Target or workers at a factory gate what the GOP stands for and you’ll hear democratic talking points—a price the GOP is paying for failing to pass its own version of health care reform, or tax reform, or immigration reform, or anything that suggests it has a few ideas on how to create new jobs or hike the living standard of the middle class.

Indeed, four organizations have conducted surveys testing the generic ballot since mid-July, including FOX, Rasmussen, CNN and Pew. All have democrats moving into a 2-4 lead. Even the ever eternal optimist Dick Morris is no longer sure the GOP will recapture the Senate.

Perhaps the architects of the GOP strategy will be proven correct—that the best way to win is by muting the dissonant voices of the GOP coalition, pronouncing their fidelity to the hate Obama caucus and passing around ‘Obama No’ buttons to their candidates.

But I don’t see the left emulating the GOP playbook, or trying to mute their most liberal voices, or silencing the discordant soloists in their choir. And right now they are winning.

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Mr. Christie. What’s the Thinking?

Christie’s Takedown of Astorino. Political Payback Will Come. Count On It.

This is a lesson about payback, and how NOT to win good will on your way to a convention battle for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Chris Christie Says of Rob Astorino, "We don't invest in lost causes."s

Political Payback for Christie’s comments about Astorino’s run for New York Governor

In Connecticut on July 21, Governor Chris Christie and current Chairman of the Republican Governors Association was asked about Rob Astorino and the race for Governor in New York. He dismissed Astorino’s candidacy with a tart “we don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.”

According to a well written post by Zack Fink in New York’s State of Politics, Astorino tried behind the scenes to give Christie an easy out, quietly asking Christie to fix the damage by walking back his comments or throwing Astorino a bone. Astorino got the back of Christie’s sizable hand.

He dismissed Astorino’s candidacy with a tart, “we don’t pay for landslides and we don’t invest in lost causes.” -Chris Christie of Republican Candidate for New York Governor Rob Astorino


Let’s start with Christie’s double standard—his assertion that the RGA does not pay for landslides. It bought Christie one, investing $1.7 million in Christie’s 2013 race against a name I bet you cannot remember—a race Christie won by 22 points. Likewise, RGA is spending serious money to run up the score in New Mexico and Iowa, where GOP incumbents face weak opponents.

Don’t invest in lost causes? Why is Christie in New Hampshire touting a GOP candidate 20 points behind? Or the GOP candidate in California who is down by 20? Does anyone remember Christie’s lost cause in 2009 when he emerged from a bruising and expensive primary battle flat broke and facing self funder Jon Corzine? It was RGA money that lifted Christie off his knees.

I just finished reading Pat Buchanan’s book about Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign, The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority. In 1966, Nixon campaigned for House candidates all over the country, going anywhere and everywhere he was asked. Nixon found something nice to say about every GOP candidate on the ballot. He built good will, which paid handsomely on his first ballot victory at the 1968 Republican National Convention.

If Christie is serious about building bridges to a Presidential campaign, why is he burning them? …Particularly with a guy like Astorino…bright, articulate, energetic, well-spoken…a darn good County Executive…and the best candidate the GOP has fielded in New York since George Pataki last ran for reelection.

There is a thing called pay-back in politics. Even if Astorino comes up short in his race against Cuomo, he’ll still be a County Executive until 2017 in one of New York’s largest counties. If he wants, he’ll go to the 2016 Republican National Convention as a delegate, with a number of other delegates who genuinely like him. Who could blame Astorino if he makes sure Christie doesn’t get a single damn vote from the New York delegation?

Just asking.

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Are you thinking of running for office? Know someone who is? Watch or share. A 35 minute Beginners Guide to Running for Public Office.

Seven Common Pitfalls to Avoid as a Candidate Spouse

Shelli Mitchell Gerlach, guest blogger

SDMG - portrait

There aren’t many jobs which can change your life overnight. Being a candidate spouse is one of them. Simply put, the very nature of campaigning for public office is filled with extraordinary experiences and countless trials by fire.

Over the years as a political spouse and consultant, I have had a front-row seat observing seven common pitfalls that have negatively impact candidate spouses. The results can often be disastrous, hurtful, and difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, you don’t have to let them happen to you! Your best modus operandi is to plan ahead for these potential hazards before they become full-blown roadblocks. Whether it’s your first campaign or your fifth, addressing each potential pitfall early on can make the difference between a smoother campaign and a bumpy one laden with unnecessary strife.


