Helping Conservative Candidates Gain a Competitive Edge

trump 2We’ve seen the play before, and we know how it will end.

Lucy will move the football.

The trouble with Trump is that he wants to bypass the time honored rituals required of a would-be Governor, and sidestep what everybody else that wants the job has to do. He can’t be bothered with that because he is…well, Donald Trump.

Nope. He is not going to offer his ideas or prescriptions to the voting marketplace. He is not going to talk about why he would make a better Governor than someone else. Those time honored traditions are for the ‘little people,’ the lessers and the losers. The Donald is not going to have anybody challenging his ideas, or forcing him to defend his views because he is…well, Donald Trump.

Nope. If he is going to be a candidate, the rule makers must fix the game, give him a free pass on a primary or presenting his views to voters, and simply anoint him the standard bearer of a political party without having to earn it.

Because the Donald is the Donald and no mere mortal, he offered up his conditions to Bob McCarthy of the Buffalo News:
-“No primary against a potential Republican challenger” (I only play the game when the rules are fixed and I cannot lose).
-“No preliminaries” (that means nobody gets to ask me what I would do as Governor, or how I would do it, and I sure as hell am not going to endure some piss ant tea party buffo asking me about my varied positions on gun control or abortion or gay marriage, or those tens of thousands I’ve given to Democratic office holders who fix things for my real estate business or my casinos).
-“No wooing county chairmen.” (Beneath my dignity)
-“No building support for a state convention.” (Beneath my dignity)
-“No convention floor fight to gain enough votes to avoid a primary.” (Beneath my dignity)
-“It’s either total party unity in the next few weeks behind a Trump candidacy, or it all belongs to Astorino” (If I have to offer any ideas or defend my views I’m going to take my little ball and go home)
-“If Astorino backs off, I would absolutely do it” Yeah Right. (I’ll still love you in the morning, something I’ve said to uh, how many wives have I had?)

Bye Donald. Maybe it works like that in the gambling business. But not in politics.

Don’t let the door hit your rump on the way out.

ManningSeattle Won. Fair and Square.

And Manning has taken his lumps.

So in honor of a fine Quarterback who had a bad day, let us recall the words of a great orator in his time, Theodore Roosevelt, who lived a fuller life than most men ever will.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

If Manning had never walked onto the field…he would not be called a loser. There would be no Drudge headline “The Humiliation of Manning.” If Denver had not made it to the Superbowl, he would not be reading about how he came up short.

To those thinking of running for office, who think the humiliation of defeat makes the risk unworthy, take a cue from basketball great Michael Jordan. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

And the words some have attributed to H Jackson Brown…“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Manning has inspired countless young men and women by his sheer tenacity, grit, and example. I will soon forget his mistakes on game day. I will not forget the way he made me feel on his better days.

wendy davis

While I disagreed with the reason for the filibuster she staged in Texas, I, like many, loved her story. The grit. The sheer determination. The single mom who at age 19, lived in a trailer with a young daughter she chose to raise, who singlehandedly put herself through law school. What a story. What an inspiration to young women across the land who find themselves pregnant and face an agonizing choice between motherhood and career.

Except it seems that portions of her story were, ah…embellished. And not quite accurate.

Your story is what it is, not what you invent. And Wendy, like many, is now learning the hard way that your bio comes under the microscope when you become a candidate for office. Lots of diggers are going to fact check and verify everything that is in it. And if those diggers find the slightest error or inconsistency, well…you are going to have a bad day.

So in honor of Wendy, and anybody else reading this, here is a link to a previously posted video about why your bio needs to be dead on accurate. Period. Don’t embellish. Don’t exaggerate, inflate, claim honors you have not won, positions you never held, or achievements that were not yours. It’s ugly when you get caught. It will also disappoint people when they learn you did not tell the truth. And make it a lot more difficult to earn the trust of voters who read that you didn’t.

ManningPeyton Manning has broken a record for touchdown passes thrown in a single season, surpassing New England’s Tom Brady. It isn’t fair, nor is it right that he has talent and skills that so many other quarterbacks want. In the name of equality, he should give away his touchdown passes to even the score.

