If you asked the average political consultant today about Joseph Napolitan, it’s likely you would get a blank stare — a quick, Who? or What?
It was Napolitan who coined the term “political consultant” to describe the work done by political professionals throughout the world. He founded the American Association of Political Consultants and co- founded the International Association of Political Consultants.
He worked on governors’ races in Hawaii, Puerto Rico and on presidential campaigns globally. He was the first American to work in overseas campaigns in a career that took him through five continents.
For those who can remember it was Napolitan and his colleague Tony Schwartz who closed the gap between Nixon and Humphrey to a hair in the six weeks from Labor Day to Election Day in 1968. He had two Newsweek magazine covers hanging in his New York apartment: one said “Humphrey Wins,” and the other, well, we know.
Napolitan came from Springfield, Mass., where he kept his office throughout his life with the same secretary for 55 years. He paid his bills and his debts. He enjoyed a good cigar and he loved to have a drink with friends. The son of a blue-collar family and a blue-collar town dined with kings and world leaders. And he never talked about it.
He was famous for his detailed memos with strategies to keep campaigns focused. He helped usher in the modern media age in a Pennsylvania governor’s race by saturating the airwaves. But he never put his face on the tube to grin about any of it.
Napolitan would always say how much could be accomplished when you let others take the credit. Maybe that’s just what his father Pasqual and mother Lucy taught him. Maybe they also taught him that it was good to serve this great nation and he did in the U.S. Army. He loved to write, as a newspaper reporter and later as an author of “The Election Game and How to Win it.” The book is still used by campaign managers more than 40 years after publication.
John F. Kennedy. Lyndon B. Johnson, 20 foreign nations and heads of state knew that the name Napolitan meant integrity, hard work and often victory but also that confidentiality, not celebrity, was a better way to live your professional life.
He served on boards and helped protect democracy internationally with the International foundation for Election Systems (IFES). He figured it was the right thing to do.
Joseph Napolitan helped invent an industry and tried to make it responsive and responsible. This very literate and thoughtful man returned to his maker this past week. If you didn’t know him you sure missed something. Truly.
Hank Sheinkopf is an early creator of integrated strategic campaigns using all forms of media and has won national and international awards for his radio and TV productions. He is a veteran of more than 700 political, public policy, and public relations campaigns around the world. Read more reports from Hank Sheinkopf — Click Here Now.
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