Josh King wrote a great piece for Politico Magazine on the 1988 Dukakis for President campaign team's decision to have their candidate ride around in a tank to shore up his image on national defense.
Matt Bennett can still hear the reporters laughing, all 90 of them. He can still picture Sam Donaldson doubled over, guffawing, on a riser that looked out over a dusty field in suburban Detroit. Bennett was a 23-year-old political rookie in 1988 when he was sent to a General Dynamics facility in Sterling Heights, Mich., to organize a campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis: a ride in a 68-ton M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The visit, meant to bolster the candidate’s credibility as a future commander-in-chief, would go down as one of the worst campaign backfires in history.
What are the takeaways?
1. Think long and hard about the image you're presenting any time you put your candidate in a "costume."
2. Have an outsider on speed dial - an old friend or colleague you trust - who will give you frank advice about campaign ideas you're considering.
Campaign staff - as hard as they try - often cannot objectively look at things because they're too caught up in the day to day minutiae of the campaign. It's difficult to step back and determine how a particular speech, idea or visual will look to the average voter.
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