Thursday, April 02, 2009

What to Look for in a Campaign Manager

Is it just a winning record? Absolutely not.

Someone who has only worked on winning campaigns has probably never worked on a truly challenging campaign – challenging tough incumbents or fighting against a financial disadvantage or demographic tides.

But you should look for someone who has worked on enough winning campaign that you can be sure they know the basic tools of victory. We’ve talked about some of those tools before. They’re not rocket science, but you’d be surprised how many people selling themselves as experienced campaigners willfully disregard the basics. If they’ve won a competitive race, then there’s a better chance they know what they’re doing.

It’s not a hard and fast rule. One of my colleagues has worked on twelve consecutive losing political campaigns. Twelve. Just think about it. Even he admits is can be a little soul crushing. I’d also hired him in a second, because I know he was brought into the game and trained by folks who cut their teeth taking on and taking out the Rostenkowski machine in Chicago.

There is such a thing as bad luck and you shouldn’t hold it against someone.

One of the least important things is familiarity with the region.

The fact is, there is nothing that a good professional learns so quickly as the facts on the ground. Moreover, someone without deep roots to the area can often help keep a campaign focused on the basics and keep the campaign from getting into too much “strategery.” The number of campaigns that have been sidetracked by candidates and manager obsessing over arcane issues or trying to get the endorsements of so-called power brokers when they should be busy raising money and telling voters how they’re going to create jobs – well, let’s just say it’s a large number.

The most important thing to look for is professional experience or training. Have they worked on a modern, professional political campaign in the past? Or else have they done some kind of intensive political campaign training? Not just a Camp Wellstone activist training, but something closer to the training done by 21st Century Democrats or the Democratic Campaign Management Program. They should be someone you trust, but not necessarily your friend. You’re not hiring a buddy – you’re hiring a manager who’s got to beg, browbeat, cajole and otherwise drag you across the finish line


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