Pitfall #1: You’re not “all-in” with the decision to run for office

The underlying tone of any campaign hinges on this one question: are you 100% on board with the decision to run for office? The answer is extremely important as you evaluate your personal commitment and capacity in support – or objection – of this opportunity. Arriving at this decision will require significant conversations between you and your candidate to understand the implications involved. It is absolutely essential that the two of you are united and jointly vested as a team; none of the other facets of campaigning will matter if this one is out of alignment.

Ideally, these conversations should occur long before filing for public office. Sometimes your enthusiastic candidate may prematurely enter a race without thoroughly examining and discussing how it will affect you and your family. If candidacy has already been declared, it is still crucial to understand the implications it will have on your family dynamics, your employment, the family business, personal / professional relationships and other obligations.

Should you jointly determine that running for office would adversely affect your priorities at this time, it is far better to rescind your candidacy early in the campaign than to have it implode in the crucial weeks or days leading up to the election. That is a class-act decision of integrity that will earn respect and high-regard.

The worst scenario by far is your initial agreement to support the run for office only to undermine its success by withholding support later on and/or exhibiting reluctance in your commitment. This may be unintentional but it is truly a form of campaign sabotage that acts like a cancer; it becomes a slow death in which everyone suffers. If you have any reservations, it’s best to voice your concerns and talk it out. It’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure. Get the information and support you need so that you can be confident in the right decisions for your candidate, yourself and your family. In the world of politics, you really can’t sit on the fence; you’re either all-in or all-out. It really matters and ultimately, it shows.


Pitfall #2: Going into the campaign unprepared

The campaign trail is exhausting work and will rigorously test every aspect of your personal and professional life. Preparing for this season will help you discover gaps and plan accordingly for additional support and resources where needed. Start by assessing the many aspects that touch your life. Here is a starter checklist for your consideration:

  • Will you need adjust your work schedule, reduce your work hours, take a leave of absence from your employment or make alternate work arrangements?
  • Are your business and personal finances in order?
  • Will campaigning expose gaps in responsibilities with your own company or family business?
  • Do you need to hire an extra employee?
  • What responsibilities will need to be covered at home?
  • Will you need extra childcare or dependent care provisions /transportation for your children or other dependents while you are attending campaign functions?
  • How about hiring a housekeeper or a handyman to do home maintenance and yard work when neither of you can?
  • Any family members or dependents who may need extra support?
  • Are there health conditions/scheduled surgeries/treatments/rehabilitation to take into account?
  • What about significant life events – – military deployments, weddings, milestone celebrations, impending births, etc.?
  • Do you need to hire a speech coach, an image consultant, a political coach, a personal assistant?

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention potentially uncomfortable issues. No one likes to talk about assorted elephants in any room, yet it is absolutely vital prior to any candidacy:


  • What is the health of your marriage/relationship? Are there facets of your relationship that need to be addressed?
  • Are there any issues to your personal or professional lifestyle that are incongruent with your campaign platform? How will you handle those discrepancies?
  • Are there difficult or private circumstances, past or present, that could see the light of intense public scrutiny (e.g., arrests, convictions, marital affairs, tax evasion, substance use, law suits, slander and defamation records, ethical violations, suspensions, unfavorable testimonies from work colleagues or friends, neighbor disputes, etc.,)? How will you respond when they become public?
  • How prepared are you to respond to inquiries regarding any aspect of your history, personal or public comments, correspondence, and posts on social media?


Anticipating potential snags before they become problems is simply a fundamental key to any risk management plan in your personal or professional life. Truth is when you become a public figure, both strengths and deficiencies are magnified – -just one look at the headline news feeds and social media outlets confirms this truth. Preparation will go a long way to help you adjust to the new normalcy of campaign life.

When possible, reach out and talk with veteran candidate spouses and learn from their experiences. They can provide valuable insights and advise you on the practical aspects of your role in the campaign.

It’s also a good idea to retain the services of a trusted attorney. It’s amazing what kind of perceived conflicts and situations come out of the woodwork once the campaign becomes the newest “game in town”.


Pitfall #3: Expecting a clear-cut road map to victory

There are best practices and methods that help candidates gain the edge needed toward election. However, the wide range of political variables keeps the campaign from becoming an exact science.

