6.) Allow the other side to advance your argument. Mike Huckabee’s endorsement of Romney was important. Huckabee citing former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Romney’s executive experience, however, added more horsepower. Former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, now a registered Republican, did more to attract disenchanted 2008 Obama supporters than any fiery line delivered by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “[D]o you know why so many of us believed?” asked Davis. “We led with our hearts and our dreams that we could be more inclusive than America had ever been, and no candidate had ever spoken so beautifully. But dreams meet daybreak: the jobless know what I mean, so do the families who wonder how this administration could wreck a recovery for three years and counting. So many of those high-flown words have faded.” Mitt Romney employed this technique, too, citing First Lady Michelle Obama’s praise of Bright Horizons, an early childhood learning center he helped launch through Bain Capital.
These six techniques are powerful. And there are infinitely more to learn. There is no surer way to mediocrity, however, than assuming your own perfection. As someone who teaches and fundraises for an educational foundation that has trained more than 110,033 students, activists, and leaders in the most-effective political techniques since its establishment in 1979, I will tell you there are few things more refreshing than the humility displayed by an individual who admits he or she can use coaching and practice.
The stakes — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are too high for just winging it. It’s not enough to be philosophically sound. In politics, the how is just as important as the what.
John Poreba is the director of regional development for the Leadership Institute, which provides training in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications.