Project Wonderful

Thursday, May 31, 2012

God Bless Amercia!

Romney iPhone App misspells America! Romney/Quayle 2012?

RIP Marina Keegan

I was at a friend's birthday party this evening when I got an email from my old boss that former President of the Yale Democrats and Obama fellow, Marina Keegan, had been killed in a car crash. Marina was the President of the Dems during my brief time in Connecticut and while I didn't know her that well, I feel a sense of loss for our community because I have no doubt she would have made exceptional contributions to progressive politics no matter what her ultimate career path.

Marina was beautiful, smart, motivated, and already an accomplished organizer by the time I had met her in 2010. I would have been jealous of her had she not been a constant source of help to me throughout that campaign. When you meet another campaign person and you just know they "get it," that was Marina. She cut lists, organized door knocks and rides to the polls all by herself...let alone without support, without my asking. When we organized an event with the President on three days notice, she recruited a bus load of students from Yale and then walked up to me with a smile on her face and calmly helped me direct traffic and hand out water to volunteers while she and her classmates were initially denied entrance.

Far be it for me to pretend I can mourn Marina having worked with her so little, when I know there are many people, possibly even readers of this blog, who feel her loss more deeply and acutely than I can even imagine. My heart goes out to them, especially to her boyfriend whose life will no doubt be changed forever. I'm sharing this story with you, because although I barely knew Marina, I know that our community lost someone special with her death. Now that you won't get the chance to meet her, I thought you should at least know what we were missing. Thanks, Marina.

For more information on Marina.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Community Organizer, President, Stalker...

One of my good friends and I often play "SVU Title or DNC Email..." you know those one word subject lines that are titled "Outrage" or "Stunned" so I got a special kick out of this hairpin article which is basically just a list of "Subject Lines of Obama Campaign Emails That Sound Like a Stalker Wrote Them." Enjoy!

"Five years ago, today"

"Do you still live in Illinois?"

"Something I'd like to ask you"

"Join me for dinner?"

"Me again"

"What's stopping you, right now?"

"Sometime soon, can we meet for dinner?"

"You must be at least a little curious"

"I'm not shy"

"Guess who"

"Last chance at dinner"

"This is not a joke"

"It doesn't need to be this way"


"It's officially over"

"(I tried.)"

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Politically Engaged

How do you know you're a campaign person? When you have the following conversation...

Me: What should I get my friends for their wedding?

Friend: Well, where are they registered?

Me: I don't know...they live in DC but he's from Wisconsin and she's from Missour...oh.

My first friend I EVER made on a campaign is getting married this weekend!!!

I vividly remember sitting in my office in North Carolina reading this article and thinking about how my friends and I were going to have "Edwards Babies" someday...and now they're actually doing it! (Not the babies, the married.) Granted this was before a "John Edwards baby" was something completely different and also before Megan and Jon even started dating. Actually it was a really long time ago and a lot of things were super different, but the one thing that hasn't changed is how important the people I met as an organizer are to me.

I can't think of any other job except maybe the military where you grow that close with your coworkers. Campaigning is an extremely strange vocation and I am blessed to have smart, passionate and caring people to share that craziness with. Jon and I have discussed every major event in either one of our lives since we left Iowa. Shortly before I made the decision to attend this wedding, my organizing protege texted me a picture of his fiancee's hand wearing a new engagement ring and I teared up so much I almost starting crying into my baklava. (I was at a restaurant, I don't just carry around baklava.) So, while I'm not gonna be crankin' out any Edwards babies any time soon, I did find a lot of love on campaigns.

Which is why you'll have to excuse my hiatus while I go celebrate the love of people I love.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Gotta Vote

Gotta Love that Obama for American new media. Everything you could possibly need to know about how to vote is here. (You can easily change the state.)

What Should We Call Us?

(When someone tells me they don't vote?)

You know what I would really love? To make one of those animated Gif tumblrs for campaigns like #whatshouldwecallme However making those Gifs is harder than you might think, and like Gosling craze is doomed to eventual internet fatigue so…I’m just adding them to my Tumblr (I do what I want!) Check it out and feel free to submit!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

This Looks Awesome.

And I don't say that about most campaign movies. Discuss.

