Things to keep in mind when running for President as a Republican (UPDATED)
NOTE: I started writing this in May. Dan wrote something along these lines in August. Read it. He put it down much better than I ever could.
Things to keep in mind when running for President as a Republican.
- Somewhere between 93% to 98% of the people who would be covering the race on behalf of the nation’s largest national and regional news media outlets will be supporting your Democrat opponent – whoever she (or he) may be. This lopsided level of support for Democrats in the news media, especially within the Beltway has been consistent for nearly half a century. Make no mistake, the near universal desire to see the Democrat win will be a primary driver in the nature of the coverage they will provide to the American people of your campaign for office and it will most certainly not be to your benefit. This will remain so no matter how obsequiously “friendly”, “accessible” and “open” you are. Despite Mitt Romney’s campaign publicly announcing that he will not challenge the Press’ conduct as a way to contrast himself with Newt Gingrich, and eight long years of John McCain sucking up to journalists, the Fourth Estate remained resolutely hostile to their campaigns. In other words, choosing to forget or “highmindedly” treat this as a non-issue – as the majority of the Beltway based consultants you hire would advise you to (entirely for their own benefit) – exponentially increases the likelihood of your defeat.
- To the extent possible, keep your own records of every encounter you have with the news media and the public where anyone can carry a camera – this means practically everywhere. Have your own video cameras and tape recorders at interviews, Q & A sessions, fundraisers, townhall events, etc. Do not allow yourself to be a victim of creative editing, whether the perpetrator be a single individual Democrat activist or network news division. Whatever the case, it should end up on YouTube.
- Journalists, editorial boards of newspapers and other media outlets are neither sacrosanct nor shielded by any law, principle or ethical consideration from criticism. Quite apart from questioning the legitimacy and relevance of questions asked of you by supposed impartial reporters, be prepared to make a public issue of a news outlet or its reporters allying itself with the opposition. Your campaign should be prepared, in no uncertain terms, to call out individual reporters, columnists and news outlets for biased reporting, partisan hit pieces, misleading editorials, hypocrisy and double standards on-air, online, in print and broadcast, in any and all venues. This will shock and horrify many, and most likely cause a rash of fainting spells at the shocking breach of Beltway etiquette, including among a large number of Republicans. Note, however, that nothing will endear you more to the GOP’s activist grassroots. If the prospect of this inspires anything short of giddy anticipation, don’t run.
- Engage media spokesmen and surrogates who know the difference between being friendly and making friends, and the necessary ability to convincingly portray the former, while having absolutely no interest in the latter. Hire disciplined, quick-thinking, combative, confrontational individuals who will not hesitate to call out false premises and falsehoods, forcefully correct the record on air, and put hosts and anchors on the spot with their own questions. They must be unafraid to call the integrity of individual reporters and news outlets into question (including the network they’re on and the person interviewing them – to his (or her) face) and loudly highlight any bias in a news outlet’s coverage. They must be willing to name names, criticize, mock and ridicule, bring up subjects hosts would rather not discuss, and refuse to allow a topic to be changed (i.e. “let’s move on …”) before they make their point. All the while keeping a smile on their faces. Again, this will cause a great deal of distress amongst Washington DC’s sophisticates. If the prospect of this also distresses you, don’t run.
- Hire people who want you to win. This may sound obvious; but note that a large number of the staffers surrounding the McCain and Romney campaigns made it clear that they were more interested in maintaining their social standing in Washington’s cocktail circuit than winning the election. Hire people who would only dismiss a campaign tactic on the grounds of effectiveness, rather than nice-guy sophisticate concerns such as “elevating the discourse” or “fostering bipartisan cooperation” or because the New York Times has declared a topic out of bounds (e.g. Jeremiah Wright). In McCain’s case, quite a few campaign staffers were openly ambivalent about who they’d prefer to see win on Election Day. In fact, McCain pollster Mark McKinnon publicly announced that he would jump ship to avoid being in a campaign against Barack Obama, and he promptly did the moment Obama secured the nomination. At least McKinnon was honest – unfortunately, a much larger number of key people who shared his sentiments remained on the McCain campaign payroll.
- No campaign spokesman or surrogate should discuss campaign strategy and tactics on national TV. Let’s call this the “Etch-A-Sketch” rule. This includes yourself. Do not discuss how you will approach or appeal to this or that demographic. An exception to this rule is if the aim is to misdirect either the media or the opposition (pardon the redundancy). Remember that the word campaign was imported into the world of politics from the world of warfare – secrecy and deception are the first arts of war for very good reason.