Better yet, he should have them taken from him by an Act of Congress. We’ll call it the Quarterback Touchdown Pass Equality Act. Because, as so aptly stated by that sage of our time, the New York Time’s Bill Keller, “…inequality is manifestly real, growing and dangerous.” Dangerous indeed. Any more touchdown passes by that greedy Manning guy and some poor team isn’t going to make it to the Super Bowl.

The legislation would be easy to write. Even Nancy Pelosi could do it, with a little help from Kathleen Sebelius. Give away one of Manning’s touchdown passes to each to the other starting quarterbacks in the professional football league. The rest would go to the President to retroactively distribute as he sees fit–to any team that has suffered because of a history of inequality, or an inequality of mobility, or a pervasive culture of inequality, or any other kind of inequality. What constitutes inequality shall be determined by the President and decreed by Executive Order.

Sure, Manning will contend that he worked for the record. Yes, he lifted weights during the summer when others were at the beach. Yes, he burned midnight oil studying playbooks when others were chasing tail. He will rightly contend that he achieved his feat under rules applied to all players, and broke none. Doesn’t matter. Inequality is a scourge that must be eradicated in the name of righteousness, justice and all that is holy and good.

Why? Because the President said so, and was dutifully echoed by the scribes at the New York Times. And because our lawmakers have decreed it their sacred duty to correct the inequities in God’s creations. How dare God give some more talent than others. How dare God instill more desire in some people (like Manning) than others who simply don’t want to work as hard as Manning did.

Just think. After the act is fully implemented, and the fruits of Manning are equitably distributed, there will be no losers, no heartache, no disappointment, no sadness, no tears, no failure. Everybody will get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. And everybody will get a little trophy…even if they fumble or miss a tackle or a block because no player should be allowed to come up short. Best of all, no player will ever again be deprived of happiness by the inequitable distribution of touchdown passes. Enjoy the game.

Next up. The New York Times Pulitzer Prize Inequality Eradication Act. Because it’s not fair that the Old Grey Lady has won so many.

Things-to-make-me-hate-you1

Profiting from Hate

Recently I received an email solicitation from a Congressional candidate. Nothing new. It is common for 20 a day to clutter the inbox, including those from both Democrats and Republicans. The democrats want me to hate the Koch brothers, Boehner, McConnell, the tea party, and anybody who contributes to Republicans. The Republicans want me to hate Obama, socialists and all those freedom hating liberals that want to tax your wealth and confiscate my gun.

The thought of another colonoscopy is more uplifting than the rhetoric that daily fills the in-box. And even though I seldom give, the shrill pitches keep coming, apparently from people who think that topping the shrill I’ve already seen will enhance the appeal of the shrill I rejected.

And then there are the narcissists…the ‘hey look at me’ and ‘see me with Bill Clinton’ and ‘god bless me for I am gay’ types. Sean Maloney (D-Hudson Valley; actually Manhattan—he doesn’t live in the district) gets an award in this category. You can learn a lot about him if you care to read his drivel. You won’t learn much about what he is going to do for you, nothing about how he is going to do it, or anything more uplifting than why the country needs him to beat back some imaginary evil out to poison kids, confiscate your 401K and steal Grandma’s Medicare.

A suggestion for those who would lead our communities and country through the present and coming rough-patch. Lift people up. Use your words to help people believe in what they can do with their God given talent. Allow yourself to be an inspiration to a country that needs some heroes. Rather than denigrate, inspire. Rather than bemoan the present, paint a picture of what can be. Instead of inciting hatred and instilling fear, rise above the chorus of the age and dare to sing a different song.

Running for Public Office

Tip #10. Paint pictures with words.

Not long ago I met with a candidate running for public office, and asked him what three things he would like to accomplish if he was elected to Congress.

He wanted to reform the tax code. He was to cut crime in urban neighborhoods of his district. And he told me that he wanted more economic growth. Fine.

Except that voters will not easily remember these words for they are mere words. The human mind does not remember words. The mind remembers pictures, and good candidates who expect their words to be remembered will paint pictures with the words of their rhetoric and their stories.

For example, instead of saying you want to cut crime, talk about a city where the silence of the night is never again shattered by the sound of a gang member’s gun.

If reforming the tax laws is your goal, talk about fixing a tax code that has more holes than a trainload of swiss cheese.