Pro-Tip for Candidates: Seven Sentences You Should Never Say to Your Campaign Manager

Although I usually write for campaign staff, a phone call from a very frustrated friend combined with some meetings I've taken lately motivated me to write a set of guidelines for candidates employing a staff, especially on local races. Like a first date, there are some things a candidate should know will be an immediate turn-off to a veteran campaign staffer and conversely some sentences that should raise a major red flag if uttered by your candidate. What's worse, I think most candidates have no idea what message they're really sending with these seemingly innocuous phrases. It all has to do with setting boundaries and reasonable expectations. Think of the following as a tough-love version of the "The Rules" for candidate-campaign manager relationships. Seven sentences a candidate should never say:

1)"I am the candidate, you work for me."

This is one of the most frustrating sentences a campaign manager can hear because what you're essentially saying is "I'm not willing to let you do your job."

This can be a confusing issue. On the one hand, the candidate hires and (her campaign) pays the campaign manager. On the other hand, the campaign manager spends all day telling the candidate what to do. Who's the boss? Think of a campaign manager like a doctor. You don't have to listen to what she says, but if you don't you might die... or you know, lose an election. This is your campaign and you need to feel comfortable with how it's run. That is why it is so important to find consultants and campaign staff who you trust and who you feel understand you. Once you've done that, let them do their jobs. After all they are the experts, which is why you hired them.

That's not to say you can never question a decision or that you should take a stance with which you disagree, but if this is the norm rather than the exception, then you need to examine what's wrong. Are you pushing back against professional campaign advice because it requires you to do things that are uncomfortable for you? In that case are you really willing to do the work it takes to run office? Do you not have faith in your campaign team? What can you do to change that?

Even at the inevitable times in the best candidate-manager relationships when you disagree, I implore you never to say this sentence. Just as in any relationship, at the end of the day you want the other person to feel appreciated and saying this sentence devalues the very important and probably difficult role that your campaign manager plays in your campaign.

2)"I don't want to annoy people."

Too bad. Running for office means that you will annoy people. You will badger people who pledged endorse you. You will beg people for money, repeatedly, even when they have donated before. You will knock the doors of people you met just a week before only to hear them reaffirm that they are undecided. People will complain. They will tell you they hate getting political mail. They will tell you that if you call again they won't vote for you (if that's the case they were never going to support you in the first place.) They will write op-eds lamenting negative campaigning... and in the end you will win because you were willing to do it and your opponent was not.

When you ask people to support you either with their time or financially, you are implicitly promising that you will work as hard as you possibly can to get elected. Doing these things that annoy voters but will help you win in the long run is how you keep your end of that bargain.

3) "It's like the Obama campaign."

No, it's not. When I hear this from a candidate it immediately makes me think "this person has unrealistic expectations about what it means to run for office."

I don't care how charismatic, well-connected or progressive you are, people are not going to be coming out of the woodwork to volunteer on or donate money to your campaign by sheer force of your personality. You need to earn it. Barack Obama had an historic candidacy. The kind of dedication and passion exhibited by his 2008 supporters just does not exist on a non-national level and most times not even then. This doesn't mean you won't also have passionate and dedicated supporters, but they are likely to be fewer in number and harder to earn. Even if you worked for Obama, you are not him. Most people will not tear up when they talk about why they support you. Tactics that Obama could rely on, like charging for yard signs, circulating youtube videos that get thousands of hits, and online fundraising drives are not going to be the bread and butter of your campaign. This is a local election about local issues and local people. This race is about you and the community you are running to represent. What will help you win is hard work; good old fashioned fundraising calls, an understanding of your district and lots of voter contact, which by the way Obama for America did plenty of.

4)"My wife/husband is my campaign manager/field director/communications person."

Bad idea. Other than Ben and Leslie, I have seen this work exactly once when my candidate's wife was the campaign treasurer and she was a) an exceptional person and b) able to perform that job in a few hours a week.

