Dr. Bob: “When should I start my campaign?”

Dear Dr. Bob,

I’m going to run for the state legislature, but I’m not yet ready to make a formal announcement since I don’t have much money and no campaign materials. When should I start my campaign?”

Thinking About It

Dear Thinker:

Yesterday.

Seriously, it makes more sense to go the other direction: announce now and then continue to announce as long as people show up.

With state legislative races, the reality is that you’re not going to get much news interest or coverage — this is particularly true in the major metro areas, less so in rural Arizona.

So get yourself in front of every group you can think of and tell them that you’re “proud to be here today to tell you that I am running for the state legislature…” That doesn’t require much more than your time and, as it turns out, is a good way of getting known, raising money and collecting petition signatures.

What is more important, by the way, is making dead certain that you know what your campaign is going to be before starting. You need to be able to explain exactly how you are going to win in a brief summary. This should be tried out on your spouse or BFF before jumping off the cliff.

Think of it this way, a campaign has a destination called “winning the election.”

The sole purpose of a campaign is to get the candidate from a starting point to the destination. Period. That’s why its often referred to as the “campaign trail.” The best candidates can close their eyes and see the trail with great clarity. The worst can’t seem to see past that day’s events — which usually involve begging for money.

So, when you should start your campaign is a bit more complicated, isn’t it. If you’re hung up on when to start, you’re already behind because a better candidate has already figured out a roadmap to get from here to there. But that’s okay. Rookies always make mistakes. Just make then early enough to be fixed. A former business partner of mine used to say that a campaign can make “three mistakes” before its time to turn out the lights.

So close your eyes and try to see how you are going to move along the trail, taking into account the likelihood that mistakes will happen and your plan is going to have to change now and then. Everyone can envision being sworn into office. So be one of the smart ones and start thinking at that point and then go backwards, if you like, laying down each and every step that your campaign will need to make to account for having arrived.

A word of caution: There is an endless supply of political tradesmen out there these days. Many are newbies who were along for the ride when a frontrunner amazed everyone by winning. But there are some who’ve fought the hard battles and won. Those are the folks you want to check out. There’s nothing like hitting the campaign trail with someone who’s been there.

Good luck!

Dr. Bob

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Dr: Bob: “Oh please, please, please run for Governor”

Dear Dr. Bob,

I just read in the paper that former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (R-disbarred) is running for Arizona governor.

Is this a good thing or bad thing for Democrats?

Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,

Sorry it has taken a while to write a response, but I couldn’t stop laughing. Yes! It is a very good thing for Democrats and, if what we’re seeing from Mark Sanford’s campaign is any indication,  the news media which is hunkering down for something to justify acknowledging that there’s even going to be an election.

But it is also a good thing for thinking Republicans in the state who are fed up with their party having been taken over by the Taliban wing. This gives them an opportunity to say, “are you kidding us?” while hoping that they can get enough moderate Republicans to vote in their primary election so that there is actual change. Ok, perhaps not moderate Republicans..maybe just non-medicated Republicans or those who should be. Can you say “psychotic?”

But, as it is said, “hope is not a method.”

So, assuming that the Republican primary for governor turns into a classic GOP circular firing squad with the Taliban types supplying the ammo, it is unlikely that the moderates will even show their heads.

But I digress. So far the GOP field is shaping up to be a competition between the extreme right and the further extreme right that don’t seem like they are. And appearances count for a great deal in Arizona politics — I’m reminded of Jon Kyl’s TV spots in which he’s driving around in an old pick-up truck and Jon McCain’s “build the dang fence” spot. (As the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate, it is more likely that Kyl was being chauffeured around Washington in a black Lincoln not an old pick-up truck.)

So if Thomas’ handlers can clean him up and make everyone who isn’t an extremist appear to be part of a mindless attack machine out to destroy this ‘honorable public servant who was just fighting against the bad guys,’ then the dude might actually have a chance to squeak through a crowded GOP field. He certainly has name-ID, you know, and most likely the support of “Sheriff Joe.”

And that, I suspect is going to be very good news for the Democratic primary winner’s appeal to the majority of Arizona voters who are center-left or center-center. Now, who that is going to be is currently up for grabs, but will most likely boil down to Fred DuVal who has already announced and Chad Campbell who is still “exploring.” Those explorations, I suspect, are going to be a considerably more fruitful than finding the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. That’ll create a  two-person race between two superior and well-funded candidates, either one of which should be able to turn the GOP nominee into horse meat assuming no major screw-ups.

Possible Democratic screw-ups include:

1. Over reliance on consultants who rarely step outside of the Washington Beltway with little knowledge of our strange little state and don’t fight the Taliban very often. We’ve long since seen the domination of Arizona elections by out-of-state consultants, but having a few Arizona-based folks around makes sense.

2. Getting trapped into supporting something that most Arizona voters don’t like –this is the “Eddie Basha” error, god bless him, in which he was trapped into saying he’d support Gay marriage. Eddie was way ahead of the curve that is now seeing Gay marriage becoming a new centrist issue, by the way.

3. Failing to go on the attack early and often. This is often difficult for Democrats because we’re, well, nice. But failure to do that is akin to waiting for someone to knock you out and then trying to hit back while your head is spinning. There is a  tendency, by the way, to divide up positive and negative campaigns between the candidate’s campaign and so-called “independent expenditure” campaigns. Let the candidate be positive and the outsiders do the negative lifting. This an error, I believe. Voters, particularly in Arizona, want to see a candidate who can toss a right hook when warranted.

4. Wasting money. Oy…if I had a dime for every time a dollar was misspent I’d be as wealthy as the Republicans. There are only three things that are worth spending money: Media, votes and more money. If proposed spending doesn’t directly connect to one of those things, don’t spend it.

Finally, if you see that old pickup truck from wherever Republican props are kept between elections, get a horse.

Dr. Bob

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Dr. Bob: ACTV – Must see TV.

Dear folks…

I’ve have a cold for a few days and I couldn’t stand watching another episode of “House Hunters.” So I cranked up the ‘ole laptop and tuned into ACTV – Arizona Capitol Television. (You get to it via azleg.gov)

It’s a hoot and a half. You know all those whack-jobs that Laurie Roberts over at the Republic tried to warn us about? There they are in living color in committee meetings and even during floor sessions.

Today’s episode comes to us during the Senate Government Committee from Sen. Judy Burges R-Wackville. Ms. Burges is pushing  SB 1403 like she’s Paul Revere riding through the streets of Phoenix screaming “The Commies are coming! The Commies are coming!” All of this has to do with something that just happens to be the title of Glen Becks latest acid-induced head trip that’s come out in book form. It’s called “Agenda21.” (Already marked down from the publisher’s suggested retail price and available at Amazon for only $15.35 if you feel the need to keep up on events in Wackville.)

Ms.Burges, and what appears to be an endless stream of other Wackville residents, are convinced that the United Nations is up to no good and wants to take over the United States. Several, by the way, seem to be suggesting that they already have. The vehicle for this treason is the UN Rio accords designed to help keep the friggen planet alive before we’ve completely destroyed it. Things like water conservation, cutting down on fossil fuel dependency, etc. You get the idea: Science.

In any event, its been a great show!

 

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Dr. Bob: “Time for radical campaign finance reform.”

Buckle your seat belts my dear progressive friends. I believe it is time for a truly radical change in Arizona’s campaign finance laws.

No. Not more regulations or burdensome limits that make no difference in the quality of our campaigns. It is time, I believe, to simply do away with limits on campaign contributions.

The intent of limiting contributions was, to the extent possible, help keep money out of politics…or at least minimize the impact. But it just hasn’t worked.

Instead of cleaner more transparent elections where somebody is held accountable for virtually everything, we have a political free for all. Money is still influencing our elections, of course. Big money. Money that is getting bigger and bigger all the time with less and less accountability.

And that was even before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to a torrent of cash being poured into our campaigns. In fact, we still don’t know for certain who was behind the big time cash that sank two ballot measures in 2012. Oh, we have a pretty good idea, but the invisible deep pocket donors weren’t held accountable when it really mattered: during the election. To add to this campaign circus, we had to rely on state officials in California to get even a vague idea of where the money came from.

But we do know this: The money hasn’t disappeared. It has just drifted farther and farther away from control by our political candidates. Limit contributions to candidates = contributions go to outside groups.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce, it was reported, is pitching for higher campaign contribution limits for state and local candidate campaigns. They are being short-sighted and, to be blunt, a bit naive.

The problem isn’t that there is too much money in our campaigns and elections. The problem is that our convoluted campaign finance laws are designed, inadvertently, to create criminals or at least criminal schemes to get around them.

We now have a ‘system’ that encourages subterfuge with campaign contributions flowing from one invisible group to another before finally coming out the other end as either direct candidate contributions or so-called “independent expenditures.”

These IE’s are supposed to operate without “coordination” with a candidate’s campaign. Ha. Folks operating these groups don’t need to sit down and lay out a strategic plan for how their cash is to be used after someone has become a candidate. They do it before a candidacy is established, at the very least. More often, however, the person running the IE is so close to the candidate that they simply know what needs to be done to win. And, typically, that means dirtying up the opponent.

I propose a new campaign finance system based on the Virginia model. Here’s how they describe their campaign finance rules:

There are no contribution limits in Virginia. A committee can accept contributions from any individual,
corporation, union, association or partnership. It is required that all contributions received by the
committee, and that all required information identifying the contributor, be reported on the committee’s
campaign finance reports.

That, coupled with some pretty stiff requirements regarding immediate reporting of contributions, has served the people of Virginia pretty well…at least with no more or more significant scandals than we have in Arizona.

I suspect that looking at Arizona’s campaign finance and election laws from this new and different perspective will cause some headaches. Take a few Advil. After spending a good chuck of my life in and around political campaigns I can tell you this: without taking a new, dramatically different approach to running our elections, we’ll just see more and more futile efforts to control the flow of money into politics.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Bob : “Mental Health First Aid”

Dear Friends,

I usually write things that are tongue-in-cheek or just failed efforts at humor.

But not this time.

In addition to my political work, my colleague Dennis Hart and I founded the Center for Public Media to help non-profit organizations and activists better use the media.

Our first project has been underway for nearly 9 months now: A public awareness campaign for Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). MHFA is to mental illness what CPR or Red Cross First Aid is to physical issues.

It works.

And it has been quietly used nationally to train thousands of people and thousands of trainers. But it is a well kept secret. Too well kept for one of the best hopes to get treatment for the mentally ill, quoting our film’s title, “Before It Is Too Late.”

Lately, however, our little crusade has been picking up steam. We’ve been meeting with community leaders both in and out of the behavioral health arena. Their reception has been remarkable and we’ve been touched by their encouragement.

So, “thank you” to everyone who has been supportive. It looks as if we may get funding for our films, commercials and web-based delivery system to buil awareness that MHFA even exists. If you’d like to make a small contribution or see the film preview we can still use the help. Just go to the Center for Public Media. Thanks.

 

 

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Dr. Bob: “Guns in schools…?”

Dear Dr. Bob,

What is going on? Now the Arizona Attorney General says he wants an armed principal in every school and the Maricopa Co. Sheriff wants his “posse’ guarding our schools. Is everyone going crazy?

Losing Sanity

 

Dear Losing,

In a nutshell, “yes,” everyone is going crazy.

More to the point folks like the attorney general and sheriff are either going nuts or simply trying to score political points for their “we’ll protect the children” stand.

The trouble, of course, is that their plans (or press statements) are fundamentally flawed.

“Why” you ask?

Well, the ‘ole Doc here is going to tell you why.

Remember a week or two ago when the NRA said we need more ‘good guys with guns than bad guys with guns,’ or something like that.

The point was to arm teachers, pretty much what AG Horne is saying.

But the problem, my friend, isn’t what happens when a teacher fires and hits a crazed killer; it’s what happens when they miss.

And they’re going to miss…a lot.

One of law enforcements premier studies refers to “SOP9”. It is a report on the use of firearms by the New York City police department.

The data is overwhelming and, should Mr. Horne read it, sobering.

