Today’s rule is to play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
In this campaign the idea is to produce copious amounts of copy. My strength lies in my ability to write my own material in volumes. This means that I am conversant with my statements.
My next strength is the ability to argue on my feet due to my years as an attorney with some trial experience. This, coupled with my ability to write my own material, makes me formidable in that I can debate with confidence and flexibility.
The ability to speak in public is probably equal in that my opponents have long experience in such. I need to work to my teaching background to fashion the arguments in a manner that can reach the audience. A great way to learn to communicate is to take a basic course in education fundamentals. This will show you how to create a lesson plan.
In education, there is a very simple rule of thumb to success (not that teaching is easy). The basic idea breaks down as follows:
- Determine an objective (eg. To understanding Article I of the Rhode Island Constitution).
- Teach to that stated objective.
- Test to determine whether the objective has been met.
- Refine the objective if not met or move to the next objective if you are satisfied with the tested performance.
My instincts tell me that every moment is an opportunity to teach as opposed to an opportunity to campaign. Keep a similar philosophy and you won’t feel so down when you encounter resistance.
I have weaknesses that can be exploited by my opponents, but it is their job to figure them out.
As such, I will be writing definitive position and attempt to put my opponents on the spot by forcing them to address those issues. With luck, they will have utilized their staff to provide them with their information and this puts them at my mercy. They are busy raising money and have little time to write or even think about the positions they are taking. If caught off guard, I have an opportunity. They have the bodies to do the research for them, but that doesn’t automatically equate to the candidate knowing the subject. Probe carefully. Determine a weakness. Exploit it.
As to the current gubernatorial race, there is still confusion in attempting to battle the new candidacy. One campaign is working diligently to dig up dirt on me. I have been very public and so I understand that there is much information available to the dirty tricks squad. I have written and spoken freely and so I am sure my literary efforts will be quoted. I also wrote and published a sarcastic weekly called “The Rhode Island Diogenes” (sort of a Rhode Island version of “The Onion”. It would be very interesting if the opposition chooses one of the pieces without fully vetting it. We’ll see. That is the double edged sword of having written many sarcastic pieces of parody.
Finding “dirt” will free them from the issues. As everyone, there are skeletons around, but what and where is always the edge. I have no intention of denying any allegation that is true.
As a mother bird often will fly away from the nest to distract its predator from the nest, such behavior may well prove useful. Employ this as a part of any guerilla campaign. It forces people to get distracted without finding the easiest of prey. When I was negotiating a teacher contract years back, I would sit at the table and practice writing Japanese characters. When I left the room, I would always leave the pad accessible to the opposing negotiators for them to review (in the days well before cell phone cameras). My opposition did not know Japanese and probably were either impressed or frustrated. It provided me with an edge in that they were pondering matters outside the focus. Use this as a tactic.
LESSON SEVEN: Think of what you have in the toolbox. Knowing your tools will give you flexibility. Always go with your first instinct. If you have written and believe in what you write, you never have to get a minute with a consultant to figure out where you are. Being at ease brings with it poise and it will result in the body language that speaks volumes. Similarly, note the strengths of your opposition. Where possible, move the forum to where you function best or where they function worst.
Where there are political races there are often people who are willing to send you information about your opponent. Much of it is just disgruntled prose, but don’t discard it. There is often some fact that can prove interesting, a diamond in the rough. The secret is to learn the distinction between gold and fool’s gold. Don’t jump at some fact just because you were sent an email link, but don’t think the world is crazy.
When you get a tip, think like a reporter. Verify with two sources before publishing. While it is hard to libel or slander a public figure, your reputation is behind what you say or publish. The dirty tricks people usually release this type of information through sniveling surrogates to keep a layer of deniability. It works for the players, but it would be better if you do the research to prove what you are saying, drop the story to the public (with some but not all of the underlying proof). Reporters like it placed on a plate, but if you lead them to the proof, they feel much better about themselves. Use the remaining proof to keep them in the right direction if they are not following the bread trail.
Again, I remind you that members of the media are not your enemy, but like any good professional, will turn on you as fast as they noticed you. That’s life, get used to it. The best media people are those who understand the relationship and they will be fair with those who know the game.
LESSON EIGHT: Since you will be dealing with members of the media, there is one basic rule that you need to know to avoid potential problems. This rule is going off the record. There is no such animal as a do-over in media coverage (nor should there be). As such, you are the one who needs to make it clear before you speak not after. A good rule of thumb is to think that every time you speak, you are on the record. If you wish to go off the record to tell a funny story, some background information that you are not completely comfortable with in terms of proof, to supply the reporter with information required to understand how a situation arose, or whatever, the best way to do this is to stop the you will be speaking off the record, then proceed. Be brief in off the record stuff. Make the reporter’s job easier by asking to go back on the record when you have finished your sidebar.
Remember that no one is ever going to be satisfied with your answer. Example, I indicated that one of the reasons for taking on the run for governor under the Moderate Party was to help them get the needed percentage to maintain the party status. My opponent’s operatives spin this to mean that I am only concerned about getting 5% of the vote and that I am not interested in the issues. This then gets to where it is disruptive to the system and my candidacy is illegitimate. I merely exercised the rights afforded me by the law, but somehow it is a slimy action. Nice play, but not much gum on the shoe in that I didn’t write the laws protecting their political clubs, they did. I merely found where they were lazy or negligent in their protection. Now they cry foul. The best response is to probably attempt to demonstrate that it was their own idiots who wrote the stuff. Say it a few times and move on. Don’t die on the hill of such foolishness.
Tomorrow there are two radio interviews in studio. One is John DePetro and the other is Tara Granahan. Here is the best approach. Know the audiences of the personalities. In this case, the Depetro show is in the morning. It is largely an older audience. It is more prone to controversy. John can be slightly argumentative, at times. Expect to explain positions that may not be as extreme as the audience would like to hear. Don’t pander. Stay focused. If your answer is reasonable, it will carry the day with his audience.
As for Tara, her crowd is generally mixed. There is a greater likelihood of working people listing on the drive home. There is also a well groomed audience that holds a loyalty to Buddy. This does not mean that you go with a pre-conceived notion or with an ode. Just remember where the questions are coming from. Stay on message. This audience frequently likes to suggest campaign strategies for you to follow. Consider them but do not agree unless you truly do agree.
In most of talk radio, if you listen, you hear familiar voices. These voices will ask the serious questions. The off the wall stuff will come from “plants”. I always appreciate genuine new voices in support, but I also find the practice of “stuffing” to be so disingenuous and clearly set up that I cringe. Your choice on this one. The planting game has been over-used. I would only employ this strategy if you have somehow been distracted off your game or somehow unfairly overruled by the host. Otherwise, I would go prepared and let the outcome speak for itself.
Finally, while it is certain that they reach a large audience, remind yourself that they do not reach as far as you think. You may have had a brilliant thought and you will think the entire world has heard it. It has not. Audiences come in and go out. Follow the host as to how many times he or she introduces the same topic to the audience. They know their ratings and where their audiences break. Similarly, you may have to learn to say the same message until you are sick of hearing it.
Repetition is key in political speak. In the last Lt. Governor’s debate, the fun between the candidates was that we could pretty much answer each other’s question for them. The last week of the campaign is usually the most boring by far and you find yourself relieved when it is over, regardless of the results.