You do not want your spouse to play any role on the campaign where they have to tell you "no" or tell or be told "no" by other campaign staff. Why? Because running for office is hard. I don't just mean its difficult to run a good campaign, although it is, I mean emotionally. Your staff's job is to kick your butt a little and your spouse's job is to support you. Those two motives will inevitably come into conflict at some point. If your relationship and your campaign are intertwined, one or the other will suffer. You want your staff to be thinking about what's best for you as a candidate, not as a person, and believe me, you'll want someone to complain to about the rest of us at the end of the day. Do not do this to yourself or your campaign team.

5)"That may have worked in location X but it won't work here."

I have written/railed about this phenomenon before.

Here is where a kitchen cabinet of local supporters can either be very useful, or a thorn in a campaign manager's side. Thanks to local advisors, I now know that the Pine Beetle is killing Colorado's forests and that in Minnesota volunteers bring bars and hot dish to a potluck, not cookies and casserole. At the same time when an equally well meaning group of local activists told me that there are no campaign volunteers in the state of Connecticut, (None! In the entire state!) that wasn't gonna fly.

When it comes to local issues, jargon, and landscape, yes, you know more than your campaign staff. However when it comes to mainstays of running a campaign like voter contact, fundraising, and targeting, your campaign manager is still the expert and she knows what's necessary to win. In places like college towns where the voter list from three years ago may no longer be current or in New York City where it's harder to access big buildings, this may take a little creative thinking, which is another way in which your trusted local advisors are invaluable. In those cases, it is much more constructive to say "this is how we make that happen here" rather than undermine your staff by allowing your local supporters to write her off as outsider.

6)"There's too much money in politics, I'm going to win with grassroots support."

This is just a cop out way of saying "I'm not willing to do fundraising calls," in which case, don't run for office. I don't care if you're old school John McCain and Feingold and Bernie Sanders rolled into one piece of campaign finance legislation, you still need to raise money. As Barack Obama said when asked why he opposes Citizens United but not Democratic Super PACs, "We're not going to just unilateraly disarm." Call it using the master's tools to dismantle the master's house, call it whatever you like. If you want to get the money out of politics, you need to be elected and to do that you need to fundraise. Always. In every case. No exception.

7)"They haven't yet, but they should/will support me."

One of the hardest things about being a first time candidate is facing a lot of disappointment. When you run for office some people come through for you in ways you could have never imagined and some people...don't. You will have friends who just put a new wing on their house to house their vintage car collection who tell you they can't afford to max out on your campaign. You will have clubs in which you have been a loyal member for years refuse to endorse you for political reasons. It's not fair. It stinks. It's humbling and it's life.

Don't take anything for granted until the check is in your hand or the endorsement is in the paper. Then when it happens, you can be pleasantly surprised.

Look, running for office is tough. You're selling yourself and there's a chance that you might be rejected. You have to call people you haven't spoken to in years and ask them for money. There are times when it can feel downright humiliating. It's hard not to take the possibility of victory personally, and maybe even harder to hand that awesome responsibility to a twenty-something who you've never met before. I get it. That relationship can be difficult enough and I hope by putting this advice out there, I am saving you further strain. One thing I can promise you is that your staff wants you to succeed. Trust them and be a candidate worthy of their trust and the chances of success increase exponentially.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Catch Your Dream

A few weeks ago, I posted about the TV show Battleground and how unrelateable I found the whole thing. The characters were unsympathetic, the plot was unrealistic, and frankly watching it made me feel yucky.

And then there's Leslie Knope. I really, really hate it when people compare themselves and their friends to television characters (I am not the Miranda, you guys! What? Just because I have red hair and I don't take crap from people? She had the worst clothes.), but I would gladly be compared to Leslie. Come on! She's idealistic, she's patriotic, fiercly loyal, irrationally competitive, evangelistically intense, compulsively sentimental, unabashedly feminist when it comes to politics, and most of her friends think she's crazy. She even 90's raps around her office! Me, right?

And her relationship with Ben? Swoon!! Especially after she finally got over that Mark Brandanowitz. (What the hell happened to him? You'd think he'd at least come volunteer.) Unlike many other smart, strong female characters on tv these days, Leslie's boyfriend actually deserves her.He challenges her, he shares her love of public service, he's totally supportive but he has his own thing going on... also he's adorable and he wore a Batman costume. They talked about doing it in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The people on this show are real people. She has a ridiculous boss whom she respects and visa versa despite the fact that they agree on almost nothing. Even the political consultant they brought in to run her opponent's campaign is a not-that-caricature-y caricature of every consultant I have ever met (except that she's a woman and most consultants aren't...booyah again Parks and Rec.) Parks and Recreation is like pornography for my soul. I love this show, hard. If you have not seen Parks and Rec, watch it. Right now. There are episodes available on Hulu and Netflix.

