Political consultants should rename themselves political insultants.
Thank God tomorrow is Election Day.
This former political consultant has had enough.
For years, I’ve told people if they saw the behind-the-scenes work of professional political staffers, they’d either laugh thinking they’re a late-night David Letterman-Jay Leno joke or get angry enough to physically throw them out the door.
Professional political consultants are the problem
Too often, political staffers never worked in the private sector where compromise, problem-solving and long-range planning are priorities.
Combine that with politicians who do everything these staffers tell them to do - or won't stand up to their staffers and tell them to shut up - adds up to no good.
I’ve never put it all together until now and I have to thank President Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod after watching him repeatedly this fall on television.
To help you understand better, in 1984, I got to cover the Illinois U.S. Senate race between the late Paul Simon and the late incumbent Charles Percy. Axelrod worked on the Simon campaign team.
For the record, I am not related to the late Paul Simon.
Chuck Percy was considered nearly invincible and not many gave Simon a chance to win, even with the powerful Chicago Democrat Party machine behind him.
But those of us who knew him well said to ourselves, “When people get to know him, they’re going to like him.” Till the day he died, I never met anyone who had a bad thing to say about Paul Simon.
That’s because Paul Simon was his own man and wasn’t afraid to keep his staffers in line. He knew what people thought and felt.
For many years, Chuck Percy did the same thing. He believed in compromise. He was no friend of President Nixon. The first bill Percy backed was low-cost housing.
Imagine a Republican political consultant backing that in 2012!
Paul Simon won the election in a year when President Reagan won in a landslide; so much for Percy getting coattail help. Axelrod was considered a genius. He steered Simon in the right direction. He immediately started his own political consulting firm, David Axelrod and Associates and 27 years later, is getting as much TV face-time as the President.
Paul Simon political consultants were kept in the backseat of his campaign car.
Turning the clock ahead to 2000, I left political journalism to work on the Congressional campaign of Democrat Steve Danner, now our state’s Major General in charge of the Missouri National Guard.
Steve endorsed pro-life and Second Amendment measures and issues which didn’t make him super popular with party hard-liners but was attractive to get the attention of independent voters.
The bonus was he was trying to succeed his mother Pat Danner in the U.S. Congress. But it wasn’t based on nepotism. Steve served in the Missouri House and Senate, including a stint as the Chief of Staff to then Lieutenant Governor Mel Carnahan. Steve was in the Missouri House at the same time Pat was in the Senate, the two had serving their constituents at the same time.
The two were disciples of the late Jerry Litton who today may have been a legend in state history had he not tragically been killed in a 1976 plane crash after winning the Democrat nomination for the U.S. Senate. In a Democrat winning year, Litton stood a very good chance at beating Jack Danforth.
Steve Danner - a pro-life, Second Amendment supporting military reserve officer and Litton disciple with his own political experience trying to succeed his mother - what wasn’t to like about that?
Our campaign team was an interesting mix. Our campaign director was an experienced veteran from Virginia. Our fund-raiser had worked in the private sector, including a stint in our area managing Brunswick Four Seasons Bowl when it first opened. I handled research and media based on my experience in Kansas City.
His opponent was Sam Graves, who was a Missouri House and Senate veteran, with a campaign team headed by Jeff Roe. You may have heard of him. He helped guide Republicans to take control of the Missouri legislature for the first time in 50 years. His track record is impressive. How he accomplishes it isn’t.
In early October, with a spirited campaign being waged, the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) told Steve, “If you want our financial support for your election, you have to employ our campaign team.”
The three of us were out. We were replaced by two kids not even 26 years old who never worked a private sector job and neither lived or had any roots in Missouri. Luckily, I got shuffled over to the state campaign doing under-the-radar media tracking and research instead of the unemployment line.
The Danner-Graves race quickly got ugly. Graves was accused of everything Mitt Romney is being accused of today. The Roe-led Graves team aired an ad that Steve Danner was a deadbeat who had to be sued for non-payment of bills.
It was the wrong Steve Danner.
Steven A. Danner was sued in court. Stephen L. Danner was running for Congress.
Graves never issued an apology. Never mind that Steve Danner was a respected hotel builder and owner. The response from the professional DCCC kids was and feckless.
Steve Danner - God bless him - did what the DCCC told him to do. He had to if he wanted their money for campaign advertising. Pat Danner was none too happy with what was going on, yelling at Steve and us to step it up. But Steve couldn’t draw the line. Either play by their rules or get funding yanked.
Todd Akin learned that lesson in September. You may have heard about that too.
The kid-led DCCC political consultants turned a 5-point Danner lead into a 52-48% loss.
Think about this long and hard – Steve Danner was defeated trying to succeed his mother in Congress. The DCCC and their professional kids caused this whopper. Never mind the mindless claims by Republicans that Graves benefitted from a George Bush success. They forget we elected a Democrat Governor and U.S. Senator in that same election.
Just another example of never let the facts get in the way of “We’re great ‘cause we say so!
So here’s my message to David Axelrod:
Dear Mr. Axelrod:
What would WWPSD (What Would Paul Simon Do)? You didn't use language like that in 1984 when helping Paul Simon defeat Chuck Percy. Simon won and greatly represented Illinois for 3 terms in the Senate.
Signed, Simon Sez
P.S. Paul Simon was a huge supporter and defender of Israel. How come your client Mr. Obama isn’t doing that? Have you had a memory loss the past 28 years?
Here’s my letter to the DCCC and their professional kids:
Dear DCCC and Professional Kids:
For the repetitive bleating about how important it is to get independents to vote for your candidate, you successfully managed to get a pro-life, Second Amendment supporting active military veteran defeated, trying to succeed his mother in Congress.
That’s amazing! How does that look on your resume?
Signed Simon Sez
Whatever happened to those DCCC kids?
They’re probably working for Axelrod and Associates.
Scott Simon is the Executive Producer of ProVergent Media based in Creve Coeur and a 30-year veteran of politics, as a reporter, campaign staffer and consultant.