September 30, 2014

Today is basic housekeeping matters. Do not let a campaign get out of control. Make it as efficient as possible.

First, the best advice is to write a daily integrated list. You probably have several calendars for various projects. I have four that need a daily mix. For me, there are legal obligations of the practice, business matters requiring attention, the campaign, and personal commitments.

By consolidating calendars daily, you will do yourself a big favor. They have usually been checked prior to scheduling, thereby avoiding double booking, but the amalgamated listing will help with the day, especially since you will have a changing schedule.

Write must do matters in bold print. Always carry a pen and paper of some sort. Sounds simple, but it can be frustrating if you forget it. Have a phone list as well.

While it sounds funny, get into a counting routine. Think of the five or eight items you need with you and make sure you make your count before heading out. By doing this over and over, it becomes a routine and you will rarely find yourself without an important item.

For example, keys, wallet, eye glasses, pen, and cash. You will be surprised of the need for this procedure. Being in a rush during the campaign, you will change your clothes without thinking and suddenly find yourself without your wallet or cash.

Another tip is to think about the audience you will encounter and dress appropriately. This one too sounds like it doesn’t need to be said, and, if so, good, but for those who don’t think of this, start doing so. You need to feel at ease when you are speaking and it seems easier if you attempt to match the audience.

Having two pairs of glasses, both the same style, is a good campaign tip. Unless your considered a fashion person, try to keep your appearance constant. If you are getting earned media, make sure you attempt to look the same so that people eventually recognize you. You are not paying for ads so you need this recognition factor.

Finally, be on time. It is expected of you and I cannot over-emphasize this. People have other things to do and places to be. If you happen to have a delay, work the phone to get to the host of the event. Courtesy rules.

In 1998 I was on the way to a television debate and had a flat tire. The jack was missing from the trunk. In those days, there were pay phones. Dressed for the debate, I was scrambling along the side of the highway to get off and get to a phone.

I got to the debate about 30 minutes late. It disrupted the event and I lost a precious opportunity. Plan for early arrival and learn to compose in anticipation. Think through your travel options and, in today’s world, have your cell phone with the number of the place to which you are going.

Make sure you get directions before you leave, unless you are 100% certain as to where you are going. Getting lost is both time consuming and frustrating. Avoid it by thinking about it in advance.

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September 29, 2014

It is always interesting when you hear your lines elsewhere. It seems to reinforce the idea that your opponent is paying attention to what you are saying or else they are hearing it from their polling people.

I was somewhat surprised today to hear Elorza’s saying all he wanted was “the endorsement of the people”. Hmmm, sound familiar? Or how about Raimondo’s recent talk of using a few of the key words we have been flogging in our campaign.

Sure, it is basic political rhetoric and common language, but there is always an odd feeling when others with the power and money to poll seem to be aping your lines. It should at least allow you to feel, not know, but feel, that there is some power in the words you have chosen. Note it. File it in the back of your head. There is no need to use it, but think about where you being watched and by whom.

It is always good to act in a very pedestrian, yet public manner to judge how far your message is travelling. Today I rode alone on public transit, not approaching anyone. The interesting part is that the message has travelled.

I boarded buses to people saying ‘Governor’. I was stopped for several photos with people. I got dozens of thumbs up and smiling people wishing me luck.

I have run campaigns for more than thirty years, but I must admit I have never had such a warm feeling that struck me today. It was odd. It was good. It was that the people can see that we have a chance of getting power back to where it belongs, in the people.

As hokey as it sounds, I am hearing people yearning to be free. It is frighteningly exciting to be riding on such a wave.

My point here is that you can draw energy and strength from noting that you are making a difference in the process. Don’t lose track of the reason you are trying to effectuate changes. Not every day will be a great uplifting day, but when you are dealt one, never ignore it.

As to strategy, I forgot to note that in the unscientific Journal poll for Governor, we were leading until we spoke about it, then, magically, within a period of three days, Gina has miraculously caught up from be trounced. The word went out and the supporters responded, dutifully. It was not unexpected, but another interesting point to ponder in making determinations.

In the last few days I have been actively researching background for a very important statement. If the proof can support this statement, I will make it in the near future. The timing is somewhat important and the content is quite explosive. Sorry, dear reader, to keep you in suspense, but it is very sensitive at this point.

Suffice it to say that I will attempt to demonstrate the build up and the detonation. This will look at the when, where, how, and why to drop to the media. In this case, it would probably be best set off on either late Wednesday or early Thursday. By doing such, you will be giving it enough media incubation to enable it to be discussed by the public over the weekend.

