One unforeseen consequence of Donald Trump capturing the White House was an explosion of interest in politics on the left. New first-time candidates, including young candidates, are emerging in races for Congress and state legislative seats across the country, ready to win and fight back against the new president.
This new generation of politicians presents the Democratic Party with exciting opportunities to replenish the much-depleted bench. It also presents new challenges to Democratic consultants, some of which have not worked with first-time candidates in years.
Many of these young new candidates got their starts in politics as volunteers and interns for the 2008 Obama campaign. They learned about knocking on doors, tracking data, and how to best use social media for a campaign. Some may have even seen firsthand the work that consultants contributed to the Obama campaign and the many other successful races that year.
Others, however, are coming into their campaigns green as fresh grass. They have ideas about what they want their campaigns to be, but don’t know how to get started. We still meet the occasional candidate who wonders why he or she even needs a campaign consultant. They think, “How hard can a campaign be, anyway?”
Running for office is hard
Unless you're running for a very small local office, you’ll need consultants, even if you already know – or think you already know – what you’re doing. When pitching these new candidates, consultants should consider the following talking points.
Consultants know the players
Party officers, union leaders, and other big political players meet new candidates for different offices all the time. Nobody will be immediately impressed by you because you're a candidate. In fact, their instincts are to be skeptical of you. Having a consultant not only gives you more legitimacy as a candidate, but your consultant often knows the individual you are trying to meet with and can help make it happen.
Consultants know the vendors
Campaigns are short-lived, but consultants are in the marketplace for years. In the time it will take you to research printers, graphic designers, media rate cards, mail houses, and pollsters, you will lose the opportunity to do the campaign's primary job, talking to voters. Consultants will know the vendors, the prices, the market, the political environment, and the strategy.
Consultants keep you honest
It’s easy to say you will make fundraising calls, go out canvassing voters, and practice your stump speech. Following through on those commitments is the hard part. The same way a physical trainer will help you make sure you actually exercise, your consultant will help you make sure you actually campaign. They will check in regularly for updates on your progress toward meeting your goals for fundraising, doors knocked, and public speaking skills.
Democratic consultants know what a great opportunity 2018 will be, not just for new business, but for taking back many leaning-Republican seats across the country. It’s an opportunity we cannot waste.
Dave Broker is the managing director of HSG Campaigns and is based in Sacramento, California.