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Business, Politics & Society

Supporting Your Candidate

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 11:47 min

Karl and David teach you strategies to support your candidate during the grueling election cycle, from finding ways to preserve their energy, to delivering tough feedback.

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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Well, the most valuable resource of any campaign, besides money, is the candidate's time. So how much time can your candidate devote to the activities of campaigning? Some candidates, particularly for offices, lower offices, they've got to work. They've got a day job. They're running for the school board, they've got to spend time at their law practice or their small business or at their job. Congress, you know, maybe some people can step away from their careers for a period of time during a congressional campaign. But there are very few candidates who can say, oh, yeah, count on me, I got two years that I can devote to this. So the first thing is what is the constriction on the time of the candidate? So as you go forward with that, and if you're in the campaign structure, be cognizant of the fact that your candidate is a human being who's going to want to spend time with their family, who may have a preference to sleep in their own bed as often as possible, who may enjoy certain kinds of things and not like other things, may enjoy having a few moments, peace and quiet, to have a cup of coffee and read the paper in the morning, and you got to take those into consideration. It's also important to take that into consideration in your own personal life if you are a campaign operative. Not healthy to lead a lifestyle that consists of going all out during the day and then drinking with your compatriots at night and repeating that the next day. I mean, you really do need to strive to have balance in your life. I was fortunate that I had family that kept me balanced and colleagues who kept me focused and, you know, sort of things that I liked to do outside of politics that allowed me to sort of keep my equilibrium. And everybody needs to seek that. I'm not certain I'm necessarily the best guide on how to do that, but it's something you need to think about if you're involved in a campaign. Campaigns can suck every bit of life and energy and intellect out of you, and they will. And maybe that's OK, but it's not OK over the long haul. I remember in the 2000 campaign, by the spring when we got the nomination, I was utterly exhausted, and Bush was utterly exhausted. And what he said to his top people is, everybody take a couple of days off. Don't take them all off at the same time, but go recharge your batteries. And even that couple of days in the middle of this frantic big effort was really important. And, you know, it was smart on his part because he knew he wasn't going to get the best from us if we were all dog-dead tired and unwilling to acknowledge that we needed a couple of days where we put up our feet, got reacquainted with our families, and did something other than worry about him. - So what do you do when you have a candidate who doesn't present well, who doesn't do well reading a script or doesn't even speak particularly well, and you want to tell their story? I was confronted with that in a mayor's race in Housto...

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.

This is two people who know their profession. One works for good and the other for not so good.

I loved hearing all the behind the scenes stories about campaigns and all the detail these two shared on strategy

They sytheniszed large points and history well

I've been debating running for office, despite my youth and lack of connections. This helped clarify a few things for me.


A fellow student

IT people are humans, too. Don't forget that the team consists of many parts. Everyone needs a break.

Thomas L.

Rove's last bit was very interesting. It's difficult in life, whether personal or professional, to give tough advice. That's doubly true for people you're either close with or who have had a series impact in your life. It takes a lot of trust in yourself to give that type of advice, and a real belief that your advice is right and best.

Julie H.

One take away I've learned from this class is it's important to show your constituents you are a real person and to demonstrate humbleness in authentic ways.