Being a candidate is a challenging experience. It’s not glamourous or fun, and the rewards before you reach office are fleeting. Often, it’s dull, monotonous, repetitive, and even – during hours of call time – soul crushing.
It can ruin your personal, professional, and family relationships. And in the end the only thing you win is the right to do it all over again in two-six years. Consultants, staffers and attorneys are hired to help candidates navigate through this tumult. Here are some things candidates at all levels need to remember when staffing their next camp.
Your two most important hires are your campaign manager and your campaign lawyer
One is your dog, the other is your cat. One loves you and is there for you and supports you and thinks you’re the best thing since sliced bread and always wants to make you happy. And they’ll bring you your slippers for a little bit of praise. The other tolerates your existence as long as you keep feeding him but will always be honest and tell you when you stink. And they know how to kill rats.
These are very different roles that you need to fill with the right kind of experienced professionals. Don’t expect them to get along, and in the end, your manager wants to win, your lawyer wants to keep you out of jail.
Loyalty is not a substitute for competence
Your best friend, your trusted confidant, your long-time lawyer probably won’t know any more about politics than they see on West Wing or House of Cards. Their loyalty to you doesn’t make them good at campaigns, and surrounding yourself with loyal people who don’t know how to win has been the death of plenty of campaigns.
Neither is ideology
It doesn’t matter how dedicated someone is to your ideals, those ideals don’t raise money, work phones, run ground game, craft winning political messages, know how to poll or how to buy ads. Experienced professionals will always out-perform ideologues.
Experience matters, both winning and losing
Winning looks great on a resume. But being part of a victorious effort only teaches you how to do one thing, one way, in one circumstance. Losing teaches you a whole lot more – including how people around you handle defeat. Don’t just look for winners, get advice from both.
They can be passionate, but they must be dispassionate
Professionals can be passionate about winning and about you. That’s usually a good thing. But they must also be dispassionate as well. What does that look like? Look for people with objectivity and good pragmatics. No one ever group-thought their way to victory, and it’s vital to be able to rely on cool heads when it matters.
Dan Backer is the founding attorney of political.law PLLC.