Business, Politics & Society

Identifying Influencers

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 11:35 min

Karl teaches you how to identify and leverage the organizations and individuals who can positively influence your campaign.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove
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Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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As a campaign gets organized, it's got to think through what are those influencers. What are those places-- Democrats, you've got to make certain you touch base with the unions. And, Republicans, you got to make certain you touch base with small business leaders and evangelicals. You know, there are different groups that are important to different parties, and then there are groups that are important to both parties in a district or state. And candidates have to think those groups through and then systematically work them by making them part of their schedule. I remember when Bush was running for governor, there's a East Texas county in which we were trying to-- trying to make certain that he knew all the people in the community who could spread the word that he was worthy of support. There was a Democrat state representative there, a conservative. He's a friend of mine. I called him up and said, look, I don't mean to get you in the middle of this, but would you mind giving me a list of the people, if we come to Palestine-- who should George W. Bush see about his race for governor? He said, let me think about it. He called back. He said, look, I'm going to help you put it together. And so we went to Palestine. So the Democrat state representative got a meeting room in the local bank, got the sheriff-- Democrat-- got the district judge-- Democrat-- got the guy-- got the guy who was the chief of the union at the local, uh, railroad company. They had a Union Pacific plant that refurbished all their cars. So he got that one of the lead workers and the plant's supervisor. He got some prison guards from the nearby prison who were active in organizing senior members of the prison guards, the corrections officials. He got the local Baptist preacher, got the preacher from the biggest African-American church in town, got a couple of members of the school board, couple of members of the city council, and got them in the room and brought in Bush. And Bush sat there and took all the questions. Democrats, Republicans, people who were apolitical asked him whatever they wanted to ask him. And at the end of it, the county judge, a guy named Bascom Bentley, looks around the crowd and says, I don't know about you, but I think we ought to get behind this boy. And we carried Palestine like you wouldn't believe it. Because in a small community-- and a small community's emblematic of a neighborhood. It's emblematic of a bigger-- of something bigger. There were people there who could put out the word. You know, we had the lo-- the guy who had owned a little local radio station and the editor of the local newspaper and the president of the local bank. And they all got a chance to ask him in a private meeting questions. Here is honest answers. And regardless of whether they're Republicans or not, they said, this is a guy who thinks like we do and that we'd be proud to support. If you're trying to work the influencers in your district, realize t...


What it takes to win elections

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Amazing! Couldn't stop. Didn't stop until finished the entire class in one sitting, on xmas day, even eating at the screen! A day well spent, and such a joy - and a sign of hope - to see two dignifiend, informed, competent professionals from opposite sides of the spectrum come together on this.

I am a political junkie. Even with my daily consumption of news and politics, this was great. I have a greater respect for both Rove and Axlerod.

Fantastic adventure into the politic's world. Many advice will be useful for me as an engaged citizen, or in my next projects in my business.

As someone who jumped into local politics for the 2018 cycle and watched a super energetic but completely disorganized candidate improbably win, I found this to be a really helpful brain dump from two masters in the craft. The step-by-step process they outlined will help me help other local candidates who need strategy and structure.


Comments

A fellow student

Interesting...it all gets down to the integrity of the candidate. I had not considered endorsements to be that important.

Mia S.

