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Craig “Campaign Doc” Varoga is a longtime Democratic strategist and manager. Questions on strategy, general consulting, or anything campaign-related? Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US and he’ll answer them right here.

Q: With the election of President Trump, is anything possible in American politics? 

A: Here’s how crazy the possible now is: We were about to submit this column with a reference to Anthony Scaramucci – remember him? But Trump’s potty-mouth communications director (who according to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, “sold his business…gave up his political beliefs … apparently gave up his wife [and] definitely surrendered his reputation and his dignity”) lost his job before he had even gone on the White House payroll.

It makes 2016 seem like the dawn of pre-history: 16 primary candidates humiliated by and losing, one by one, to a reality-TV star. And then there’s the crazy speculation about 2018, including – this is our flavor of the month – Kid Rock, “known for writing songs about prostitutes and using copious amounts of drugs” who may or may not be running for Senate in Michigan. In any case, he’s the frontrunner.

No matter your party or ideology, that all adds up to an OMG zeitgeist, in which the road to victory (or defeat) has few (if any) guard rails. No wonder, as John McCain recently said, “We’re getting nothing done.”

But just in case you’re about to celebrate – or bemoan – this noisy age of political anarchy, remember, and this is vitally important, the so-called “old rules” of traditional politics are not quite dead.

  • First of all, Trump won the nomination last year because his primary opponents were whiny, wimpy and completely incompetent, and didn’t hit back against his demagogic attacks until it was too late. 
  • Second, voters may think the country is going in the wrong direction, but people still want (and demand) more than negative attacks on their opponents. In other words, they expect a positive plan for how a candidate might make their lives better.
  • Third, if a campaign ignores voters (think the industrial Midwest), it’s hard to win.
  • Fourth, if the winner is completely disorganized, fails to deliver, refuses to take responsibility, and trashes everyone, including members of his own party, then political gravity will ruthlessly assert itself, and a majority of voters will have a negative impression of the winner’s job performance.
  • And fifth, this current Age of Weirdness is a bubble, and just like the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s, and the Tulip Mania during the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s, this too shall pass, even if many consequences and after-effects remain long-term.

Point being – game changers don’t permanently change all the rules of the game. The art of politics is recognizing the real changes (unqualified eccentrics can be viable candidates), factoring in the “old” rules that still matter (if you don’t deliver, you won’t be popular), and then (somehow) knowing the difference between the two.

Q: How do we protect the security and credit card numbers of donors who contribute online?

A: The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council is – according to its web site – “a global forum for the ongoing development, enhancement, storage, dissemination and implementation of security standards for account data protection.” In all contracts with all vendors, require that they comply with the standards established by this group, and stipulate that the vendor is fully responsible for collection, storage, disclosure, use of and access to personal information obtained by the vendor. Implement the same standards for in-house handling of personal and credit-card information.

Q: Our candidate is always late for events. The problem isn’t the scheduler, it’s the candidate, who won’t leave events because he wants to talk to everyone and doesn’t want to insult anyone by leaving early. How can we fix this problem, which is already out of hand?

A: Add more time between events. Get a more assertive body person to get your candidate out of the event with time to spare (i.e., blame staff for leaving “early”). And explain to the candidate that being late is a greater insult to the next group and completely undercuts any gains from staying too long at the earlier event. Put another way – a candidate who refuses to manage his time will lose, and thus have a vexsome abundance of time to wallow in his (or her) loss after the election.

Craig Varoga consults on local, state, national and international campaigns and is a regular political analyst in numerous news media. Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter @CVaroga or CVaroga@Varoga.US.