Posts Tagged ‘Election’

On Losing Campaigns

Like in 2004, Newsweek has recently published their giant story on the presidential campaign. It’s very long, but definitely worth a read.

After reading both the 2004 campaign review and the 2008 campaign review, one thing struck me about the three losing campaigns that they talked about (McCain, Clinton, and Kerry).  In all three campaigns, the candidate was portrayed as being indecisive and reluctant to make personnel decisions, while in the winning campaigns, the candidate really wasn’t even asked to make personnel decisions–they had a strong campaign manager (Axelrod, Rove) who simply handled all of that for him.  In all the stories, the losing candidate’s problems with making personnel decisions led to infighting and strategy that was all over the map.

We have three things that I’m interested in: a candidate’s skill at making personnel decisions, campaign infighting, and being a winning campaign.  What is the relationship among those three, and should any of these things be something that we select for in choosing future candidates? (aside from winning, obviously–we want any selected candidate to win)

There is clearly a strong correlation between an infighting campaign and a losing campaign, and causation is probably impossible to pick up in that case.  Most likely, there is a downward spiral where some infighting leads to a few early losses, which leads to more infighting, and so on.

That leaves us with personnel management.  In the winning campaigns, the candidate wasn’t even really involved with personnel decisions–they had a campaign manager who took basically took care of it, but there wasn’t much for micromanaging.  On the losing campaigns however, the common theme was that the candidates were involved in the day-to-day personnel decisions.  In addition, the candidates were always either waffling on their personnel decisions or simply not making personnel moves.

I wonder–which came first.  Does a candidate’s direct involvement in day-to-day personnel decisions cause turmoil and therefore losing, or does the losing and turmoil necessitate direct involvement, which the candidate then isn’t able to handle?  Clearly the indecision in personnel matters once the problems start happening is not a skill that we want in a high leadership position, but I wouldn’t have thought that it was a killer fault until this article.

My last question then is: Should we be selecting for these skills, and how do we do that?  Or is the more important thing that we find campaign managers who are better at handling these matters and delegating authority?

Something to think about as you’re waiting for the Franken-Coleman recount to end.

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