- Do not underestimate the importance of traditional media. Notwithstanding the continued growth of new media, the overwhelming majority of the American people get their news on politics from the big name newspapers and wire services, and most especially the Big Three networks. As important as it is to remember that ABC, CBS and NBC are staffed from top to bottom with people who are implacably hostile to the GOP, it is even more important to remember that they still own the biggest microphones and individually reach up to five times more people than FOX News on any given night. What this means is that you must never “go dark” or attempt some sort of “boycott” of any of these networks (including PBS, CNN, MSNBC) – as Sharron Angle discovered, doing so is the equivalent of leaving a flank unprotected, it only avails them uncontested ground from which to continue inflicting damage on your campaign. In other words, you must remain constantly engaged, even if it means hiring and assigning specific spokesmen [see above] for each network to be constantly present with your message, and counter falsehoods about you and your campaign.
- For a Republican, the most expeditious way past a supposedly campaigning-ending “controversy”, “scandal” or “gaffe” is through it. The fact is, by and large, campaign missteps (real or contrived) really only have as much power as you concede to them. Do not give into the “hunker down and wait for it to pass” i.e. fetal crouch instinct, neither should you do the equivalent of throwing your hands in the air and running around in a panic. First, the “hunker down” tactic effectively became obsolete with the advent of the 24 hour newscycle, and even more so with internet and YouTube. Secondly, for this tactic to work today, it requires the active cooperation of a Press Corps that would not give the story wall-to-wall coverage, that would dismiss it as a non-issue and then not bring it back up thereafter every time your name is mentioned. Simply put, you need to be a Democrat. The fastest way to get the Press Corps to drop a politically harmful subject, “gaffe” or otherwise, is essentially to; either neutralize it by questioning the entire premise or relevance of the issue, or consistently bringing up a related issue or position so that there is also collateral damage to the Democrat. e.g. if every time a reporter asks about abortion in the case of rape, you bring up Democrats’ opposition to parental notification laws even in the case of the pregnant 12 year old girl at the abortion clinic, or the fact that Democrats (and most journalists) believe that abortion should be legal right up to the due date, they would suddenly find other subjects of interest to ask you about.
- Protect and defend your record and reputation – when attacked, defend yourself and return fire. Alan Simpson may have said it decades ago, but time hasn’t made it any less true; an allegation unchallenged is an allegation believed – no matter how outlandish and ridiculous an accusation, constant unchallenged repetition renders it credible. The fact of the matter is that while daintily turning your nose up in the air and saying “I will not dignify that with a response!” may impress the David Gergens, Brooks and Frums at the cocktails, it is nothing short of incandescent stupidity. One; it encourages your attackers to increase their fire and expand their target list – which will eventually include your family. Two; it depresses and discourages your supporters – as Republicans found out throughout the Bush ’43 Administration, nothing is more dispiriting than defending someone who refuses to make any effort on his own behalf. Three; as hard as it is to get the apolitical (i.e. most self-described “moderates” and “Independents”) to notice action, a policy depending on them noticing inaction is nothing short of unadulterated stupidity. Four; among those that do notice your silence, it is just as, perhaps even more likely, that they will conclude that your silence is a sign of guilt … and they will vote accordingly.
- The media has four standard (yet powerfully effective) templates for covering Republicans running for office – he (or she) is either (1) “Stupid”, (2) “Out of Touch”, (3) “Evil” or (4) “Extreme” in a bid to alienate him/her from the electorate. Furthermore, these templates are not mutually exclusive; nothing prevents portraying a Republican as simultaneously “Stupid”, “Evil” and “Extreme.” Rather than “highmindedly” ignoring these efforts, as has been done for the past few decades, it is important for a campaign to actively work to undercut these templates – using photo ops, biography, testimonials by supporters, etc. These may elicit sniffs of derision from Washington’s sophisticates as they sip their lattes – but, as tactics, they work. As exit polls showed, Romney beat Obama on who was more trusted to address issues like the economy, healthcare, national security, etc. but Obama, based on his campaign’s efforts to portray Mitt Romney as “out-of-touch” (Romney’s academic record and business background made the “Stupid” template a hard sell), handily beat Romney on the question of who cares more about “people like me” … and he won.