As a candidate spouse, it will serve you well to get comfortable with stretches of ambiguity and pockets of uncertainty. What you need to know is that well-mapped plans often change mid-stream – – and sometimes the changes occur multiple times within the same 24 hours.

Fortunately, your campaign consultants will help steer the necessary course corrections and keep the momentum moving forward. You’ll find that morning meetings with your candidate and consultants can help you map out the events for the day. Two-way check-ins throughout day is immensely helpful in staying on top of the latest changes. At night, it’s tempting to simply flop into bed after an exhausting day, but simply taking a couple of minutes to assess the daily activities can help you manage future days more effectively. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.


Pitfall #4: Projecting an image of someone you’re not

Let me ask you: who are the political spouses whom you greatly admire? Have you thought about what makes them so engaging and likeable? Do you know their timeless secret?

It’s simple: authenticity.

Well-adjusted political spouses tend to be very comfortable in their own skin and aren’t afraid to be themselves. They understand that they don’t need to be a policy expert or the most entertaining speaker in order to garner respect. Established spouses understand not only their own strengths and attributes but acknowledge their limitations. “Being real” is an engaging part of their personal story that makes them so relatable.

We’ve all witnessed the embarrassment of a poor soul trying to be someone they aren’t. It’s an epic fail! Why? Because it is very difficult to garner trust and respect when people can see through the façade. It makes people suspicious, and frankly, there’s already enough of that in the political arena that we’re trying to correct.

The truth is that only you can portray your best authentic self. Sharing your own story creates personable warmth to the campaign that simply cannot be duplicated. Identify your strongest attributes and bring them to the forefront. Share your compelling story! It will draw greater interest in you and your candidate plus deepen the engagement with your voter base. In the sage words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”


Pitfall #5: Neglecting to have your own support system in place.

Candidates have a wide variety of advisors, mentors, campaign schools and resources of support ready for their use. This is not always the case for candidate spouses. Often, spouses are left to sort out these processes on their own without adequate support.

The demands on your time and energy are exponentially greater during campaign season. You’ll be in a far better position to weather the highs and lows when you have a strong network of support. Start gathering your network of people and resources who can help shoulder some of the stresses and obligations.

The key here is to identify areas where you’ll need the greatest support and design actions that give you the support you need. Tap on family, friends and neighbors who absolutely love to help and are willing to offer their talents. Here are some areas to think about:

  • Are you a style emergency waiting to happen? Let your fashionista gurus help you coordinate smart wardrobe ensembles, hair design and make-up.
  • Need to get organized? Recruit your super talented organizational genie to set up routines and help you maintain your systems.
  • Are there friends or neighbors who absolutely love to cook? Let them whip up (and deliver) healthy delicious meals for your family.
  • Got a neighborhood teen looking for a summer job? Employ them to do your yard work, babysit or do light housekeeping.
  • Who are the supportive ears you can call upon – day or night – when you’re frustrated or having a bad day? Put them on speed-dial.
  • Would it be helpful to have the guidance of a coach, counselor or therapist? Schedule regular appointments with them.
  • Don’t want your home phone to be the campaign hotline? Install a second phone line and messaging center that is solely dedicated for receiving campaign calls and inquiries.


Pitfall #6: Leaving Your Personal Boundaries and Margins Unsecured:

Campaigning requires an exponential bandwidth in everything – especially your time and personal resources. A large of part requires your presence at campaign events, fundraisers, after-hours business socials, and community celebrations along with a demanding list for personal appearances at Eagle Scout ceremonies, local athletic award banquets and more.

Realistically, you can’t accept every invitation and attend every event. Nor should you. However, it’s important to consider and prioritize the campaign events and activities where your presence is crucial. Voters expect the candidate’s family to make a reasonable number of public appearances. These opportunities help them to further gauge the candidate’s electability, and really, they just want to see the ‘whole package’.

