Learn to campaign from the experts

We learn in three different ways:

  1. By personal experience
  2. By observation
  3. By studying the experience of others

So says Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute. Blackwell makes a good point. A great way for first-time candidates to learn how to campaign is by observing and studying the best campaigners.

For the next fifteen months, you'll have an opportunity to learn from folks who have won a lot of combined elections. Watch as the presidential campaign ebbs and flows, and take notes if you have to. Below are a few ideas of what to watch for.

How to conduct yourself in a debate

With the inaugural debate tonight, this is a great place to start. While your debate won't look like the GOP presidential debate, there are a few things you can learn.

In a debate, you want to get your message out. Pay attention to what message each candidate is trying to get across. Rubio will likely talk about "a new american century." Trump will talk about "making america great again." Scott Walker wants to convince voters that he's the candidate who has gotten things done. 

Watch for how well each candidate sticks to those messages. And keep an eye out for candidates that don't deliver any discernible message at all - that's what you want to avoid in your debates. 

Feel free to comment below if you have ideas about the message the other candidates need to get across. 

How to handle negative information

The candidate dealing with the most negative stories right now is Hillary Clinton. Keep an eye on how her campaign handles the email and foundation stories going forward. There are a few options for handling negative information:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Deny it
  3. Confess you did it, and defend it as the right thing to do at the time
  4. Confess you did it, and humbly apologize

So far, Clinton has dismissed those stories as partisan politics. She's mostly chosen to ignore them. But because they don't seem to be going away, the Clinton camp may have to change tactics soon. Bill Clinton's 1992 team is justifiably considered one of the most skilled group of strategists in recent history. They'll come up with better strategy sooner than later. Keep an eye on how they handle the email and foundation stories going forward. 

Get yourself earned media

Clearly, Donald Trump has been better at getting himself free media than the other candidates. Anyone tuning in to the debate tonight wants to know what Trump is going to do. For a candidate with little political experience, he's been impressive in how he gets himself headlines. 

I doubt the type of press he gets himself will help him win the primary election, but it's impressive nonetheless. Pay attention to how he does it: he's direct and confrontational, and he picks fights with people.

Being direct and confrontational isn't necessarily a bad characteristic. That style has helped Chris Christie rise to Governor of New Jersey. Picking fights has advantages as well. Targeting Wall Street is how both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders became well known figures. If you pick the right fight, it's not a bad tactic. 

Other candidates have managed to get themselves earned media in more subtle ways. Scott Walker signed an abortion ban in Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton drove across the country after announcing her candidacy. Rand Paul filibustered in the Senate. 

Take a look at the "newsroom" link on each of the candidates websites. Those press releases are attempts to get earned media. Read and learn. 

I hope these are helpful. If I get enough feedback, I may turn this into a series and talk about what you can learn from the presidential candidates throughout the campaign season. If you have any feedback, feel free to post in the comments section below. 

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