If economic growth is your ideal, talk about policies which will allow people to once again climb the rungs of the economic ladder.

In any given campaign, you are competing for attention for tv time, for ink in a newspaper and for space in the minds of the voters. The more vivid your rhetoric, the easier it is for voters to remember what you had to say. The more likely it is that you’ll get the attention of the press. The more likely it is that you will stand out in a crowd.

Words are to a public figure what the brush is to an artist. Paint pictures with your words and it will be a lot easier for voters to remember what you had to say.

For more communication and campaign tips, please sign up for my newsletter at Jay Townsend.com.

And please be sure to visit the training tools page where you can download my free video and ebook on how to get your campaign off to a great start.

How to Run for Public Office

Tip #9. Make sure your bio is accurate.

Don’t embellish you biography. Make sure that the official biography that is posted on your website is dead accurate. If it is not it may come back to haunt you.

A few years ago I was reading about a candidate who claimed to have been a long standing member of a church, and a regular volunteer in the church’s soup kitchen. Except no one at the church could remember ever having seen him in a pew, and the leader of the soup kitchen had never seen him serving soup.

That might not kill a campaign, but when a reporter or oppo researcher uncovers something like that in a candidate’s bio the bells go off. And they start digging. And pretty soon a candidate is answering question about the “holes” and the “exaggerations” in their bio and fielding questions about everything that is in it rather than playing offense.

Don’t do it. Don’t claim accomplishments that are not yours. Or degrees you have not earned. Or awards you did not receive. Or membership in organizations you do not belong to, or to have volunteered for charitable causes where no one saw you.

If it happens, it won’t help to blame a young staffer, for voters will assume you are blaming someone else because you got caught in a lie. And if voters read that you lied about what you have done or places you have been they will assume you are lying about everything. And when they do, your credibility as a candidate is gone.

If you are thinking about becoming a candidate for public office, or if you have made the decision to run, scour your biography at the get go, make sure it is dead accurate and that nothing in it can be subjected to challenge.

Have friends and colleagues ready to verify any claim that you make in your biography, for even if what you say is true, your opponent may suggest that it is not, and on a day when you are busy on the campaign trail, it is a distraction to find the friend who will verify that you helped coach the little league, or that you really received the Lion’s Club award for meritorious service in 1997, or that you really did volunteer and assist in organizing the local science fair.

Running for Office:

Tips and Tricks that will Help Give You a Competitive Edge when running for office.

Tip #8. Know what you are talking about.

Early in my career I was watching a debate among several candidates running for office of Mayor of New York City.

The candidates were asked what measures they would take to help the poor, to which one responded that he would abolish the sales tax on bread. There was a problem with that response. New York had abolished the sales tax on bread a hundred years before. The candidate looked like a fool who had not bothered to do his homework.

This year, there a plenty of examples of candidates who fell short. Herman Cain flubbed a question on Libya, and given that we had just invaded the country and deposed its long time leader, it quickly became clear that Herman was not as well prepared as he should have been.

Governor Perry’s oops moment in his debate in which he could not recall the three agencies he planned to eliminate was the beginning of the end of his Presidential aspirations.

Which illustrates the point. Voters don’t know everything. They won’t necessarily expect you to know everything, but they will expect you to know certain fundamental things about the job you are seeking. They will expect you to be able to be clear in your rationale and how you intend to accomplish the things you propose to do.

Before you step outside your front door as a candidate, make sure you are well versed in issues that are likely to be discussed during the campaign. Look at what other candidates are discussing. Study the topics that were raised in the previous race. Know your facts. Take time in the morning to read the newspapers and opinion columns before you leave the house to face a TV camera.

If you are blindsided by a question and know nothing about the subject, it is better to say that you are still studying the issue rather than blather a bunch of gibberish in front of a TV camera or pretend to a reporter that you know what you are talking about when you don’t.

I know this might seem fundamental, but every year I see good candidates get derailed because they say things that are not true, or state as fact things that aren’t or can’t answer basic questions that affect the lives of everyday voters.

With all the material that is available on line, and the newspapers that can be read for free, there is no excuse for not having done your homework.

Run for Public Office

Tips and Tricks that will Help Give You a Competitive Edge.

Tip #7. Know your opponent’s Team.

