Business, Politics & Society

Parting Words

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 3:01 min

David and Karl offer a call to action, encouraging you to get involved in politics and start making a difference.

David Axelrod and Karl Rove
Teach Campaign Strategy and Messaging
Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.
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It's been great to spend this time with you, to share the lessons of our careers in politics. Some of the nuances and details of campaigning. Most of all, what I hope is you'll get a sense of how exciting, and energizing, and challenging, and stimulating campaigns can be. You may not want to run one. You may not want to be a candidate. But you should be an engaged citizen. We need you. This project of democracy needs you. And so we hope you'll take the lessons that you've learned here and apply them in coming elections and in your communities. - I'd say two things. One is, don't just take what we've said here today, read. There's so many wonderful books out there about great campaigns in American history that are well worth reading. And not just the campaigns of today, but the campaigns of yesterday. That if you read them and you've got an interest in politics, it might further some of that interest and encourage you even more to be involved as a candidate, a volunteer, or a campaign operative, or a party member. And the second thing I'd say is this. We've talked a lot about change in technology and about ways to go about planning and executing campaigns. But in reality, if you look at it, the more advanced we get with technology, the more we're returning back to the place that we were in the 1840s. When a lanky lawyer from Sangamon County, Illinois, wrote a letter to his campaign committee-- he was chairman of the Whig campaign committee that year in his county. He said make a perfect list of the voters. Ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote. Have the undecideds talked to you by someone they hold in confidence. And on election day, make certain that every Whig is brought to the polls. Now, Abraham Lincoln was a great president. He was also a pretty good practical politician. And all of this technology and all this hubbub about campaigns is bringing us back to the point that he made in his letter-- the third point. Have the undecideds talked to by someone they hold in confidence. And for a lot of people, even if you decide never to be a candidate and never manage a campaign, there are a lot of people who will rely upon your word if they're undecided. So please, regardless of whether you're Republican, Democrat, libertarian, vegetarian, whatever-- our great experiment is one generation away from extinction, as Ronald Reagan said, unless the American people continue to remain involved in our democracy, and our campaigns, and our elections. And in the choice of those people that we have to lead our country and our government. Thanks, again, for having us. - That's fucking fantastic. - Like Carl said.

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.


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

Great Masterclass. I learned a lot. I learned things that I can apply in my line of work.

I feel like I can look at our current political discourse and campaign culture and understand so much more. Karl and David are fantastic, I went into this class respecting their careers but now I admire them profoundly.

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.

Almost perfect! The ONLY thing I wished for more of was information on the electoral process and how to impact that process as a voter.


Elisabeth A.

Absolutely how a masterclass should be presented. I could not take enough notes. It was fantastic and should be a must see for anyone going into politics.

Vincent W.

"That's fucking fantastic!" I love how he needs to gather himself and awake himself from Carl's little speech, and I like how heated their discussion was and then how much respect for one another when true wisdom emerged. I took this class to learn about campaign messaging for my science fiction novel (yes, when politics meet magic).



Rob K.

Excellent course that covered a broad and comprehensive set of topics with enough depth to give one a reasonable understanding of what's involved to set up and manage a political campaign. I enjoyed seeing how well David and Karl worked together and played to their strengths.

Mark W.

This is one of the best of the Masterclass series and one of the best political discussions I've heard in a long time. So much experience and knowledge between these two. Fantastic. Thank you so much.

Neil B.

Excellent program. Learnt a lot. Especially an inside view of a campaign architecture and execution drivers. I am planning to volunteer for the Great American Centrist movement (Howard Schultz's campaign) - where real America resides. Both extreme Left & Right may be 10 or 15 or 20% but the center is 80% to 70% to 60% where sanity prevails! If anyone in this program is exploring various options and we still have 16+ months - I will be happy to explore. I am taking a closer look into Howard Schultz campaign who moved from Democratic left of center to an Independent. If anyone already working in it, I will love to shoot the breeze. My photo on the left was taken at the Toronto downtown by a live Canadian news media which interviewed me as an American reaction (My Harvard baseball cap was the culprit) to the outcome the day after the election. As I had flown a day earlier after voting in the elections to attend my son's graduation at UoT. And my reaction was: "Like Siddharatha who sat under the BoDE-Tree as a Prince but he he rose as Buddha, the Awakened one. May be Trump will sit on the USA Presidential throne as a businessman but he may rise as a great Statesman." We still have two more years to go before the next elections to give our verdict.

Jacob G.

Thank you David and Karl, for sharing your broad-knowledge and experiences on running political campaigns, in the US, with us. We surely appreaciate your time and committment to teach and lead, us, the new generation for a brighter future. Again, Thank you.

Chris B.

Congrats on collaborating. Two suggestions: 1. Publish The AxelRove Rules of Campaign Ethics Dedicate to Karl’s mom and David’s dad. Hurry! Our moral fabric is fraying. We need this as the 2020 campaign unfolds, but make it timeless, a living classic to be used and improved for a long time. Develop list of 5 most salient ethics issues. Refine your list consulting Machiavelli, the Bible, the Quran, Confucius, de Toqueville, the Geneva conventions, and campaign debate coaches and gurus like yourselves. KISS – as a campaign worker, I need to know your list, not have to look them up. Answer questions - when is it OK/not-OK to do things like the following? • lie? not tell the whole truth? • use stolen secrets? spy on? • make fun of your opponent’s family? • fear monger? • pay foreign adversaries to develop dirt? Improve this list but keep it short ... Take it from an old guy, I’m older than both of you, a retired founder/CEO of a federal proposal consulting firm. I ran into lots of ethical issues in my business and chose a path. I will help and work for free to help if you wish. You two have the cross-party respect to throw down this gauntlet. 2. Point to the source that summarizes campaign laws – we students don’t know how to figure out what is legal – financing, etc.

Richard S.

Excellent class, a lot more detail than I ever expected and my understanding is on a completely different level as a result of hearing their very insightful perspectives. I am very grateful to have taken the time to do this class.

Ulanda C.

I have been working the Judicial Campaigns as well as my own local school board campaign(I won) in MI, a tremendous landscape. I have also worked for the American Bar Association Justice Ctr. many years ago. Judges and Congressional leaders are my passion. This course has put my thoughts on a more strategic level of implementation and it is a wonderful resource for me. Thank you, Wonderful Job Gentlemen!