Highly trained and experienced NYCPD officers hit their targets (read that as “crazed killer”) less than 30% of the time they shoot. Got that? They only hit 30% of the time or less. That means they are missing about 70% of the time.

Got that: They are firing off bullets but missing about 70% of the time.

Now, if that makes you wonder what things would be like with a teacher or principal who received a bit of training during a crisis situation, you are not yet crazy.

Because it means that, in all likelihood, at least 70% of their bullets are going to be flying around and  eventually hitting someone and several people.

And it means, by the way, that even the Sheriff’s “posse” is pretty much worthless in school crisis situations as well. They are less trained than NYPD officiers.

So you see, my friend, the problem isn’t that these two politicians are trying toi curry favor with a scared public, its that they could wind up putting many more children in harm’s way because they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

 

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Dr. Bob: “Arizona Democrats – now what…?”

Dear Dr. Bob,

Before the election everyone seemed to have pretty high hopes for Arizona’s Democrats. But when the smoke cleared, things didn’t look that good. Now what?

Dazed and Confused

Dear Confused,

You’re right, I think, to avoid all of the sweaty palms and self loathing that often accompanies a campaign season like the one just passed. There are, however, pharmaceuticals to help you deal with that if needed.

So lets look ahead, shall we?

The first lesson I must preach is this: You can’t launch a campaign 4 to 5 months before the election and expect to win marginal districts or races. Voters have become somewhat immune to persuasion messages as they are pummeled by them day in and day out month after month by business and political ads are just icing.

This is especially true of campaigns intended to unseat GOP incumbents. Think of it this way: You have a crazy uncle who should be put away. At a family gathering you raise the issue and suggest that uncle nut-job be immediately institutionalized.

If you think the family is going to support you on this, you need the drugs. You see, everyone might agree with you, but springing the idea on them at a family event and with such a short turnaround time is doomed to failure. To actually get uncle put away, you would need to do two things: 1) Begin the conversation about institutionalization long before the family event and 2) make sure your supporters are prepared at the family event to back you up.

Translated to political campaigns, Dr. Bob’s prescription is pretty simple:

1. Identify the crazy uncle(s) now, not 16 or 18 months from now. Its not that hard. Just look at the legislative districts voter registration figures. Rank order them by the difference between Republicans and Democrats. For example:  District 1 +2% R District 2 +3% D, etc., etc. I usually consider anything with a difference of 10% or less something that can be won by either side given a good candidate and adequate funding. So, sitting here today, just a few days after the 2012 election, we can pretty simply ‘target’ the 2014 election, leaving things somewhat open to allow for unforeseen events. Indictments seem to be common these days…

For the 2014 statewide races, the same treatment applies: start now. You must be in campaign mode straight away. That doesn’t mean to announce your candidacy, just go meet everyone that needs meeting.

2. Put a permanent campaign structure in place now…and keep it operating forever. As with the crazy uncle, you can’t expect to win races unless voters have a long time to get to know you. That means they are are contacted regularly. I’d rather see four month outside campaigns operating with 50% less cash so that the other half can support the permanent campaign.

3. Publish the won-lost records of political firms operating in the state. There is no quicker way of ‘outing’ firms that seem to attract money and generally operate campaigns. Everyone really does need to have at least one losing campaign…it builds character. But continuing to hire firms or consultants that lose habitually is insane.

4. Take a ‘vacation.’ Okay, not everyone has the time or cash to head off to Hawaii or Europe right after a campaign whether won or not. Take a mental vacation from politics. Take up a hobby. Avoid watching cable tv news programs for at least a month. That should be sufficient time to detox.

Be well,

Dr. Bob

 

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Dr. Bob’s Election Day Wisdom…

Dr. Bob says, “I don’t have any right now. I hope to have some before going on KAET-TV8 this evening at 10pm”

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Dr. Bob: “Mr. Romney’s America”

Last June we responded to a question about Mr. Romney. Got a note asking for a replay. Here it is. . Dr. Bob

Mr. Romney proved to be particularly adept at the business of turning failing companies (and even not so failing ones) into profits for himself and his clients. So let’s give him credit for that and just look ahead to what a “President Romney” would mean for the country:

First, he would try to turn a profit. Not a surplus, mind you, but a true profit. As President, naturally, he would receive a bonus for his success and his major clients, those in the top 1%, would profit handsomely.

