I was elected Chairman of the Republican Party in December, 2002. Most new Chairman see the role as the affirmation of their great knowledge of the business of politics. I saw my Chairmanship as an opportunity to learn the business of politics by gaining valuable insights. Two years later I wrote, and spoke on, Sid’s Rules of Politics.
Today I present an updated version as a better lens with which to view the 2020 elections.
Rule 1 – Politics is a game of addition.
This is Rule 1 for a reason. If you can’t add up to 50%+, you can’t win. Worse, if you see politics as a game of subtraction you might as well stay home. Hillary Clinton would be president if she hadn’t promised to wipe out our coal industry. (Goodbye Pittsburgh). Elizabeth Warren won’t be president because she promised to end fracking. (Michigan? Gone). President Trump will get reelected because everyone in the country knows that Blacks, Hispanics, and women have their best jobs numbers in American history.
Rule 2 – Political time is measured in dog years.
At least. This means that in the year left until the 2020 election, there will be seven years’ worth of breaking news that could move votes. Hold on to your hats.
Rule 3 – Gretzky’s Law
Gretzky? Yes, Wayne Gretzky, the great hockey player and political philosopher. When asked: “What makes you a better hockey player than the others,” he replied: “They go to where the puck is. I go to where the puck is going to be.” In other words, stop reading yesterday’s polls and start anticipating tomorrow’s news: Brexit, Syria, the Inspector General reports, Supreme Court decisions on Abortion and School Choice, the coming upheavals in higher education, etc. The pundits on TV aren’t.
Rule 4 – Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is the best political document since Machiavelli.
Find it. Read it. Learn it. Then you can be a Campaign Manager, one that actually wins.
Rule 5 – Two strikes and you’re out.
Two and through. So long, Hillary. Bye bye Biden. Last chance for Bernie.
Rule 6 – Strike while the iron is hot.
An old expression but a powerful application. President Obama knew he was the hot new politician in 2008. Everyone said wait. He said go. He was right. The pros were wrong. Jeb Bush was hot in 2008. He lost in 2016. Chris Christie was hot in 2012. He lost in 2016. President Trump looked at several cycles but held off until 2016. His instincts are incredible.
Rule 7 – In the fight for the hearts and minds, go for the hearts.
Don’t be boring. Bernie Sanders gets everything wrong but he excites people. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton are scolds. Touch people. Speak in technicolor. Tell stories. President Obama touched everyone. Mitt Romney, the smartest guy in the room, touched no one. On the polling question: “Cares about people like me,” Mitt got 20%. Game over.
Rule 8 – There is no such thing as a safe seat.
Right, Eric Cantor? And the guy AOC beat? I don’t even remember his name. Hillary couldn’t lose. Trump couldn’t win. Senator Rubio was 36% behind Governor Crist in the 2008 U.S. Senate seat. President Bush (Senior) had a 91% Approval Rating after he liberated Kuwait. Bill Clinton cleaned his clock. Major upsets happen every cycle. They’re just not pollable or predictable.
Rule 9 – The fight is always about tomorrow, never about yesterday.
Winston Churchill saved Western Civilization. He lost his next election. Don’t brag. Inspire.
As you can tell I’m up to nine. Create some “Rules” of your own. Remember, this isn’t physics. These “Rules” are not immutable. They’re the intersection of human nature, politics and, to some extent, mob psychology. But they make understanding politics more fun.
2020 is coming at us. Impress your friends. Be an analyst.
Sid Dinerstein is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. He founded JBS Associates, a 600-person financial service company, and currently combines politics and business with Niger Innis in Inclusive Elections LLC, a firm that brings urban electorate voters to the GOP. He is the author of "Adults Only: For Those Who Love Their Country More Than Their Party." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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