Last night Arkansas Speaker of the House Robbie Wills and I were invited to speak to Professor Wekkin’s class in campaign management at the University of Central Arkansas. The students had chosen one Democrat and one Republican as their favorite nominees in a mock congressional campaign. (I can understand why they chose Robbie—he’s a local—but don’t they have any Republicans out there in Faulkner County?)
The students peppered us with questions about our backgrounds and how best to run a campaign. Here are a few samples from the evening’s discussion (written inexactly from memory).
STUDENT: When you decided to get into politics, what was your motivation?
GREENBERG: Well, I’ll tell you my motivation for taking my first political job (deputy campaign manager for Congressman-to-be Jay Dickey): I absolutely could not stand one more day of law school.
STUDENT: What was the lowest point of your campaigns?
WILLS: Well, obviously, losing my first election. But I can tell you that I learned a great deal from that defeat. It gave me valuable experience about campaigning, it helped me learn what did and didn’t work, and it taught me a few lessons about character and integrity – about how to accept defeat gracefully. In some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
GREENBERG: The lowest point of my last campaign was when I was campaigning in a gated community, knocking on doors and asking for votes, and a woman drove by and beckoned me over. I walked over and she said “What part of NO SOLICITING do you not understand?” You just don’t have a lot of options for a response. There’s actually a Supreme Court case on this very question, but I don’t think she would have found that persuasive.
I agree with Robbie about the value of losing one’s first race. You do learn some important things about character and integrity. However, when I lost my second race, I found that experience to be utterly valueless. I would have been happy to skip it entirely.
STUDENT: If you were asked to run for Congress, would you run?
GREENBERG: Look, it’s nice when somebody wants to take you to the prom, but I think the decision depends on who asks you. Several people came up to me and told me I should run for Congress after I spoke at the Tea Party demonstration on Tax Day, and my reaction was “Great! Now all I need is (counts on fingers) 250,000 more votes!”
STUDENT: If a potential candidate asked for your advice and wanted to know—what are the pitfalls a campaign should stay away from and what are the must-dos for a campaign—what are your answers?
GREENBERG: Well, of course, I am sure you have heard that, for a campaign like this, fundraising and repeated personal contacts are essential. What are the pitfalls? Well, maybe it’s bad to say this around Robbie, but I would say blogging is a high risk campaign strategy that promises very little return. The prospect of saying something stupid that will be recorded forever is a very real one. I don’t know why he blogs. I don’t know why I blog! It’s a sickness.
We discussed some serious matters as well, but I think that may be out of place on this blog. [KINKADE EDITORIAL INTRUSION: Correct.] In any case, I think everybody had a good time. And of course I am very grateful to the students who chose and invited me.
However, when I told my wife that the class had chosen me as the best possible Republican congressional candidate, she for some reason rolled her eyes, sighed and walked out of the room.