In the run for public office, you may have once heard me say that every campaign has a unique strategy. Because the strategy of any campaign is always determined by the political environment, the resources of the candidate and the opponent.

But there is an ugly truth about the people who advertise themselves as consultants to political candidates. Some of them are lazy. They don’t always do their homework. Instead of crafting a unique strategy, they blow the dust off the file of a campaign they did a few years back and try to pound square pegs into round holes.

But even the best of consultants have habits and tactics they employ in order to gain a competitive edge for their clients. Which is why you need to know the team that surrounds the opponent you face in an election. It’s a lesson first taught by Sun Tzu in a book entitled the Art of War, a timeless work that is must reading for anybody who is involved in political combat.

What to look for when you are examining the team of your opponent?

Look at other campaigns they have done, talk to people they have worked against so that you know how they operate and what is in their playbook. All consultants have a playbook and a certain way of doing things.

Look at their TV ads. Listen to their radio ads. Track down the mail pieces they used. The reporters they use to disseminate information. The discipline of the candidates they worked for. Their use of oppo research. The kind of campaigns they ran for well funded, as opposed to ill-funded candidates. Slogans they have used for clients. The negative ads they’ve done. When and how they spent the advertising budget of their clients…did they try to run up the score early in the campaign or did they unload everything during the final stages of the campaign.

In other words, know their habits, their patterns and spend real time studying their tactics. In so doing, you will be better prepared and able to better anticipate the kind of tactics you will face in your race.

Tips and Tricks that will Help Give You a Competitive Edge.

Tip #6: Know Your Opponent

Know your opponent

In the fall of 2011, I was invited to join a campaign four weeks before a primary in a limited capacity. On a day when we were doing debate preparation, I asked the candidate’s staff for a copy of the opposition research file. I needed to see the opponent’s voting record and a transcript of the public statements he’d made during his long career in public life. The response I received when I asked for the file was telling. Blank stares from his campaign staff. The file did not exist. No one had done any research. No one knew anything about our primary opponent.

It was a fatal mistake. For as it turned out, there was plenty of information available that could have been used to derail the opponent’s campaign. The staff never knew it because they did not do their homework.

Don’t let that happen to you.

In any campaign, you want to know everything you can about your opponent, for the same reason that companies keep track of everything their competitors are doing. If you don’t, shame on you.

Never assume your opponent’s biography is error free or absent embellishment. Check the veracity of everything they say, every degree they claimed to have earned, every organization they claim to have led. Read their position statements and look for inconsistencies, or factual mistakes. Know them better than they know themselves. That does not require a private investigator…just a little time on Google and a few phone calls.

I was once involved in a race where the opponent of my client claimed to have earned two degrees from the U.S. Naval academy. He’d held public office for years, and no one ever questioned that claim…until he ran for Congress. When I contacted the Naval academy to check the veracity of his bio, I learned that he had never graduated, and had left the academy after his first semester. That Masters degree in Computer Science he claimed to have earned? The Naval Academy offers no such degree. Needless to say, his campaign blew up and he never made it to Congress.

It would seem a dumb mistake and it was. It would seem a dumb mistake that a veteran political figure would know not to make. But he did.

And this is why. It is very difficult for would be candidates to resist the temptation to inflate, embellish or exaggerate their record or accomplishments. We hear about it all the time. Candidates claiming degrees they never earned. Candidates claiming to belong to or to have led organizations they didn’t. Members of Congress claiming credit for bills they never wrote, or passage of legislation they have never seen.

Sometimes it is not an outright lie, but a pattern of embellishment that will snag a candidate. In 2009 I read of a candidate for Congress who claimed to have been a been a high-ranking pentagon official during the Iraq War. A Google search revealed her tweets to a one time boyfriend, in which she described the position as an unpaid internship. That alone did not end her campaign, but it did make me suspicious of other claims she was making about her background and accomplishments. Upon further investigation I found that it was indeed a pattern, to which I alerted a local reporter. During his first interview, it did not take the reporter long to catch the pattern, which he dutifully covered in his story. Her campaign crashed before she got to the starting gate.

In the pre-internet age we used to say that campaigns were won and lost in the library. Today, you don’t need to go to the library. Just go on line and look. And make a few phone calls. It’s often the difference between winning and losing.