As we reach the height of campaign season, perhaps it behooves us all to pause for a moment and review the rules of the game. We’re not claiming that politics is a piece of cake, or that following a a set of simple steps will guarantee your election.
But folks, come on! If you’re going to try to make a living as a duly elected representative of the people, there are some very basic things you ought to know before you start running.
Do: Go back to the well. Although some politicians think reinventing themselves on a regular basis will win them votes (a condition known as “Chronic Romneyitis” in the biz), smart pols are more than willing to repeat themselves ad nauseum. A perfect recent example of this comes courtesy of State Senator Chuck Colgan, who had great success in 2007 with an ad portraying him as Rocky Balboa. Now a spry 85, Colgan is fighting to win an unprecedented 10th term to the Virginia Senate, and has thus brought the Balboa bit out of mothballs, releasing a companion ad complete with the fist-pumping Rocky theme, multiple hits to a speed bag, and an impressively agile sprint up an outdoor flight of stairs (complete with accompanying gaggle of cute schoolchildren).
Don’t: Sound like an idiot. Remember, while repeating yourself (and spouting meaningless, party-approved talking points) is perfectly fine, in politics—as in many things—context is key. So if you are, say, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling—who was very publicly appointed the Commonwealth’s “Chief Jobs Creation Officer” by his boss, Governor Bob McDonnell—it’s probably not the smartest idea to tell a Lynchburg newspaper that “We do not believe the government creates jobs.” Yes, we know: stimulus bad, private sector good. Blah blah blah. But really, if government can’t create jobs, why do you keep promising to do it?
Do: Cater to your constituents. On the campaign trail, telling folks what they want to hear is never a bad idea. Which is why Democratic State Delegate Ward Armstrong —who has been forced by redistricting to run for reelection in a new, more conservative district—is currently running ads in which he calls himself “pro-life, pro-gun,” and touts his opposition to so-called “cap and trade” legislation.
Don’t: Piss off your base. Oh yeah—did we mention that Armstrong is currently the Democratic leader in the House of Delegates? Something tells us that—even if Armstrong manages to squeak out a win against his well-funded opponent, Charles Poindexter—his days as minority leader might very well be numbered.
Do: Appreciate your campaign staff. Every good politician knows that, without a motivated cadre of paid workers and dedicated volunteers, no campaign can ever truly succeed.
Don’t: Send them unsolicited penis pictures. You know, after the Anthony “Bulging Britches” Weiner twitpic fiasco, we would have thought that most pols would have learned to keep any and all pictures of male genitalia to themselves. Well, apparently this valuable lesson has yet to be learned by Loudoun County Sheriff candidate Ronald Speakman, who thought it would be a good idea to text-message a picture of some dude’s junk to a female staffer he barely knew. His excuse? It was totally a joke! And besides, the penis wasn’t even his! Now, we don’t know whose penis it actually was, but we can promise you this: The proud owner of that penis has a better chance of being elected sheriff of Loudoun County than Ronald Speakman does.
Although some politicians think reinventing themselves on a regular basis will win them votes (a condition known as “Chronic Romneyitis” in the biz), smart pols are more than willing to repeat themselves ad nauseum.