"So yeah, during the course of a campaign, I think it's very important - particularly if you're running for a lower office, running for Congress, state senate or state house or a local community office - really important to think about your endorsements and how you're going to attempt to phase them out over the course of the campaign. They always provide a useful opportunity to further your message. People are endorsing you because of who you are and what you stand for, and you can use that information to further along your message during the course of the campaign. I hear these accusations about people saying, 'Members of Congress are controlled by the special interests.' Sometimes those charges come from people who are on the opposite side of an issue, and rather than deal with the fact that somebody can have a legitimate disagreement with them, they try and demonize them. You can't have - 'I'm an environmental group, you can't be against my unless you are for dirty water. So if you vote against me, it must be because somebody paid you off. And I think that happens a heck of a lot less than people think - I think people in Congress generally try and do what they think is right for their district or their state. Now, they may be affected by industries that are in their state - that's legitimate. If you come from a steel region or a coal region, I'd be surprised if you didn't stand up and fight on behalf of steel companies and coal mines. But I don't think that there's a lot of that that goes on. In reality, people in campaigns support people for office whom they think reflect their views - not people whom they think they can bend to their views. If you're a highway contractor and you want more money for roads, you're going to support somebody who supports that view, not support somebody who opposes that view that you think by giving them your support you can bring them over. There are people who want something that you can't give them, and who want a commitment on something that you're not willing to give, or want a commitment to benefit later, and if it's wrong, don't do it. If they say, 'We want you to commit that you'll support this bill,' if you like the bill, be for it; if you don't like the bill don't be for it. People will admire you more for being straight than for being seemingly too eager to please. I really do think in campaigns there are some well-meaning people who want you to do something that they hope you will do - 'We want you to come out in favor of this particular version of the renewable bill, because it's going to help people in Iowa, and it's going to require legislative change, and here's the special benefit that it will provide.' Frankly, I think we gain more by saying to people, 'Look, I'm sympathetic to where you're coming from, but I'm not inclined to endorse that in my campaign. I understand where you're coming from and I believe in renewables and we've got good legislation in Texas, but I think that's going too far and I can't support your bill.' I think that is far more important than people saying, 'Well jeez, I've got people popping up here who want me to do something that I'm not inclined to do.'"

Mia S.

"Look, people who have influence want to - they don't want to sit on that influence, they want to use that influence for the good. If there's somebody that is rising in politics, that they admire, they want to help them; if there's somebody who's going to get something done that they want to get done, they're going to want to help them. If there's somebody who impresses them personally, it makes them more likely to do so. So, be thinking about that over the course of the campaign, and think outside the box. Now, one other note: be careful. Be careful, do your homework and make sure you don't get endorsed by somebody who's an embarrassment to you. And even if they won't embarrass you, be careful how you then deploy them. South Carolina in 2000, we had an outstanding local veteran, very prominent in the South Carolina veteran's community, very active in Veterans Affairs, and a good guy - well-meaning. And we gave him a chance to introduce Governor Bush of Texas at an event, featuring other veterans, including a number of Medal of Honor recipients. And the guy got up and we hadn't paid enough attention - wrote his own introduction, and proceeded to spend about five minutes slamming John McCain before he introduced George W. Bush. And it was dreadful, and we could've avoided it by simply saying, 'OK, we appreciate your endorsement, let's talk about what you want to say and let's agree on a script.' Instead, we dropped the ball and it took us days to apologize for it and get it behind us. Let's talk for a moment about newspaper endorsements. I may be outmoded in this, but I think they're helpful. Maybe a little bit of help most of the time; occasionally a little bit more help; rarely are they big help. They're big help if they go against type - if somebody says, in essence, 'We're a little bit surprised that we're going to do this, but we're endorsing somebody we didn't expect to endorse and here's why we're doing it.' But they're always good, there's always going to be some people - particularly older voters - who pay attention to them. And they give you something to fill the news hole; here is something that allows you to further your message, because in that endorsement is likely to be a phrase or a sentence or a couple of words that are in furtherance of your message. You can use social media to share them more broadly, you can put them up on your Facebook page; when you're in that community you can say, 'I'm grateful to be endorsed by the local newspaper, which said this about me, and they understand where I'm coming from, I want to do x.' So I'm in favor of newspaper endorsements. You're certainly going to have to go see the newspaper in order to get the endorsement. And increasingly, newspapers are requiring the candidates to show up and either debate or appear in an open forum meeting with a newspaper editorial board."

Mia S.