There have been rumors circulating around the internet that Parks and Rec would be cancelled next year, but as of this morning it was picked up for another full season. This is good news, and not just for me. Leslie Knope, although fictional, is such a wonderful role model for women holding public office. Her path to candidacy is not crammed into a male mold. She ran because she was asked, she had a long track record of political involvement, did not have children... for more on Womens paths to public office, read my report here. She is an excellent example of how women can be funny and relatable while still being passionate and effective public servants. As I pointed out with Barbie for President, one major obstacle to encouraging more female candidates is that in order to aspire to something women need to be able to envision themselves in that role. I hope Leslie Knope's character helps more women see themselves as potential candidates. I'm inspired!

Ask An Election Nerd: Party Registration

Round two comes from a friend (also an Ohioan, way to be Buckeye State) about whether she should register with a party. I get asked this question a lot. By asked, I mean someone mentions registering Independent within earshot and they are treated to an unsolicited lecture. Let's see what happens!


I read your blog and I actually have a question. I don't really know how I should register. I was initially registered as Republican, then switched to Democrat, and now I honestly don't want to be associated with either where does that leave me? As an Independent? And then I can't vote in primaries? I loved the first one of these you did because it really broke it down. I bet a lot of other people have this question too.

(*not her real name)

First let's step back and remember that we do have more than two parties in our country. While registering with the Green Party would preclude you from voting in the Republican or Democratic primaries, it could serve another function. For example, sending a message to your representatives that you agree with the Greens on key issues. For a blog post about my favorite third party, click here. I also feel the need to point out that being an Independent means you are not registered with a political party and should not be confused with being a member of the Independence party, a third party you can read about here.

But since I know none of that's what you were asking about, let's talk about reasons to register as a Democrat or Republican. For me, there are a lot of good reasons to register Dem, which I've posted about in the past. Now that I am thinking of once again hitting the campaign trail (you heard it here first, ladies and gentleman) I have extra incentive. It would be pretty silly of me not to register Democrat if I ever worked a primary again. (For the record, I am a registered Dem.) If you are particularly involved in politics, being a member of a party enables you to participate in Democratic (or Republican) Town Committees and from there state or national conventions. As with the Greens, registering also allows you to express your support for one of the two major parties.

For most people, however, voting in the primary is the real draw. Whether or not you can vote in a primary without registering with a party depends on whether your state's primaries are open or closed. Open, as the name would suggest, means that you can vote in one (never both) party's primary of your choosing. Closed means you can only vote in a primary of the party in which you are registered. There also semi-closed primaries, which means that as an Independent you can vote in either primary, but party registrants have to vote in their own primary. Every state has different rules. In some states one party's primaries may be closed while the other's are semi-closed.

If you live in a state with closed primaries I highly advocate registering with either party, because otherwise you are basically disenfranchising yourself.
This is especially true in very red or very blue states where the primary election is more or less the ballgame. It should be noted that this is just my (strong) opinion and that some people argue that showing Washington they are not "buying into" the two party system is more valuable to them than their primary vote. To them I would say, "You know whose opinion politicians realllly care about? People who can't vote for them. Great job. Way to stick it to the man!" (Not!) Again, just my opinion, but you asked for it. (When I was working the Presidential primary, I flipped out on my Dad for being a registered Independent because New York has a closed primary system. That's right, Dad, if you had just registered as a Democrat, John Edwards would be President--now look what you did!)