- Extensively use social media and networks to answer critics. Responding to a hit piece news story on CNN, a partisan “FactCheck”, or a standard issue (i.e. hypocritical, mendacious) New York Times editorial with a polite letter to the editor that they may or may not publish is outdated and completely ineffective. Even if a correction is published or broadcast, it would be buried in the back pages long after the damage has been done, unseen by the many who saw the large headlines throwing out the allegation in the first place. Your aim should always be to ensure that more people see the refutation than saw the allegation. A refutation on your campaign blog (a must-have) can also be buried by newer posts. So, in addition to the letter to the editor, a blog post, a mockery laden line by line refutation (this was known as ‘fisking’ in the early days of the bogosphere) by a campaign staffer on YouTube and Vimeo, linked to on your facebook and Google+ pages should also be done. This doesn’t have to be limited to just the output of the news media’s numerous Democrat activists, your Democrat opponent’s speeches, record, policy proposals, can be subjected to the same treatment.
- Social media (not to mention Adobe’s suite of media editing applications) also affords you a way to present your policy proposals in a more engaging way than a forty minute speech, hundred page white paper or scores of focus-grouped bullet points. These may be appreciated by genuine policy wonks (including those who want to use them to attack you) and Washington sophisticates who want to be seen as policy wonks, but they number less than 0.01% of Washington DC itself, much less the American people as a whole. Use your YouTube channel to present a series of videos i.e. “John Smith on Education”, “John Smith on Tax Reform”, “John Smith on Immigration”. Use cartoons and animations. Use history, facts, figures, graphs and charts. Use humor and plain (not Washington or wonk) language. Explain how things work (e.g. the economy – it’s shocking how many college students actually think “profit” is something that is front loaded in the business cycle), or how things went wrong (and do not hesitate to point fingers across the aisle), and show how your proposed policy can improve/fix it for the typical American individual or family, i.e. answer the “how does this benefit/help me?” question. Members of the electorate may not have the patience to download and read a ten page PDF document, but they will watch a five minute YouTube video. Remember that while it is always important to include a human story to emotionally connect to your target audience it is even more important to aim for intellectual buy-in. Cheap slogans and buzzphrases (e.g. “Get America working again”, “9-9-9″, etc.) have their uses, but do not use them in lieu of actual arguments. To quote Thatcher; “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.”
- Don’t just give a speech – where you can, give a presentation. Another thing modern multimedia technology affords you is the ability to go beyond standing behind a podium and reading off a teleprompter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a number of screens behind you means you can say a lot more within the same period of time – you can make it a presentation. You can utilize images (i.e. charts, graphs, newspaper clippings etc.) and even video clips, illustrating exactly what you’re talking about. Al Gore’s propaganda masterpiece – An Inconvenient Truth – is an excellent example of how to do this.
- Bring retail politics to the 21st Century – use modern telecommunications technology to extend the reach of your events. Big screens and modern multimedia communications technology today avail to you the ability to connect multiple places, making it so that your ticket mate could be in Colorado, the Governor or Gubernatorial candidate acting as a surrogate in Arizona, while you’re in New Mexico, and you can end up holding a rally and interacting and answering voters’ questions in three places at once.
- Practice your speeches. Participate in the reviewing and editing, not only to give it as much of your voice as possible, but also to identify your applause lines and pause points. Minor though it may seem, one cannot emphasise enough the importance of simply getting the cadences right. After watching Obama, Clinton and Reagan deliver a speech, watching George W. Bush stumbling over his applause lines is almost physically painful. The way you deliver a speech can mean someone flipping through channels stops to listen to what you’re saying or flips on to Jon Stewart to tell him what you said.
- Don’t preach to the choir. Target the bulk of your communications efforts toward convincing fence-sitters and the marginally informed, not just the true believers who are already convinced. “Because freedom.”, “Because Founding Fathers.” and “Because Constitution.” and yes, “Because God.” may be effective with the GOP’s conservative base, but they are not effective arguments for winning over new adherents. Restating first principles and the hows and whys and therefores has the advantage of not only winning over fence-sitters, but also (re)inspiring and convincing true believers that you’re not just mouthing platitudes. Think of it this way, a young man born on American soil to American citizens finally returns to America to settle after spending his childhood and growing up in Belize. He is bright and educated, but raised in a completely apolitical home and not particularly versed in economics, and now wants to know why he should join the GOP instead of the Democrats – how do you convince him to join the GOP and then vote for you?
