The Case for Campaign Managers Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you by now know that

the Republican Party lost in 2012 because it has a problem with Hispanic voters and technology. That’s the diagnosis, and there seems to be near universal agreement. But beneath the surface and just out of view of the 24-hour news cycle, lies a deeper and more fundamental problem for Republicans. We didn’t run very good campaigns. Among U.S. Senate races in 2014, the fundamental difference was that Democrat candidates ran a series of state-based campaigns highlighting a combination of state, local and national issues. They discredited their Republican opponents with attacks not on federal public policy, but personal issues, personality defects and issues that cross-cut into what should have been their opponents strengths. Republicans ran on the same issues in 2012 that had worked in 2010: Obamacare and the out of control federal debt and spending in Washington. This time, it didn’t work. So beyond our deficiencies in technology and problems with Hispanic voters, the conclusion is simple - campaigns still matter. Which is particularly troubling for Republicans when you stop and consider that all across the country there is a lost generation of Republican campaign managers. I’m not talking about campaign consultants or “operatives.” There is no shortage of “operatives.” Anybody who ran a phone bank in 2004 is now a campaign “operative” and they’re all for hire. Every twenty-four year old kid who was vice-chairman of his or her college Republican chapter is now a “social media” consultant eager to run your twitter feed, for a monthly retainer, of course. No, what the Republican Party needs are honest-to-goodness, fullfledged campaign managers with knowledge of their states. Men and women (lots more women) who’ve managed campaigns before, who know how to raise money, who’ve developed relationships with local reporters and the skills necessary to put together a quality staff and “manage” people. It’s a pretty precise skill set. In recent decades, in Republican circles anyway, campaign managers

have taken a back seat to media consultants, pollsters, mail vendors and now superpacs (usually run by media consultants). But these consultants work on dozens of races at a time. All these consultants are valuable and necessary for success in a big race. Marco Rubio has them, Ted Cruz has them, even Rand Paul has them. But you can’t rely on consultants alone. You better have a campaign manager who can manage the consultants and their oftenoutsized personalities. Democrats seem to understand this and they put a premium on experienced campaign managers. Their campaign committees and leadership offices are stocked full of their best campaign operatives, seasoning, maturing, getting ready to be deployed to the next big campaign. Democrat Senate candidates in 2014 are already hiring up the best Senate campaign managers from 2012. This seems obvious. Campaign managers are essentially running a small business. You have to build and manage a staff. You are the primary person responsible for managing the candidate – always the hardest part of a campaign. The schedule is never right, they don’t like the website, they aren’t making enough fundraising calls. And the spouses, well, you’re responsible for keeping them happy, too. Then there is the money. A good campaign manager knows every dollar that comes in and every dollar that goes out. You have to figure out a way, with limited time and resources to raise the money necessary and then spend it, with precision, coming as close as you can to a zero balance without going into the red. You have to deal with tightfisted donors and all manner of interest groups. You have to have relationships with the key reporters and know which ones you can trust and which ones you can’t. You have to be able to prioritize scheduling conflicts. Three chicken dinners in one night, which one do you choose and how do you assuage the other two? Oh, and it would be helpful if you understood public policy just a little bit, so you could keep your candidate and your staff out of trouble and on message. None of this is rocket science. It’s just a unique set of learned skills that can only be acquired over time and with lots of practice. It’s called experience. In all the talk of what went wrong for Republicans in 2012 and how to

fix it going forward, the Republican Party is rightly concerned about investing in technology. Let’s remember to invest in campaign managers, too.

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