I happen to know that Ohio has open primaries with a very weird grandfather clause. Basically, you are only supposed to vote in the primary of the party in whose primary you last voted...unless you have truly switched ideology. As you can imagine, this rule is hard to enforce and basically nobody does. So if you, Naomi, want to be an Independent, go for it. You can find out what kind of primaries your state holds here, thanks to

As for which party to choose, that's up to you. If it were up to me, no one would ever vote Republican, so it wouldn't matter. I would advise you to vote in the primary where you feel the most passionately about the differences between the candidates. For example, if all of the Democrats seem roughly the same, but one of the Republicans is Snidely Whiplash, maybe you want to vote in the Republican primary in order to save Moose and Squirrel. Also, he lives in Canada so I don't think this will be a problem.

Well, if that wasn't helpful, I don't know what is! Tune in next time for Ask An Election Nerd!


Today In Voter Suppression-The New Jim Crow

I was really excited to share my notes from an incredibly powerful lecture by Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP, where he talked about how efforts to keep former convicts from voting, coupled with the disproportionate rate of incarceration among black men were another form of voter discrimination and suppression. As educated as I try to be on this issue, Jealous made me realize that the history of racist, round-about voter suppression in our country is many times longer and more pervasive than I had ever imagined. This was a week after Trayvon Martin was shot, so things were pretty real.

Unfortunately, midterms happened I lost my notes from that lecture. Then I found this live tweet from the event but was disappointed to see relatively little of Jealous' speech included but I was delighted to see Michelle Alexander on the Colbert Report (above) because she explains the situation better than I possibly could. I invite you to read over the event tweets as well because they contain some pretty salient points.

Did you know, for example, that you are more likely to be stuck by lightning twice than to meet someone who has committed voter fraud? Benjamin Jealous told me so. I googled this and it turns out to be true, or at least widely circulated on the internet, in some iteration or another. (Some have it as struck by lightening three times than to commit voter fraud, etc.) That really puts these laws in perspective, huh?

Here is Jealous in an interview:
The reality is -- there was an argument for the poll tax. There was an argument for the literacy test. There was an argument for keeping women from voting. And they were all phrased in terms of vote security. Women it was argued shouldn't vote because if she was married, her husband would have two votes because he would tell his wife how to vote. People who couldn't pass the literacy test didn't know enough to be allowed to vote, and could be too easily influenced by others. Vote security is a real issue, but the poll tax didn't make voting more secure, discrimination against women didn't make voting more secure, and nor will voter ID. It's a solution without a problem.

George Bush had his Department of Justice spent five years looking for these types of impersonation cases, and in five years after analyzing millions of votes cast they came up with 86 cases -- in five years. We have sufficient prosecutors in the Department of Justice to handle an 86 case over five years case load."

I can't wait to read this book and I suggest that you do too!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

President Obama 'Comes Out'...for Equal Marriage

This is awesome. And historic. Today President Obama became the first sitting President to unequivocally voice his support for equal marriage. I'd like to include the video but it's soooo new you'll have to watch and read about it here.

Not only is this HUGE NEWS for our country and for LGBT rights, it's also great news for critics who have been wondering if a second term would mean a more aggressive and liberal Obama unhampered by worries of re-election. The fact that he came out with this and other baller news (like the fight for contraception coverage) during his re-election campaign really says something. Sure it is a savvy move to reinvigorate his base, but also the right thing to do.

I have sincerely never been prouder to support this President. Thanks to Marianne for being the first one to send this to me.

Stay Classy, West Virginia

West Virginia, you are not doing yourself any favors in the national imagination.
Unless you were afraid that many people had forgotten you were a state, in which case, way to slightly register on the Google Alert election radar. Associated Press:
Just how unpopular is President Barack Obama in some parts of the country? Enough that a man in prison in Texas got 4 out of 10 votes in West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary.

The inmate, Keith Judd, is serving time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. Obama received 59 percent of the vote to Judd's 41 percent.

Wild? Okay. Wonderful might be a stretch.

Some of the reasons were...Appalachian? What's a word for "racist, homophobic or deeply confused as you would expect while recognizing that this does not encompass all residents of West Virginia?" That word. Some reasons were more palatable.

Obama's energy policies and the Environmental Protection Agency's handling of mining-related permits have incurred the wrath of West Virginia's coal industry. With the state the nation's second-biggest producer of this fossil fuel, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin —both Democrats have championed the industry — have declined to say whether they will support Obama in November. Each overcame low-profile opponents in Tuesday's primary. Manchin refused afterward to say whether he voted for Obama.

