Q: Do you believe in campaign yard signs?
A: Signs don’t vote, but I do think there are two compelling reasons for signage. First, their use should give you some internal peace of mind. And second, name ID. On the internal politics of signage, a campaign without yard signs will spend a disproportionate amount of time managing the candidate’s anxiety.
You’re certain to hear the candidate say things like, “I was driving my kid to school, and I saw 20 signs for my opponent and not a single one for me.” More positively, signs—along with bumper stickers, doorhangers, postcard mailers and online communications—can be relatively cost-efficient methods of plastering a candidate’s name throughout a jurisdiction and creating buzz.
Q: I’m trying to see which area of the campaign team suits me best. What does an operations director typically do, and how many campaigns actually employ one?
A: An operations manager plans and directs non-strategic activity: office hours, bill payments, staff needs, travel and logistics, equipment and supplies, work hours, contact information, support services and communications among departments. In a political organization, this person gets very little (if any) glory, but everything grinds to a debilitating halt when the operations guru is sick or gets a flat tire and comes in late.
Q: What are the regulations on robocalls?
A: The Federal Communications Commission prohibits prerecorded messages and autodialed calls to cell phones. However, robocalls to landline phones are permissible, as long as they are not made to emergency telephone lines, hospital rooms or toll-free lines. All prerecorded messages, political and otherwise, must identify the caller, the name and the number of the person or entity responsible for the call at the beginning of the message.
Autodialing systems delivering recorded messages must hang up within five seconds after the dialed party hangs up. In addition, autodialing systems cannot engage two or more telephone lines of a multi-line business simultaneously. Laws regulating robocalls also vary greatly by state. And don’t even think of being a scofflaw; failure to comply with these FCC rules could result in financial penalties as high as $16,000 per violation.
Q: Even in the Internet age, it’s not easy to find folks that provide security for candidates. How do I go about finding a real person to discuss this operation?
A: Most candidates do not use private security—in most cases because of the added cost, and in some cases because it creates either the reality or appearance of inaccessibility. If you feel as though your campaign has a real need for private security, here’s a recommendation: ask a well-established law firm for a referral, and then make sure that the firm is licensed by all proper authorities and in good standing. From a communications perspective, the very last thing you want is a disreputable gumshoe with legal and reputational problems.
Q: This past cycle, the polls seemed to be all over the place. What’s the deal?
A: We saw a glut of public polls in 2012 and an equal number of methodologies to go along with them. Some surveys were live calls, others automated. Some contacted all registered voters, others only likely voters. Some included cell-phone users, others did not. Some were one-night instant surveys, others seven-day rolling averages. Some included early voters after they had cast their ballots, others did not.
In the presidential race, some of the polls were national surveys, others were “national” polls limited to battleground states. Combine this mish mash with sometimes-biased campaign polls, and you often had a toxic brew of irreconcilable data.
And be forewarned, it’s likely going to get worse before it gets better. Next cycle, the challenge of deciphering information overload will become more complex as demographics, work routines and early-vote schedules become less uniform.
Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state and national campaigns for more than 20 years. Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US.