People who are involved in successful political campaigns are not your everyday, run-of-the-mill working stiffs. They may wear a suit and tie from time to time, but they have no idea what a 9-to-5 workday is like. They work weekends, they drive too fast, they view sleep as an inconvenience and they drink way too much caffeine.

Politics can be fun, but it can also be a grind. It takes a special person to thrive in such an atmosphere. The best operatives have a few things in common that allow them to survive and succeed in the political arena.

Have a sense of urgency
Time is precious on a campaign. Don’t waste it. Election Day is coming sooner than you think. You can always raise more money but you can never get more time. James Carville summed it up by saying “speed kills” your opponent.

Make decisions
Nothing can kill momentum or lose a political opportunity like indecision. Look at it this way: Every decision has a two-out-of-three chance of working out. Either you made the right decision, you made the wrong decision or your decision makes no difference in the long run. Two out of three ain’t bad—so instead of over-agonizing and over-analyzing, make a decision and move on.

Dominate

The best political operatives strive to dominate their opponent in every aspect of the campaign. From fundraising to door-to-door to direct mail to yard signs, a good operative refuses to cede any element to their opponent—unless absolutely necessary or strategically important.

Win every day
Successful operatives ask themselves one question every day: “Is what I am doing right now helping my campaign win?” Asking this question over and over can prevent the all-too-common two-hour lunch outings or the office supply trip that takes three staffers. These activities chew up precious time that could be better spent raising money or contacting voters.

Sacrifice
Short-term sacrifice leads to long-term success. Campaigns are short endeavors that, if successful, can lead to long-term benefits for your political philosophy and for your political career. Incumbency is a powerful thing. Once a candidate is elected they are almost a lock for reelection. The best political operatives understand that spending six months of your life working 24/7 can lead to a long political career for you and your candidate.

As a political operative, following these rules will greatly improve your chances of being successful in a campaign environment. Or you could just go find a normal job and have a normal life. But where’s the fun in that?


Brent Barksdale is senior vice President for Jamestown Associates, a full-service political consulting firm for Republicans. You can follow Brent Barksdale on Twitter @brentbarksdale and @politicaltips.