If it lasts into the following week, you have been successful. Remember, most news organizations do not have full staffing on Sundays. Remember that the news desks of print media are down over the weekend, for the most part. If you want to make news during the weekend you must either plan a car crash or get stabbed. Possible, but not suggested.

It is well established in terms of politicians breaking bad news to drop it late Friday. Know this. If your opponent is dropping news on late Friday, wait until Monday to address it. Keep it alive for the following week. A Saturday or Sunday response is next to worthless.

While I clearly indicated that you should always treat the media with a mutual respect, don’t give ground. If a reporter is particularly annoying, use subtlety. If you know from a history of exclusion or poor coverage that you have a good solid story, learn the deadline of the reporter, and drop the story to everyone, just be about ten minutes after that beat’s deadline. Reporters catch on real fast.

It can be used in reverse as well. Reporting is, after all, a competition to get the story first. Reward with timing, just don’t do it over and over again to a pattern of favoritism. This grows tired quickly and you will lose any respect with the media.

Since you will know the story, you will know hack reporting. Learn from poor reporting and adjust your news accordingly. I remind you, good reporters want only good stories, so act accordingly.

There is one exception to this somewhat rule. I used it quite well in my 2004 campaign for Governor. I bought a fax machine (yes, fax machine) that had broadcast capabilities. I would write daily releases on various related topics, minimally newsworthy as a lead, but news nonetheless.

I compiled a list of media outlets into the group broadcast and set a new release each and every day. I am sure that many good points went unreported, but I never complained of the lack of coverage. If little else, it was a cheap form of daily reminder to the press that I was in the campaign, that I was more than willing to speak on a variety of issues, that I was diligent in my pursuit, that I was thinking, but most importantly, that I was there when there was a slow news day and they needed filler. It was a source of free earned media.

As a plus, I indexed these daily statements and sent them out periodically. If an issue came up suddenly, I could almost always have my position placed in the news. Did it always work? No. Did it work sometimes? Yes. The only caution to this approach is to make sure you are ready to commit a large block of time for so little a return. I found it helpful in that I was always sharp on just about any issue, having written about it.

On other matters, still involved in writing position papers, answering mail (which typically slows for the few weeks before the last push), getting appearances scheduled, working on staffing, and other daily chores of an independent or third party campaign.

Now, I need to follow my earlier advice. I need to eat better, sleep more, and find a small amount of time for letting my mind rest. I will try to discuss work scheduling at another point in time.

September 28, 2014

Today gives us an opportunity to explore polling once again.

Results from a Rasmussen poll have been reported. They report that Raimondo is up over Fung by five points. The poll was taken of 750 likely voters over the period of September 23-25. The margin of error was +/- 4% and there was a confidence level of 95%.

What does it all mean? Consider the following before making a determination. The question asked by the pollster was: “If the election for governor of Rhode Island were held today, would you vote for Republican Allan Fung or Democrat Gina Raimondo?”

You can immediately see the problem with this poll, the problem of inclusion. If you were at a party and you were asked whether you wanted grape or orange soda would you choose cola? This poll question is pretty flawed poll from the start (especially when over 10% went out of their way to say they preferred another candidate).

If I were the pollster and wanted greater accuracy I would have added the name of the third candidate and get results, but, I assume they were too deep into their polling to make such an immediate adjustment.

Most stand up reporters are clearly making note of the omission of Healey. The Providence Journal, in reporting it, put it in the back pages of the paper and Alex Kaufman clearly indicated that Healey was not included.

I personally would not trust this Rasmussen poll as reported, but the poll itself is not completely worthless if one examines what it doesn’t say as opposed to what it does.

Take a good look at the reporting. Despite being offered only a choice of two people, over ten percent indicated they preferred another candidate. Think about it for just a second. They did not report they were undecided, of which there are 11%. They reported that a full 11% were voting for another unnamed and unmentioned candidate.

Take heart in this statistic. If people were offered the third choice by name, the probable outcome would show an even greater level of support. It is for this reason I feel that we are making in-roads that cannot be ignored.

Having 11% of the people volunteering a third name is quite encouraging. It is not enough to celebrate, but it is a very positive sign in that many people simply answer what is asked.

Go by your gut and be realistic. The people on the streets seem far more enthusiastic about the campaign. Winning yet? Hardly, but very much in the fight.