Look, even though I don't agree with you, you have the right to vote against the President. But THAT GUY? Said one voter,
"I'm not voting for somebody who's in prison...I just want to vote against Barack Obama."

And she is the reasonable one in this story.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Meet Richie.

There are a lot of things I really love about Blogspot (chiefly connecting with all you fine people) but my inability to upload files to share with you is not one of them. Tumblr to the rescue!

Please do yourself a favor and listen to this audio file.

For those of you who have never worked or volunteered on a campaign, the things he's saying are a pretty standard volunteer script. The rest is...not.


Also I couldn't find a picture of what I assume Richie looks like, so instead you got this adorable lady.

Text Change to 66639 (M-O-N-E-Y)

Thanks to a non-partisan effort, you may soon be able to text campaign contributions. Republican friends, fair warning, lock your iPhones!

"Two consulting firms -- one from each party -- are asking the Federal Election Commission for permission to accept political contributions via text messages, a move that could reshape the way many campaign donations are collected.

The idea has attracted support from campaign-finance watchdogs, who view it as a way to broaden participation in political campaigns and push back on the influence of interest groups funded by billionaires and corporations. The strategy would be limited to donations of $50 or less, which can be made anonymously under federal guidelines. If the FEC approves it, President Obama, Mitt Romney and other 2012 candidates could begin using the approach in time for the November elections."

Vote With Your Purse

Did you know, that "If women voters across parties give as little as $5 to one female candidate, it would be enough to run a female candidate in every House race with a budget of over $1 million each?" Neither did I. But I do now. Thanks to this excellent report from She Should Run, an awesome organization "dedicated to dramatically to increasing the number of women in public leadership by eliminating and overcoming barriers to success. Check it out here!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ask An Election Nerd: How Do I Know Who To Vote For?

If you've been disappointed that I haven't written a long blog post in a while, (horribly bad impression of a mafia accent) I got your long blog post right here! Seriously, I almost considered footnoting this thing. Below is a question that was submitted through my tumblr a while ago. I've gotten a couple of these, so I've decided to start an Ask An Election Nerd segment to my blog. If you would like to submit a question, email me at, or message me through tumblr. And away we go!

Dear Nancy,

I found your blog because a friend sent me a link to your Ryan Gossling Tumblr.

I am a 20something living in the Midwest in an important state in the world of elections—Ohio. I know people say my vote matters, but I don't know how to sort out who to vote for. Sometimes, I feel like my vote won't matter and that I shouldn't even vote if I don't put in the time to really vet the candidates, which seems nearly impossible.

I just need someone to lay it all out for me and build my confidence in my own personal voting process. Voting is a personal process right? Then why do I feel so crowded? I know I can't be the only one who feels this way. I want to do my civic duty to the best of my ability, I just don't know how.


Of all the reasons that someone would choose not to vote, this is the easiest for me to understand. When it comes to politics, truth is often in the eye of the beholder. There is a lot of information out there and I use the term "information" loosely. Campaigns, independent expenditures, and any pundit with a microphone are more than happy to tell you the truth as they see it, but even among the best intentioned (and I'm not implying that any of those groups are) there is room for reasonable debate. One thing I do not suggest is taking one of those "who should I vote for" quizzes online like this one, because you never know is behind them.(That may be a perfectly legitimate group, I just don't advise doing so as practice.) By simply choosing which stories to report news outlets are guilty of employing bias, plus there are candidate debates, rumors, gossip, advertising, forwarded emails from opinionated is really difficult to know what to believe.

Before we talk about how to choose a candidate, let's briefly discuss why it's important to vote even if you're confused. To begin with, whether we realize it or not, politics affects every one of us. When I was a field organizer I was unfailingly blown away by community members who told me they weren't going to vote because they weren't "political." You mean to tell me you're a doctor and you have no opinion on health care? You're a teacher and you don't care about education? You're religious and you don't care what happens to poor people? You're a woman (or related to one) and you have nothing to say about birth control? I'm not buying it.