"If you're trying to work the influencers in your district, realize there are two kinds of influencers: the people who actually influence, and the people who think they influence but don't. And frankly you got to pay more attention to the first group, but you better not ignore the latter, because they can hurt you more than they can help you; first group can help you more than they can hurt you - but the second group, if they become disgruntled, can cause you problems. So it's a balancing act - got to spend more time with the people who really matter, and sometimes you won't know who those people are. And they vary from election to election, there may be one group that is influential that says, 'Well you know what, we like you but in reality, we're going to sort of sit this one out.' Or another group that will say, 'We're not getting formally involved,' but whose members come out for you big. That's why campaigns need to be constantly on the look for, 'Who can we draw into our camp?' and then test them by giving them something to do. Because one of the ways you can figure out if somebody can actually deliver is by actually - by asking them to deliver. After 2016, we probably all have come to conclude that endorsements don't matter; after all, Jeb Bush had every endorsement, and he got knocked out. And then Scott Walker had every endorsement, and he got knocked out. And then Marco Rubio had a bunch of endorsements, and he got knocked out. But I wouldn't take 2016 as the end-all be-all when it comes to endorsements, particularly if you're running for a local office, particularly if you're not known. Endorsements of leaders in a community who are respected, who seem to be above just simple partisan politics, matters a lot. Endorsements by people whom other people don't know, but who appear in ads on radio or TV, or on digital ads, who seem to have a compelling personality - they matter. Best way to get an endorsement is to ask for the endorsement. Think about who you want to get, do your homework - find out what matters to them, find out who matters to them. Is there somebody else who's already in your camp who knows them who can introduce you to them? And then, go and see them, and tell them why you're running. Emphasize the points that you think are in conformity with what they're seeking, and then ask them for it, and ask them respectfully. And if they want to think about it, by all means, let them think. If they say, 'I want to wait and see how you perform,' say, 'Absolutely reasonable, I got it, hope I can get back with you, and convince you - what are you going to be looking for?'"

Mia S.

"As a campaign gets organized, it's got to think through, 'What are those influencers?' Democrats, you've got to make certain - you touch base with the unions. Republicans, you've got to make certain you touch base with small business leaders and evangelicals. There are different groups that are important to different parties, and there are are groups that are important to both parties, in a district or state, and candidates have to think those groups through and then systematically work them by making them part of their schedule. I remember when Bush was running for governor, there's an East Texas county in which we were trying to make certain that he knew all the people in the community who could spread the word that he was worthy of support. There was a Democrat state representative there - a conservative. He's a friend of mine. I called him up, said, 'I don't mean to get you in the middle of this,but would you mind giving me a list - if we come to Palestine, who should George W. Bush see about his race for governor?'He said, 'Let me think about it,' called back, said, 'Look I'm going to help you put it together. And so we went to Palestine, the Democrat state representative got a meeting room in the local bank, got the sheriff - Democrat - got the district judge - Democrat - got the guy who was the chief of the union at the local railroad company, they had a Union Pacific that refurbished all their cars. So he got that one of the lead workers and the plant's supervisor, he got some prison guards from the nearby prison who were active in organizing senior members of the prison guards - the corrections officials, he got the local Baptist preacher, got the preacher from the biggest African American church in town - got a couple members of the school board, members of the city council, and got them in the room and brought in Bush. And Bush sat there and took all the questions, Democrats, Republicans, people who were apolitical, asked him whatever they wanted to ask him. And at the end of it, the county judge, a guy named Bascom Bentley, looks around the crowd and says, 'I don't know about you, but I think we ought to get behind this boy.' And we carried Palestine like you wouldn't believe it. Because in a small community - and a small community's emblematic of a neighborhood, it's emblematic of a bigger - of something bigger. There were people there who could put out the word. We had the guy who had owned a little local radio station, and the editor of the local newspaper, and the president of the local bank. And they all got a chance to ask him in a private meeting, questions - hear his honest answers, and regardless of whether they're Republicans or not, they said, 'This is a guy who thinks like we do and that we'd be proud to support.'"