Listen to reporting of the poll and work to correct incorrect assumptions that might occur in reporting. In this, never, never, never over-assert your position, just call attention to the flaws in the data.

It is very good if the opponent tries to make hay with the skewed poll. If they do it vociferously, then you should smell that blood is in the air.

While you may think this is worth just letting it run its news cycle, that strategy would be more likely a good one if the news was all bad. The high number of those challenging the question by stating a third candidate makes this worthy of ignoring the traditional path.

Challenging a poll with such a false premise is easy. Be careful when you are faced with a better posed polling question. While third parties and independents will poll with greater consistency with the poll’s margin of error, in either direction, it is well too early to consider the battle won or lost.

September 27, 2014

Today is a day to address the concept of endorsements.

While it is usually great to be endorsed by a group, the best advice to independent and third party candidates is to graciously accept any that are given, but do not seek them.

Endorsements, in most cases, do not come for free. They are not legally tied to the endorser, but they are tied inherently to the endorser. Since this ‘wink and nod’ is usually in the form of a quid pro quo, avoid it.

This does not mean that you reject invitations to speak to a group. I usually accept all of them, and often go into these meetings with a broad disclaimer along the lines of “I am here to speak to the issues of concern expressed by your group. I am not asking for your endorsement. I am a candidate and would like to understand the issues. Let’s talk.”

This approach makes few friends, but you will see that they will adjust to the curve ball and start to speak to you as to their agenda. It is very insightful for a candidate and I highly recommend it.

There are several strategic reasons for doing this. First, you show them that even though you may completely disagree with them, you will give them the time of day and give them the respect that they deserve.

Second, you can learn from the experience. Do not waiver or bend. They, as you, believe strongly in their position. They will tell you why you are not in sync with their position. You will tell them why you cannot support theirs. Do not go unprepared to these meetings. You will be hit with one or two questions that you may not have a full grasp on, but if you have at least made the effort to read their materials, you may not get their vote, but you will gain their respect.

Third, by taking the endorsement off the table, you can speak your mind. You don’t have to kowtow to the audience. You are not there to make friends, you are there to speak the truth as you see it.

Humor me a bit while I tell my favorite endorsement story. In one of my runs for Lieutenant Governor, I was invited to speak to the National Education Association. I went. The NEA was the teacher union in Warren during the 1985 teacher strike. I entered with the premise outlined above.

We spent my interview discussing actual issues related to education and where I agreed with their education positions and where we disagreed. It was a thought provoking hour which I think benefitted both sides. We didn’t talk about election politics, we talked about education.

I had, prior to the term on the school committee, been a classroom teacher. I had degrees in teaching fields and had done my PhD coursework in Comparative Education. I could speak their language despite our disagreements over funding.

A few days later I received a telephone call. The caller asked me if I would accept the endorsement if it were offered to me. I indicated that I had not been seeking it but would accept it if offered. I asked why they would endorse me in light of the past conflicts. The answer was that they had interviewed candidates and found that my understanding of education and its concerns were superior to the others and that despite our disagreements over funding, at least they knew me and that, while they staunchly opposed my funding, they knew they could count on my word as my bond. They preferred dealing with the Devil they knew.

After a discussion of how their endorsement would not really appeal to their membership in that there are, even to this day, open wounds from the 85’ strike, I told them I appreciated their offer but they should reconsider it.

I was not endorsed in that race. That union withheld its endorsement. Now that is a nicely negotiated compromise, wouldn’t you say? I respect them for their professionalism.

My point is that endorsement meetings can be worth the time.

LESSON FIFTEEN: DO NOT AVOID ANY OPPORTUNITY TO MEET AND DISCUSS YOUR ISSUES, EVEN IF YOU PERCEIVE IT AS AN EFFORT IN FUTILITY. WHILE THERE IS OFTEN TREPIDATION PRIOR TO MEETING WITH THOSE WHO HAVE A DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE POSITION TO YOU, SPEAK YOUR MIND, THEN, PERHAPS MORE IMPORTANLY, LISTEN. YOU DO NOT GO TO THESE MEETINGS TO MAKE FRIENDS, YOU GO THERE TO SHOW MUTUAL RESPECT AND GAIN UNDERSTANDING.

In this campaign I am seeking only one endorsement, that of the people. While it may sound somewhat trite, I cannot avoid the honesty that it represents for me. I want the people to unite in an effort that will right the ship of state. I cannot say it will come without pain, but I can say it comes from a place where the brain and the heart meet.