Also, and cue the John Philip Sousa music, voting is a big part of what makes this country great. We were the first democracy to work in modern times and since then, the concept has pretty much flourished. Sure it's imperfect, but as Winston Churchill famously said, "Democracy is the worst form of government...except for all the others." Democracy keeps us safe, free from tyranny and exploitation, and able to advance better than any other system and it doesn't work unless people vote. (Churchill also said "the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter," but that's why we're here.) It's no coincidence that people have died for that very right. I'm not just talking about the Founding Fathers here, I'm including very real and recent examples in the Middle East and Africa. NB: When I talk about voting, I mean in free and fair elections, not ones rigged by a dictator.

So voting, important, got it, you're on board. On to how to choose. The good news is that because there's so much conflicting information, it's okay to pick and choose your sources. It's okay to discount some factors that other people might find important. Maybe you don't care that your candidate has cheated on her husband or about her record on the environment because you like what she has to say about debt reduction. It's also okay to choose someone who doesn't agree with you on everything. The only way to find someone who is lock step with you 100% on every issue is to run for office yourself. It's about finding a candidate who you feel best represents your values.

Below is a list of information narrowing techniques to help make the task of picking a candidate a little more manageable. Some work better for primaries, some for general elections and most can be used in concert with one another. Feel free to pick and choose and don't let the perfect (i.e. knowing EVERYTHING about your candidate which is nearly impossible) be the enemy of the good.

1) Go with your gut. My empirical experience has been, and I'm sure there's research to bear this out, that people usually pick a candidate based on their gut reaction and then come up with reasons to justify their decision later on. Most people have gotten so good at doing this, they don't even realize what they're doing. They'll rattle off a list of reasons why they support Newt Gingrich over Rick Santorum with great sincerity, never acknowledging even to themselves that they got these talking points from emails or discussion boards or NPR after they knew who they were supporting. As an operative this can be maddening. However, we have gut instincts for an evolutionary reason, because they work. As a field organizer, I was infuriated when people told me they weren't supporting John Edwards because 'they just didn't trust him,' but in the end that turned out to be... prescient. Watch a primary debate and the candidates are pretty similar on the issues, though they express themselves differently. Listen to your gut. Who do you trust? Who do you want answering the proverbial red phone at 2am? If you like a candidate and she makes you feel good about spending your vote on her, there's nothing wrong with that, as long as you're up front about it.

2)Call a lifeline. If I have a toothache, I call one of my two good friends who are dentists (or as I call them friendtists.) If I have a legal question (read as: I have been watching Boston Legal), I gchat my sorority sister who is an attorney. I love it when my friends call me for advice about whom to support and I don't think any less of them. This just happens to be my wheelhouse. There is nothing wrong with using a trusted proxy to help you make a decision. On my first campaign in Minnesota, I called my State Senator's campaign manager from the voting booth to ask her whom to support in a school board primary. Even though I didn't know the candidates, I knew my colleague would tell me to support someone who agreed with her boss, who I knew I agreed with on education. If you have a friend who is more politically engaged than you, why not ask her? This strategy may sound simplistic, but if you think about it, why trust a pundit whose motives you cannot be entirely sure of over someone who you personally know and trust? We tend to spend time with people who share our values and who knows us better than our friends?

3)Be a single (or double or triple) issue voter. You will never agree with a candidate on everything, so it's important to prioritize. Even experienced campaign operatives and so called Yellow Dog (as in I would vote for a Golden Retriever before a Republican) Democrats have a litmus test. For instance, I won't work for a candidate who is anti-equal marriage, anti-choice or supports repealing healthcare. I care deeply about other issues, but before I even consider voting for someone, I find out where she stands on those three. If you're a small business owner, you might want to do some research on how the Presidential candidates' economic plans would affect your business. Maybe you also care deeply about the environment. You may want to find out if any of the candidates are endorsed by The Sierra Club or the League of Conservation Voters both of which support candidates based on their stance on environmental issues. Deciding how to vote based on one or two issues doesn't mean you don't care about others, it means that you're voting in line with your own priorities.