- Take any racially based attacks on you personally – not least because it is a personal attack. Being a Republican means that it is inevitable that racial attacks will be launched against you, even if only because it has proven so effective and Republicans are chronically unprepared for it. Simply put, your campaign should rain fire and brimstone down on anyone who insinuates, hints or outright calls you a racist in any medium or venue. This may cause fainting spells all over the Beltway, but make it very clear from the onset of your campaign that anyone who calls you a racist has no right to any respect or courtesy. Refusing to respond when called a racist, like refusing to respond to any other character assassination attack, does not imbue you with either dignity or credibility. In fact, failing to respond, as Republicans have chosen to do for the past few decades, has only given the Democrats the free space to further cement their grip on the election day loyalties of minority communities. Remember that no matter how outlandish and ridiculous an accusation, constant unchallenged repetition makes it believable. The consultants’ recommended approach; nervously smiling foot-shuffling milquetoast mumbles of protest followed by a rapid retreat, has not worked for the past 40 years – it is not about start anytime soon. Ignoring the consultants and responding with fire and brimstone, showing passion – real anger – may just do the opposite.
- Your consultants would advise against this as a waste of time and resources, but ensure that you have regular (at least every two weeks) events in minority majority communities and neighborhoods throughout the course of your campaign. Ignore the consultants; one of the interesting things about the GOP’s political operative class is that they see no connection between the 40 year conventional wisdom that Republican candidates would be better served to completely concede urban and minority areas to the Democrats in order to increase turnout amongst whites, and the continued fall in the GOP’s level of support amongst African Americans and Hispanics. The above mentioned events need not cost much; they could range from a full neighborhood meeting to simply sitting in a living room with a single family to discuss the issues at hand. Again, your consultants would advise against it, but do not try to avoid any “third rail” issues, issues like crime, unwed parenthod, education, immigration, etc. and do not back down from an argument. Most importantly, make sure to explicitly tie liberal policies to these problems. And also make sure everything gets on YouTube. In addition, invest heavily in getting your message out on urban and ethnic media (even if hostile) – have a sit down with The Source magazine, run a townhall event at an HBCU, get interviewed on Univisión, attend a Diwali dinner, run ads on Hip-Hop stations, etc. Remember, just getting an extra 10% of minority votes can make the difference between victory or defeat, and given the single digit support Republicans now get, there’s really not much to lose trying a different approach.
- Beware of inadvertently endorsing the ubiquitous claims of moral authority or claims to be the voices of this or that “community” by Left-Wing organizations. When they invariably turn around and endorse your opponent, and for added measure provide material support and credibility to the Democrats’ inevitable charges of “hate” and “war”, their charges would have the added weight of your vouching for their authenticity. A Republican accepting any invitation to speak at any gathering of the NAACP, a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee, is one such example of a self-sabotaging endorsement. Note that a Republican speaking in front of the NAACP has implicitly given his endorsement to their claim to speak for the African American community – thoroughly undermining any attempt to protest when they invariably declare him an enemy of the black community and a threat to minority civil rights. Rather than accept an NAACP invitation, or pretend to not have received it, a Republican Presidential candidate would be better served by responding with an open letter of rejection decrying the NAACP’s fall from an honorable non-partisan organization fighting for equality of opportunity for all Americans it was in the 1960s to the thoroughly partisan dishonest organization whose existence is based entirely on ensuring that the African American community remains on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder it is today. Also important to keep in mind is the fact that these Left-Wing groups routinely conduct ‘studies’ whose conclusions always seem to bolster their talking points, which are then presented to America by the media without a trace of skepticism, which further bolsters their reputation as honest brokers. Your campaign should make a habit of questioning those ‘studies’ and alerting the American people to be skeptical of them – silence is for all intents and purposes, an endorsement.