No one likes to cut back. No one likes to pay past due bills. No one likes to be chided for past errors. No one likes to be told no. I understand that, but such avoidance of the problems will never lead to solutions. Rhode Island must take its medicine, like it or not.

My point here is that if you are sincere, people can sense it and your opponents will be set at a disadvantage. They have spent the last few months, if not years, putting on the fakeness to raise money, making alliances to gain endorsements, and selling themselves for a few bits of campaign gold. It cannot feel good and don’t let them justify it or rationalize it. They are internally awkward where you can be stable.

Today the campaign is firming up its calendar, getting out a letter to supporters as to campaign help, researching a few issues to validate a written piece coming out next week, answering correspondence where possible, and attempting to write a position paper on education.

Also, today I will be attending the polo match to interact with folks. And, I am told that the Democrats for Healey are hosting a “Bowling with Bob” event in Johnston, and I have accepted the invitation. The public is invited and all profits are going to charity. I’ll be there.

September 25, 2014

An interesting day today in that the Democrat is on the move. There must be some internal polling data suggesting that her base of women 30-50s are moving away.

To secure her base, Democrat Gina Raimondo is attempting to make an issue where there once was one, but probably doesn’t really exist anymore. Why? To secure the people who were in that fight so many years ago, largely the voting block of women in their late 30s and 50s.

When was the last time you even contemplated that the right to an abortion would be threatened? Really? We have an entire generation who knows of no other option. Is it going to change back? Be honest and you will see how this strategy works.

The threat of the return despite its remote possibility excites the base in that it was an issue they fought hard to secure. Threaten to protect it from phantom removers, you have gained support. It is almost that simple.

Raimondo’s camp wants to rip the scab off of an old issue for political manipulation. It was a somewhat transparent in her pandering, but the bottom line it will motivate her minions. Who cares if it serves to divide a society that had almost put a contentious issue behind them.

The taking this road is usually as a result of internal polling. Why else? Republican Fung has clearly articulated he was pro-choice, and my campaign, believing in personal freedom and personal responsibility, is pro-choice. Who is the one working to take away the right of a woman to control her own destiny?

Raising the bogey man is cheap politics and it works. It puts the opponent, specifically Fung here in that Raimondo is also using the strategy of ignoring Healey in the media so as to not give me free publicity, another good and calculated strategy.

But this leaves her vulnerable. She will inevitably argue with the local bishop and the right to life community, but it goes beyond this, regardless where you are on the issue.

Raimondo professes that she is a practicing Catholic. Regardless of how many people listen to the bishop, his argument is valid. If you say you are a Catholic, follow the rules of Catholicism. If not, renounce your religion (and practice it as you see it), but you are not a Catholic if you are not in line with the tenets of the faith.

In short, Raimondo’s Catholicism is as hollow as her pandering. You don’t have to be a Catholic to be Governor, but I guess polling shows that you can get more votes by saying you are. Rhode Island is a highly concentrated Catholic state in terms of population. It will work. No one likes rules and no one wants to renounce their religion. In short, many can identify with her position, even if it is a mere scare the voter.

It is foolish to engage in this battle other than to make an effort to point out the fact that it is fighting with a straw man and that it is just another move to divide society instead of unifying it. If left alone, it will die of its own staleness.

Good move from a publicity standpoint, and thus a strategy standpoint. Bad move in that it is quite divisive in terms of politics.

LESSON FOURTEEN: PEOPLE GROW OLDER AND WANT TO REMEMBER THE STRUGGLES THAT THEY HAVE BEEN THROUGH. IT’S HUMAN. IT WILL BE USED IN TIMES WHEN A BASE IS SLIPPING AWAY OR WHEN THERE IS A NEED TO RAISE MONEY AND SUPPORT. A GOOD TOOL IN THAT IT IS CHEAP TO IMPLEMENT AND PROVIDES A SENSE OF FIGHTING FOR A CAUSE, NO MATTER HOW UNLIKELY THE CAUSE WILL EVER REAR ITS HEAD.

Tonight I head out to the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns dinner. It was supposed to be a debate before Raimondo-Fung made their alliance limiting exposure of each other. Instead of a debate, Fung and I will be given ten minutes to speak.

Since the debate won’t occur, the questions were released. The questions and the answers will be posted as a document on this page. Check it out if you want to get a sense of how special interest groups explore a candidate’s position.