Mary Matalin's Husband
James Carville's Wife
Electoral Politics as a Profession
The upper level of the political consulting profession consists of people who are media celebrities in themselves. Think of Karl Rove, James Carville and his wife Mary Matalin. They are regulars on prime time TV shows. Some political pollsters like Scott Rasmussen and John Zogby are also familiar TV personalities.
Political consulting or electoral politics are not subjects that you can major in. It’s a profession that is an agglomeration of different disciplines. It’s one of the few professions where one often starts as a volunteer on a political campaign. Many a political consultant wound up in the career of politics because he or she admired a candidate and volunteered to help on a campaign. As volunteers, they get to know who the personalities are. They also get a chance to show that they can be counted on to produce results.
Electoral politics can be a tough game, and it's not a field for introverts. The political consultant’s job, boiled down to its essentials, is to get the candidate elected to office, and that job doesn't fit well into a comfortable day job. In a universe of 24/7 news cycles, if an important story breaks at 3 AM, it’s time to get to work. Political consulting is for people who like a challenging occupation and aren’t afraid to put in long days.
Winning: It's a Job
Winning is the definition of a successful political consultancy practice. It doesn’t matter if a consultant is charismatic and clever. If his clients don't consistently win elections, he will have a hard time finding new clients. He doesn't have to win every election, but he does have to show a successful pattern of winning elections.
According to simplyhired.com, a website that tracks salaries, the average pay of a political consultant is over $65,000. In major cities, of course, the pay is higher, often over $100,000.
Research - Positive and Negative
A political consultant spends a lot of time on research and managing researchers. The research is not only focused on the client’s opponent, but on his own client as well. It's better to know about negative information in advance than it is to read about it in the morning paper. Sometimes a client will withhold information from his political consultant not our of an intent to deceive, but because of a naive belief that it may not be important.
Opposition research, a big part of the job, is a nice name for looking for dirt. Opposition research is the material that a “negative campaign” is based on. Negative campaigning has gotten a bad rap, and political consultants are blamed. But the difference between a negative campaign and an unscrupulous one is whether the ads depict the truth. If the political consultant finds that the rival has a criminal record, shouldn't the voters be informed? Negative campaigning works, and although people turn up their noses at negative campaigning, it will be around as long as electoral politics is around.
Do You Respond to Political Polls
The most important gear in a political consultant's bag are political polls. Political polls can be run by independent companies or in-house by the consultant and staff. These polls are not usually for public consumption; they’re for planning and making strategies. If the political polls are positive they will be shouted from the rooftops.
The data from the political polls are put into databases that are updated and refined over the years. When the polling data indicates a candidate doing well in certain areas or demographic profiles, those areas will get earmarked for special consideration on election day.
Fundraising is critical to political campaigns. In a small political campaign, fundraising strategy, advice and activities are an integral part of the consultant’s job. Larger political campaigns, such as statewide or national races usually bring aboard specialized fundraising consultants.
Political consulting can be a fulfilling career for the appropriate individual. Whoever can answer the question, "how to win an election," may have an interesting vocation. Electoral politics is a tough profession, but a rewarding one as well.
Copyright ©2012 by Russell F. Moran