These are some very practical situations where you may want to evaluate your family’s boundaries and develop margins:

  • What are our main priorities? How do we make sure they don’t fall through the cracks?
  • As the candidate spouse, what are my obligations? Can I fulfill them?
  • Should our home be reserved as a haven of respite or should it be ‘campaign central’?
  • Should the kids be involved with campaign activities? If so, how much should their involvement entail?
  • Will our children be treated differently at school, religious centers, or in the neighborhood because of our candidacy? How will we handle that?
  • What if our child’s band concert or swimming meet overlaps a campaign event?
  • Should we establish a second phone line for constituent and media calls?
  • Can I shop in peace at my regular grocery store?
  • How do I handle an upset voter who dumps his/her complaints upon me at my son’s baseball game?
  • What if a curious but well-meaning person wants to talk about my candidate’s policies and I don’t have time to engage with them? Am I required to speak on behalf of the campaign?
  • Suddenly, we are receiving more requests and invitations for appearances at special events and milestone occasions; what criteria will we use to select our attendance?
  • Must we always talk about the campaign at every waking moment?
  • Can we ever shut the phone off at our house?

Undoubtedly, you will experience increased tension between the push of campaign obligations and the pull of your domestic and work life. Setting reasonable boundaries and safeguarding your margins will help you navigate the optional and the non-negotiable. Sometimes you have to pick your battles in order to win the war. It’s okay to say “no” to good or even great opportunities in order to say “yes” to the right ones. That makes for good political and domestic policy.


Pitfall #7: Not having a good sense of humor.

Wherever the campaign trail takes you, you will meet constituents along the way with all sorts of personalities and value systems.

Since the political arena is the convergence of people and ideas, inevitably you are going to experience a vast spectrum of difficult challenges. For example, an editorial may portray a less-flattering piece about your candidate. A fundraising event falls short of donation goals. Or on the personal side, perhaps you had to miss your child’s recital, or you encountered a well-intentioned person who mentioned that your red jacket is too bold and would look better on someone else.

While it’s easy to be offended, the better option is to look at difficult situations as opportunities to shine. Effective humor is a great equalizer and a healthy way to maintain your perspective. People who exercise a good sense of humor are often perceived as approachable, trustworthy and capable of leadership. It’s an artful quality that is charming to your constituents and disarming to your critics. Learn to use humor in appropriate and effective ways; it really is a great connector for bridging all kinds of gaps.



Shelli Mitchell Gerlach is a political coach and author of the forthcoming book “Smart Domestic Policy: The Capitol Spouse’s Essential Guide for Setting Your Political House in Order.” As a legislative spouse and mother of two, Shelli believes that life in the political fishbowl is best navigated with supportive friends and family over a great cup of java. A self-described “evangelist for the REAL running mates”, you can connect with her at Find more practical tips and updates at or follow her on Twitter @CapitolSpouses.

john boehnerOne does not have to look far to find a poll that says the GOP will do well this year, keeping the House, maybe picking up seats, with an even or better shot of taking the Senate.

The pundits and prognosticators have decreed it so, because the GOP has a slight (4 point) advantage when voters are asked how they will vote in November.

Democrats lack enthusiasm. It’s the sixth year of Obama’s tenure, a year when the party of the White House generally loses seats. And oh, let’s not forget that voters are unhappy with Obamacare, the economy, the debt, foreign policy, Benghazi, the IRS scandal, and a Middle East that is imploding.

My question. Why isn’t the GOP 10 points ahead instead of four?

The answer is the GOP doesn’t stand for much, other than being the anti-Obama Party. A good place to be this year, but not enough to procure a landslide.

Last summer I attended a meeting at the NRCC and dared to ask a high-ranking member of the House leadership when the Congress was going to pass its alternative to Obamacare. “We won’t,” was the answer. “We don’t want to give them something to shoot it. Just better to say we’re against Obamacare.”

Therein lies the problem. And the problem with the thinking. If you want to be the party in power, or secure a mandate to stay in power, you must be willing to offer some ideas, a policy, a platform. And willing to defend them and it.

Instead of offering a reason for a mandate, the House leadership has opted instead to be little more than the party of no. Had the GOP Congress stepped up to the plate and passed its own version of health care reform, tax reform, immigration reform, budget reform, and a new prescription for economic growth, we would see a far greater number of Americans willing to embrace the GOP, rather than regarding it as the lesser of two evils.

To those on a GOP ballot this year, fear not offering a positive alternative to the status quo. Life rewards the bold, not the timid.

I’ll even go one step further. If GOP candidates are not willing to offer and defend a few of their own ideas, voters will conclude they have none. That is not the route to a mandate.

Jay Townsend gives his keynote speech, ” Your Unique Talent to Change the Course of Human Destiny” at a National Speakers Association event in NYC.

For more information on having Jay speak at your event, visit the Speaker Page.