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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: What aspects of campaign chum – t-shirts, lawn signs, mugs – should you open up for a design contest? We understand that Rand Paul did well selling t-shirts that supporters designed.
A: We love this idea and think it’s a great way to jazz volunteers and supporters. You could extend it to party invitations, posters, bumper stickers, lapel stickers, hats, you name it.
We have only four caveats: make sure you have enough supporters to generate a significant response (a statewide or mayor’s race might have a population big enough to reach critical mass, whereas a state rep race may not). Two: dedicate sufficient staff time to process the contest entries. Three: process all material goes through the proper legal and expenditure approvals, and four: be prepared to keep so-called losers invested in your campaign by engaging them in other ways (honorable mentions, responsibilities, candidate time) so that they remain enthusiastic supporters. But yes, go for it and have a great time.
Q: I just read your answer a while back to the question, “Is analytics dead?” Honestly, I thought your answer was superficial and really rather stupid. Do you really think this is an issue? Seems like a little bit of a straw man.
A: The problem isn't data. Data and more of it is always good. The problem is not knowing how to use it, and the tendency of some to use it as a bludgeon to squelch honest discussion in a campaign. And as some folks have noted, if misused, data can inhibit true organizing.
In addition, as a good friend and long-time consultant recently noted, “I'm not opposed to using data, just to data being used to replace messaging. My goal is that we tell more emotional stories and run message-driven, data-informed campaigns.”
So there. Sorry if you thought my answer from earlier this year was stupid, but thanks for pointing it out. We’re happy (really, no joke) to have a candid and blunt conversation, as diplomats used to say back in the pre-Twitter 20th Century.
Q: In this day and age, is compromise a dirty word, especially if it causes a problem for us in a primary?
A: Compromise shouldn’t be an expletive, and negotiating (even with deceptive adversaries) shouldn’t be a problem, as long as you’re clear-eyed about what you’re doing.
Ronald Reagan reportedly once confided to an aide, “I’d rather get 80 percent of what I want than to go over the cliff with my flag flying.” Our advice is to go for the 80 percent on the important stuff that helps people in their daily lives (public safety, schools, jobs, et cetera) and, if you need to “go over the cliff” with your flag flying, do it on an issue that is less important or where you were going to lose anyway. Basically, do what’s right, aggressively explain it and then, if necessary, defend it.
Q: Outside of Trump himself, how useful is Twitter? Please give an honest answer, don’t be politically correct.
A: According to one recent study, during the final weeks of the 2016 election, all of the 20 most prolific Twitter accounts “appeared to support the eventual winner, Donald Trump.” The Washington Post reported that “highly automated [Twitter] accounts” supporting Trump “out-tweeted those supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton by a ratio of 5 to 1 in the final days before the vote,” creating spillover effects, including anti-Clinton stories online and Facebook feeds.
So yes, love it or hate it, Twitter is necessary and useful, at least until the next big thing replaces it.
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.