4)Party Down. There is a lot of legitimate criticism of our two party system. It certainly creates some strange bedfellows. For example, why does it follow that someone who is anti-choice must also be against government intervention? But the system exists for a reason. If I walked into a voting booth right now and saw two previously unknown candidates, one with a (D) and one with and (R) next to her name, I would vote for the Democrat without a moment's hesitation. I know that the average Democrat is much more likely to agree with me on any given issue than the average Republican, within a margin of error of plus or minus Ed Koch and Joe Lieberman. Even if this particular Democrat disagrees with me on something I care about, on a federal level I know that she is going to caucus with the Democrats and thus help push through at least some legislation that I support, as opposed to a Republican who might help block something, even if she agrees with me, because of pressure from political leadership. (This happens in both parties, although the Republicans are notoriously good at "keeping their people in line.")

5)Identity politics. Just ask my slightly racist grandfather, people tend to vote for people who look like them. Or better yet, check out New York City's voting history. On the one hand, I don't advocate using your race, gender or sexual orientation as the primary means of choosing a candidate (particularly if you're a straight white dude) on the other hand, broadly speaking, people do tend to share values with people who share their culture and minorities are far from adequately represented in our legislatures. Did you know that 17% of Congresspeople are female despite the fact that women make up more than half of our country's voters? Hardly representative for a representative democracy. For this reason alone, all other things being equal, I tend to vote with my vagina (although more difficult since they got rid of the levers on voting machines). But seriously folks, regardless of the issues, there are some very legitimate reasons to vote simply to get more sexual, racial, religious minorities and women into office. The next generation will not aspire to be leaders unless they see people they can relate to in leadership positions. We don't want to send black children the message, "you can be anything you want, it's just reeeeallly unlikely." Finally, the more of any group that is in a governing body, the less their participation is treated as tokenism and their disagreements are seen as discord and the more they can simply legislate.

That my friend, is what you get for asking a good question, a really, really long answer. In conclusion, keep writing to me! I love answering these kind of questions and I hope I answered that one well. Kudos to you, Nikki! The fact that you are curious, pro-active and taking your vote seriously puts you miles above most of the voting population.

Until next time,

*Don't Forget! If you would like to submit a question, email or message me through my tumblr.

I Don't Want to be President

When people find out I work on campaigns, they often ask me if I've ever thought about running for office. I always answer with a resounding "HELLLLL NO." I'm much more of a wham, bam thank-you-electorate-I'm-going-on-vacation-for-three-months kinda gal.

For those who feel like I do on this subject, I came across this awesome song on my iTunes. Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Contrast This.

Usually when we talk about a "contrast ad," it's more or less a euphemism for going negative.

This is a negative ad from the Koch Brothers:

This is the Obama campaign's response:


I love the direct, personal and slightly humorous nature of the response. Notice how she says "arm you" with the facts. It's so Obama. Too bad only people who already agree are going to see or hear it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gingrich Also Suspends Campaign


Barbie For President

You've got to admire her tenacity. The woman's run for President more times than Joe Biden. Moreover it is extremely important for women and girls to be able to imagine a female executive.

"Being President culminates Barbie's career path," said Cathy Cline, who works for Mattel. "She stands for inspiring girls to be informed and involved in their local communities."

One notable feature is that for the first time the doll can literally stand on her own two feet. (Remember all those 'if Barbie were really she would topple over' conversations? Two words: weighted shoes.)

Devotees will remember that I received the 1992 Barbie for President (or as I like to call her Campaign Barbie) as gift when I returned from Iowa. Will you guys judge me if I buy this? Too bad! Because just like Barbie, I can be whoever I want.

While You Were Sleeping...

In preparation for my triumphant return to blogging, I thought I would catch this space up on some rather important news. (Is it news if it happened weeks ago?) Santorum dropped out. (Don't worry, I'm sure the maid will be by soon.)

Because he wants to ensure that the Leftist-Homoerotic-Hippie will stand by the GOP's GOB (Good Old Bigotry/Bullshit, not this guy) Santorum has yet to endorse Romney. Sure anyone can say equal marriage is wrong, but you really gotta get in there and compare it to dog f***ing.

Endorsement coming soon to a bigoted theater near you.

Strategy Fail

Yeah. Because you totally want to remind people how unrelateable Mitt Romney is.

Pro-tip: If I can't tell its negative advertising more than half way into the commercial, it's probably not doing its job.