- Another way in which Republicans routinely sabotage themselves is by conceding the language front. Democrats have become adept at developing fudging terminologies and fuzzy euphemisms for their beliefs and policies that give them a significant advantage with the less engaged voter over the GOP long before campaign even begins. The most well-known and longest-running example is the synonymization of ‘abortion’ with ‘choice.’ A contemporary example of similar language base stealing is the fact that most newspaper articles recounting Wendy Davis’ filibuster choose to use the very politically convenient shorthand that she stood up for ‘women’s health’ rather than properly spelling out that Davis filibustered a bill banning abortion after the fifth month of pregnancy. While most Republicans laughed at George Lakoff’s 2004 inspired Don’t Think Of An Elephant advising Democrats on how to use language to manipulate (and set the boundaries on) public debate, the truth is that the Democrats and their allies in the news media and the entertainment world have taken this to heart and it has paid dividends. Your campaign should be prepared to counter this tactic – every time your opponent uses ‘women’s health’ as a synonym for ‘abortion’, respond with “abortion is not women’s health and women’s health is not abortion.” Demand clarity and precision, e.g. does your opponent really believe that pro-life people are all extremists?
- Hire actual experts to run your campaign’s essential technological operations, do not outsource to jack of all trades campaign consultants. The Romney Campaign’s ORCA debacle (and the Obama Administration’s healthcare.gov travesty) has already convinced one and all of the stupidity of putting political operatives in charge of software development projects. Make no mistake – the public relations, marketing, branding, reputation/perception management operations of a campaign equally require the engagement of tested seasoned hands-on experts. Never forget; a political campaign is a marketing campaign – the product is you and your vision. Fact; no proper branding professional would have advised the Romney campaign to respond to months of attacks on his business record with highminded “day one, job one” ads telling voters what Mitt Romney would do as president – a branding professional would have known that your promises don’t matter a whit if the people you’re trying to convince think you’re a 20th/21st Century Robber Baron.
- Ensure that you have a beautiful well-organized media heavy website with modules and components that allow your supporters to communicate (and collaborate) according to (at the very minimum) their geographical locations. A site visitor should be able to enter his ZIP code and be presented with a list of upcoming campaign/GOP activities, latest stories, videos and blogs sorted according to his precinct, city, district/county and state – preferably a visitor to www.yourcampaignwebsite.us who enters 23414 as a ZIP code would be automatically directed to va.yourcampaignwebsite.us/accomack/nelsonia and offered a chance to bookmark and also be alerted via text message or email of any activities at the township, county or state level. Special subdomains for different voter segments or issues could also be used e.g. students.yourcampaignwebsite.us/fl/fau/ (Florida Atlantic University students) and healthcare.yourcampaignwebsite.us. Campaign volunteers and supporters should have access to downloadable apps and online tools for laptops and handheld devices that allow swift sharing and organization (with higher-level access and functionality for vetted volunteers and operatives) – which will work wonders for you on Election Day.
- Starting from the Primaries, insist on debate formats that minimize moderator influence and involvement, e.g. Prepared Debates (candidates are provided the questions and are given a set time to prepare their answers before the debate), Townhalls, Lincoln-Douglas, etc. Another worthwhile debate format would be one that allowed the candidates to take in notes and other aids – a Presidential debate is not an exam, and being President is not about rote-memorization. Quite apart from minimizing the chances of liberal moderators throwing a lifeline to their prefered candidate (e.g. Candy Crowley) or advancing Democratic lines of attack (e.g. George Stephanopoulos), there are more likely to yield better and more expansive answers, and reveal more of the way the candidates will govern, their information organization and thinking skills, and the quality of the people they surround themselves with.
- Demonstrate your loyalty and appreciation to the GOP base. If you want people to crawl through proverbial field of broken glass to vote for you, you need to show that this is not a one-way relationship. For too long, Republicans seeking office and their operatives respond with silence as Republican voters (and entire Republican leaning demographics) are cast as racists, sexists, anti-environment, religious bigots, etc. on a daily basis – a real live example is Greg Walden (R-OR), silently sitting by as his party is slandered by his Democrat counterpart. This needs to change – you and your spokesmen should be quick to loudly challenge any negative portrayal of Republican voters in print, broadcast and online. For example, the perennial storyline that racism explains why Southerners vote Republican should be combated at every turn. In other words, defend the Tea Party, defend the South, defend evangelicals, defend the married, the small business owner, the military, etc. – show that you appreciate them and they will open their wallets, man the phone banks and walk the precincts for you. In line with this, you should take care not to join the rush to condemn a fellow Republican because of some gaffe or alleged wrongdoing – it does you no harm to say that you will look into the supposed “controversy” and make a statement as necessary after you have verified events for your self. While your consultants will almost certainly advise you to either follow the crowd or avoid the issue at all costs, there is an advantage to deciding to stand up for your fellow Republican – your fellow Republicans will stand up for you.
