(Chuck Muth) – It’s been nine grueling days at the Leadership Institute’s “Campaign Leadership School” for prospective campaign managers and leaders.
35 students from all over the country, as well as a few international students from Mongolia, England, Pakistan, and Germany.
75 hours of instruction. 39 separate lectures. Plus lunch presentations (including a guest appearance on Monday by former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton).
Subjects covered included…
- Writing a campaign plan
- Basic research
- Persuasive communications
- Social media
- Digital advertising
- Setting vote goals
- The communications grid
- How to handle negative information
- Working with the media
- Using AI (artificial intelligence) in politics
- Television advertising
- Voter contact mail
- Building coalitions
- Campaign budgeting
- How to hire a consultant
- Finance compliance
- Personal solicitation fundraising
- Fundraising events
- Direct mail fundraising
- Grassroots field operations
- GOTV (Get Out the Vote)
- Election Day activities
Especially me. I was the oldest student in the class. Some of my classmates were young enough to be my GRANDKIDS!
But, man…sharp as tacks. The future of the conservative movement is bright, trust me.
The full group was divided into six teams. The “Nevada Three” – me, Annie Black, and Melissa Clement – were each assigned to different teams.
Each team was assigned a current Virginia state senate race (the elections are on November 7) to develop a comprehensive written campaign plan for.
It was extremely challenging for a number of reasons…
- None of us were from Virginia and had to research the districts, the candidates, the local issues, and the state’s election laws.
- Their elections are held in odd-numbered years, unlike almost every other state. This significantly affects voter turnout projections and more.
- The districts were completely redrawn by court order following the 2020 U.S. Census, making the use of historical voter data a huge challenge.
We had homework that took at least a couple of hours to complete almost every night. The assignments included opposition research, establishing a specific vote goal for the race, messaging, budgeting, and fundraising.
And we were subjected to a “murder board” review (that we came to dread) of our work the next morning.
Each group had to present our collective homework to a panel of three seasoned instructors who ripped our assignments to pieces where we screwed up. Not in a mean way, but in a constructive way to impress how critical it is to get and do things right…or you lose your race.
We all blew off some steam and decompressed a little Tuesday night. LI arranged for us to all go to a neighborhood bowling alley. Great team-building outing where we got to know each other better in a more relaxed environment.
We also had a field trip on Wednesday morning.
LI arranged a bus to take us all to Grover Norquist’s infamous “Wednesday Meeting” in downtown DC where the Nevada Three ran into fellow Nevadan and GOP U.S. Senate candidate Tony Grady (who gave a great presentation on his campaign).
Little bit of drama, too. Some of the group – thankfully none of us from Nevada – got stuck in the elevator for about 15 minutes!
I also ran into my former boss at the American Conservative Union (ACU), David Keene. He and I had lunch together before I headed back for the afternoon’s classes. So great to catch up with him, a true lion of the conservative movement.
As many of the students had never been to our nation’s capital before – especially our international colleagues – LI arranged a “Monuments Night Tour” later that evening.
Since Annie and I had been to DC before, we hung back at the hotel and enjoyed the unexpected privilege of running into and having dinner with my favorite instructor, Mark Campbell.
Had never met him before this week, but he’s been in the “biz” for over 40 years – including managing Glenn Youngkin’s upset win for Virginia governor two years ago.
Mark has a wicked sense of humor and the non-course education Annie and I got over dinner was worth its weight in gold.
Friday night’s homework was to complete an entire Power Point presentation detailing our entire campaign plan.
With only the next day’s “murder board” of the plan left, I treated a dozen of my classmates to dinner at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill in downtown DC after we finished.
This morning’s “murder board” was, well, murder.
Everyone was on pins and needles; hoping we didn’t get ripped to shreds and flunk out. But despite the short time and high pressure, all six presentations were pretty darned solid…and our instructors let us know that.
We then concluded the course with a graduation lunch this afternoon.
Our instructors had been grading each team throughout the course and ranked each team as we were called up to receive our diplomas.
“Team Melissa” came in third.
“Team Chuck” placed second (by a hair!).
“Team Annie” brought home the GOLD!
What an experience.
When I signed up for this school, the program director – Rick Tyler – asked why I wanted to attend since I’ve not only been in this “biz” for 25+ years, but have been an LI instructor myself in the past.
My response was simple: You can never know it all. Sometimes you need to be reminded of something you forgot. And there’s always something new to learn.
Before announcing “Class dismissed,” Rick pointedly asked if I’d learned anything new.
My response: “Oh, hell yeah!”
Now here’s the thing…
It’s not enough to simply learn something in politics. The key is to take what you learn, get your feet wet and fingers dirty, and use that education to win elections.
Annie, Melissa, and I are now in a much better position to do just that next year in Nevada.
The three of us fly out of REAGAN International tomorrow morning. When we get back, we’ll start developing our own in-state campaign training program modeled after the course we just completed.
And we’re gonna shock some Democrats next year who will never see it coming.
I want to wrap up with some thank you’s…
First and foremost, Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute which put this, and many other training programs, together for conservatives.
Secondly, to LI’s donors who provided the funding necessary to put on this first-class program.
Thirdly, LI’s senior staff who taught, guided, mentored, and gently “murdered” us over the past nine days: Rick Tyler, Mark Campbell, Ron Nehring, and Steve Sutton.
Fourth, my three dozen classmates who sweated out the program with us.
I swear, if I decided tomorrow to run for office again myself, I’d hire any one of them to manage my campaign rather than 90 percent of the “professional” consultants out there getting paid to mismanage campaigns these days.
Fifth, Annie and Melissa, who took a big leap of faith when I invited them to join me for this program. Taking almost two weeks out of your life to hole up in a hotel room with a bunch of strangers to learn politics was one helluva sacrifice.
If you run into them, thank and congratulate them. They deserve it.
And last but not least…YOU.
Those of you who responded to my questions this past week helped crystalize and clarify some pretty tough issues that we’re all going to be facing over the next several months of this election cycle.
So a tip o’ the hat and toast to you. Cheers.
Now let’s rock!
7 Worst Habits of Highly Unelectable People
- Picking the wrong race
- Picking the wrong district
- Picking the wrong issues
- Picking the wrong time
- Picking the wrong consultants
- Picking unnecessary fights with the media
- Picking door-knocking over fundraising
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
- “Winners aren’t perfect. They just make fewer mistakes than their rivals.” – Morton Blackwell
- “The winner in a political contest is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists on the respective sides.” – Morton Blackwell
- “To succeed inside a political party, one must cultivate an ability to sit still and remain polite while foolish people speak nonsense.” – Morton Blackwell
- “You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends.” – Morton Blackwell
- “In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you’re dead.” – Morton Blackwell
- “Don’t fully trust anyone until he has stuck with a good cause which he saw was losing.” – Morton Blackwell
- “In volunteer politics, a builder can build faster than a destroyer can destroy.” – Morton Blackwell
- “I don’t understand much about politics…” – Liberal blubber-blogger Jon Ralston, 1/2/20
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.