Pixel Tracker

Saturday, March 23 , 2019, 6:18 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Mark Shields: Helpful Hints for Candidates Who Dare to Run for Public Office

Successful politicians, those who have won election and re-election to office, almost always have an extra olfactory nerve that somehow endows them with the ability to smell which way the political winds will blow in a given election year — and whether a gale-force blast is forming that might sweep them out of office in November. That could explain why more Republican House members already have announced that they will not seek re-election in 2018 than in any year since 1930 — when, we recall, after the collapse of the stock market, the nation's unemployment rate had more than tripled in less than 12 months, heralding an election in which Democrats would capture 52 House seats from the GOP.

I have a confession to make: I like people who dare to run for public office. For most of us, our lives are made up of quiet victories and quiet defeats. If you and I are the two finalists to become the national manager of Rocky Mountain Sunscreen and you are chosen, when the hometown paper announces your promotion and success, it does not include a line such as, "Shields was passed over because of lingering questions about his expense account and his erratic behavior at the company Christmas party." But for the political candidate, the results are right there for everybody — everyone he has ever carpooled with, dated or baby-sat for — to see, whether he won or, more likely, he lost.

So, after having worked personally in three presidential campaigns and having covered the past 11, I offer this free advice to all 2018 candidates, who, just by running, are willing to risk public rejection and defeat.

1) "Money," as the late Jesse Unruh, the fabled "Big Daddy" of California politics, observed, "is the mother's milk of politics." The candidate has to be willing to personally ask friends, relatives and strangers to contribute to her campaign. But know that fundraising is not easy. So when some supporter promises you that the event he is hosting for you most definitely will raise X thousand dollars, always cut that promised amount in half — and then halve that.

Never accept, regardless of the legality of cash donations, a contribution from someone delivering from a third party an envelope with four $100 bills in it. Why? Because no one in campaign history has ever donated $400 to a candidate, so you can safely conclude that the individual delivering the envelope has himself lifted either $600 or $100 from the original amount.

2) Campaigns should be fun. Every political campaign is chaotic, complex and demanding for the people involved. Staffers work long hours at enormous dislocation to their personal, family and social lives. Campaign workers' compensation is not in the usually modest paychecks but in the shared sense of recognition, appreciation and feeling of involvement in an important cause, which only the candidate can "pay."

And please know this: There inevitably will be one person on your side in every campaign whom you wish devoutly were on the other side.

3) Elections have rightly been called "one-day sales." It doesn't matter if hundreds of people say on Wednesday that they fully intended to vote for a candidate, because the voting ends Tuesday night at 8. Very few enterprises in life are as final and decisive as a campaign. You win or you lose. No do-overs. Campaigns are not about the candidate or the party or the campaign staff; campaigns are about the voters — about their lives, their hopes and their concerns.

And rather than spend time and goodwill arguing about the color of the campaign bumper stickers and buttons, just remember that blue is America's favorite color by a 2-1 ratio.

I hope those hints are helpful. Thank you for caring enough to run for public office. And good luck.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.