All right class! We’ve already covered that the best campaign managers:
- Work for both sides
- Work for candidates with a winning mindset
- Know how to effectively message and reframe attacks
Ah! But we’ve saved the best for last!
Because what truly separates great campaign managers from the merely good ones is the capacity to perceive and prevent problems before they occur.
You see, one of the huge ironies of local campaigns is, what the candidate doesn’t do is often far more important than what they do! It could be something as simple as avoiding a perceived association with the “wrong” politician that can come back to haunt you the candidate. Voters may have very short attention spans, but a social media photo of your guy shaking hands with a lightning rod public official can cause all sorts of campaign problems.
And once you’re on the defensive, it can be very difficult to take control of the conversation and regain the initiative.
I’m not saying candidates should fall prey to a pernicious political paranoia, but voters are always on the lookout for an easy reason to dismiss you, so don’t give them one. Don’t make the other guy’s problems yours.
Great campaign managers also take note of what doesn’t work in your district. And I say “what doesn’t work” because most campaigns are complex endeavors requiring an across-the-board effort to win. But when a candidate does go down in flames, it’s always easy to determine where they went wrong.
Leading up to the 2016 Kane County Coroner race, I noted that, despite some questionable choices, anyone who attacked the Republican incumbent lost. I still can’t figure out how he survived the terrible press, but all that mattered is he did.
Despite a ton of general election pressure to take our Democratic nominee down the negative campaign path – from Republican regulars, too – we wouldn’t to do it. In fact, we refused to allude to our opponent in any way shape or form.
We fell five points short in the end, but that was better than the Coroner’s constantly critical GOP primary opponent did, and 15 points better than local pundits were predicting. Had anyone other than Hillary Clinton been at the top of the Democratic ticket, we would’ve won!
But where the it’s-what-you-don’t-do-that-matters campaign managers really shine is convincing their clients to let the other side hang themselves. And you’d be surprised how many candidates are willing to do just that.
Watching electoral hopefuls get swept up in the process is a magical thing, but most candidates – and even more campaign managers – don’t have the intestinal fortitude to simply sit back and let the magic unfold. So, they end up saving their opponent from themselves.
Here’s a perfect example.
During the 2017 Aurora, Illinois, mayoral primary race, the frontrunner’s messaging was horrific. As Trumpism was running rampant and Illinois was locked in a budgetary stalemate, she persistently cited her general assembly experience, regularly referred to “how they do it in Springfield,” and she had union workers knocking on doors.
Meanwhile, the number two candidate was giving that message credence by consistently counterattacking it. It took some effort, but as campaign consultants, we convinced our candidate to simply let her talk.
He would take the role of “The Preacher,” focusing only on the voters and his platform while allowing his opponent to speak unfettered. And it worked! Our candidate went on to win it all while the frontrunner didn’t even make it through the primary.
The problem is, in this 24/7 light speed news cycle candidates feel the need to constantly say something which means letting the other guy hang himself is becoming a lost art.
So, there you have it! Like any other profession, there are good, bad, mediocre, and great campaign managers. Now you know how to go out and hire a great one!
If you don’t have a primary opponent, but you will have one in the general election, or if you need help against a tougher general election opponent, have a conversation with the professionals at Forward Communication. We help first-time and experienced candidates create the kind of campaign plan that wins elections. Contact Us