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: Is it bad form to campaign on holidays?
A: It depends. We are 100 percent against negative ads on Christmas Day, and believe that normal people do not want to open presents or celebrate dinner to the sounds of why John Doe is a deadbeat and is, therefore, unqualified to be local dog catcher. But we believe that a positive ad — a holiday greeting from my family to yours — is okay. Also, secular holidays are great occasions for positive campaigning. Start planning now for your Labor Day picnic or volunteering at a local food bank in October ahead of Thanksgiving.
Q: What’s the best way to put together a “pay-to-play” hit?
A: Create a database of your opponent’s campaign contributions and his or her personal finance disclosures. Do the same for votes, policy decisions, contract awards and public statements. Look for correlations between the two databases. A vote for a specific capital project could match up with a gift or contribution from an individual or company that benefited from that vote — especially if the dates of the vote and gift/donation occurred within a short time frame. Innocent coincidences do happen. But so does authentic wrongdoing that voters will find interesting, regardless of whether that wrongdoing rises to the level of a criminal or indictable offense.
Q: What can we do to assist voters in our district who are blind or visually impaired?
A: According to the Department of Justice, voting jurisdictions “must ensure that they do not have policies, procedures, or practices in place that interfere with or prohibit persons with certain disabilities from registering to vote or voting based on their disability.” Those disabilities include, but aren’t limited to visual impairments.
You should consult with the National Federation of the Blind, which notes that—prior to the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002—blind voters usually had to rely on sighted assistance to mark their ballot, but that HAVA requires that every polling place have at least one accessible voting system for federal elections. Many states have enacted similar laws for non-federal elections.
Q: You’re either an idiot or you have it in for Donald Trump. You said in a previous column that he was against using data in his campaign, but I just read that he’s doing exactly that. How do you get away with that?
A: Yes, you are correct, the Trump campaign recently hired digital firms to help with its fundraising and targeting. But no, you’re incorrect if you presume that this pro-data behavior has always been Trump’s public position. Not that long ago, he said that he “always felt [data] was overrated.” As we noted at the time, Trump’s bluster was mere theatre to promote his anti-politician brand.
Q: Don’t you agree that our election system is rigged against ordinary people? How can we do something about it?
A: The best way to fight the power, gain power, make your voice heard, make a difference or whatever you want to call it, is not to complain. Rather, get out there, volunteer on a campaign, circulate petitions, testify at city council hearings, go door-to-door, make phone calls, join civic associations. Go for it. Don’t complain, just do it.
Equally important, learn the rules and regulations, in all of their mind-numbing, eye-glazing tedium. President Obama won his party’s nomination in 2008 the same way that outsider George McGovern did in 1972 – he and his campaign were the masters of the ins and outs, thus preventing them from getting outmaneuvered.
The bottom line is insiders always have an advantage. But as proved this year by the GOP nomination battle, and by the Brexit vote on the other side of the pond, and the Democratic primaries eight years ago, the results aren’t always predetermined.
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.