- Make the Democrats’ glitterati base of support a liability and the GOP’s support in the military an asset. One of the many errors in judgement made by the Romney campaign was the failure to capitalize on Hollywood celebrities’ open support of Obama as was done by the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush against John Kerry. Instead of responding to Kerry Washington and George Clooney with giving prime time space to Clint Eastwood in a baffling (and pathetic) bid to show that Mitt Romney did not entirely lack celebrity friends in Hollywood, the Romney campaign could have responded with ads featuring Generals Tommy Franks and Peter Pace … or responded to Anna Wintour with an ad featuring a mechanic and pastry shop owner – typical everyday folks. The extent of the Romney Campaign’s failure is demonstrated by the fact that even though the majority of the nation’s wealthiest ZIP codes, the majority of Wall Street donations, the majority of billionaires’ cash all went to Obama, the Obama campaign was extremely successful in labeling Romney as being “for the rich.” This, despite the ubiquitous breathless reports of Obama’s celebrity studded $20,000/plate fundraising dinners and campaign events all over the country.
- Anticipate wedge issues and how to effectively neutralize them. This is less difficult than one would think, given that the Democrats and their allies in the media tend to recycle the same issues election year after election year. Wedge issues put you in a position that has you either alienating the middle of the electorate, or your base of support. A perennial example of an issue used to place a Republican in a difficult position is abortion in the case of rape and incest – one is either forced to appear to violate his pro-life principles, or appear to believe that a woman should be forced by law to carry her rapist’s baby. This successfully took down Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock in their 2012 Senate races in states Romney comfortably won. Another example are questions about evolution – meant to force a Republican to apparently choose between faith and science – leading to non-sequitur scaremongering by liberal talking heads about separation of church and state. Note that Democrats are hardly ever faced with such questions, and if they are, they are allowed to give vague gauzy answers that are not followed up. Republicans face them time and again. However, as stated before, these are largely predictable and can be effectively neutralized.
- Get any harmful or potentially harmful information about you out in the open early. Additional mandatory information you should release early include your tax returns, academic transcripts, military fitness reports, etc. It is far better for you to air your dirty laundry, on your own schedule, rather than allow your opponent and his (or her) media allies to do it when it suits them, or to spend weeks and months insinuating something is wrong. This should be done within the first month of your campaign – during the Primaries. Have you ever been arrested? Driven while intoxicated with witnesses? Smoked marijuana? Watched pornography? Slept with a prostitute? Shoplifted? Been late to pay a credit card bill? Been in a bar fight? Been to a strip club? Visited the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany? Asked a work colleague out on a date that didn’t go well? Snuck into a concert without paying? You will be well served to take a whole weekend to sit down and think of every single questionable thing that you’ve done in your life (from the age of ten), list them down on paper, figure out what to release immediately, and come up with neutralization strategies for those items you’re not releasing in the event that they do come out. If you’ve ever had an affair, this would be the time to let your wife know about it. You may make a lighthearted campaign event out of it, and utilize it to needle the media by including the time you peeked while playing hide-and-seek during recess and tying your little brother’s shoelaces together when you were eight.
- Do not be afraid to be “controversial.” For most Republican campaign consultants, the ideal candidate would be one who says nothing of substance so no one can object, remains vague about his views and policies so no one can pinpoint anything concrete to attack, who attempts automatically to straddle both sides of the issues so he makes no enemies, or threatens their invitations to the cocktails. In other words, the ideal candidate would be one who would avoid saying, doing or proposing anything that would rock the boat, upset any apple carts, or have the word “controversial” (gasp!) applied to him in any way, shape or form – essentially what Reagan would describe as a pale pastel Republican, anodyne, unthreatening, colorless, vapid. This, of course, is a recipe for failure, but it makes life easier for them, and they would still get paid either way. You would be better served by explicitly stating, in your speech announcing your candidacy, that your campaign is going to be “controversial” – anything that challenges the status quo is, by definition, going to be controversial, and that you aim to do just that. Make it clear that your campaign is not going to be restricted in challenging orthodoxy, that no subject is out of bounds and that you’ll not be intimidated away from discussing difficult issues, including issues like race, education, immigration, fatherlessness, etc. – no matter how politically incorrect.