Second, lets give him credit for his business creativity. Exactly how does a president turn a profit with a country? From a Bain Capital perspective, its not rocket science.

It starts with the takeover. That begins with Romney’s election and is in full force with his transition team of accountants, attorneys and Wall Street executives. Next, he and his team start looking for areas of the “America,Inc.” that can be spun off and sold or looted and allowed to go belly-up. That’s where the real creativity comes into focus.

Let’s take California, for example. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Romney is going to win California,  so the state’s value to him is relatively small. But that just makes it valuable as a spin off. California, of course, is a big state and Romney has a home — the one with the automobile elevator, in the southern portion. Given the Bain model, the new administration would likely prefer to sell off Northern California and keep the South. Not one to give anything way, however, it is probable that Mr. Romney would want to retain the rights to all profits from the marijuana industry.

Similarly, before the breakup, the Administration would move to relocate Silicon Valley’s high tech sector. A state like Arizona would make a good home because it’s so dry and is a likely win state for Mr. Romney. Should it turn “blue” the plan could be easily altered to move that branch of the business to Kansas.

Next up is Hawaii. Team Romney is very likely to invite bids from countries like China and Japan. We might expect different deals from either one. China might want to forgive a portion of our debt in exchange for our island state, making America’s balance sheet look much better. Japan, by contrast, might be a more aggressive suitor given it’s past interest in the property. One can imagine Mr. Romney and his Senior Executives  sitting in the White House Board Room reviewing the offers. “Hey, they’ve wanted it so much for so long, let’em have it,” says the President.

Mr. Trump, Vice-President for Real Estate Acquisitions, moves to sweeten the deal by suggesting that they toss in Guam saying  “I never saw much use for the place anyway.”

And on it goes. Parts and pieces of America are packaged up and sold off in order to make the country more lean and profitable. New Mexico is sold back to Mexico. Texas might have been included in the New Mexico deal, but that falls apart when a group of Texas investors makes a counter offer to purchase the state making the Republic of Texas its own country. Israel gets a terrific deal buying both the New York and Miami metro areas. Michigan is traded off to Canada…oops, that deal would be nixed by Mr. Romney for sentimental reasons, but Massachusetts would be discounted and auctioned off. The President never really liked the place, anyway.

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Dr. Bob “The L.O.P. theory of voting”

Dr Bob: “Why do people vote the way they do?”

Slept thru Poli Sci

Dear Slept:

As you would know had you stayed at least partially awake during one of your courses, there are several theories trying to answer that question.

I, of course, have my own which I call, “L.O.P or Least Objectionable Politician.”

You laugh, eh?

Let me explain the theory. Basically, it is taken from my own studies about selecting television programs to watch. My theory goes this way:

There are two types of television viewers: Assertive viewers and Passive viewers.

An assertive viewer goes to the TV with the intent of watching a particular show.

By contrast, passive viewers are not engaged in watching a specific program  Their primary decision is to “watch TV.”

Remote control unit in hand, the aggressive viewer tunes to his program’s channel immediately.

Passive viewer holds the remote and then begins to shop around. Click. Click. Click. No, that’s a re-run. Click. Click. Click. Never liked this show. Click. Click. Click. Well, this might be ok. Click. Click. Click. Commercials…Click. Click. Click. Ok, back to that one.

The passive viewer is not engaged in the activity of finding the best show to watch but the least objectionable program. He’s watching TV.

In politics its pretty similar. People first decide to vote (watch TV).  Those (of us) who have a favorite candidate (program) go right to that space on our ballots and vote. No channel changing.

Meanwhile others start a mental search for who will get their vote.

Click. Click. Click. I can’t pronounce her name. Click. Click. Click.  My brother-in-law has the same name. I  never liked him. Click. Click. Click.Ok…I think I remember this name. Seems ok. He’s got my vote.

The result: Least Objectionable Politician can often win by doing nothing except putting up signs can increasing their name ID.

Dr. Bob

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