"Plan the work and work the plan."
With those words, GOP elections consultant Dan Pero offers simple but effective advice to political newcomers seeking public office.
Pero, president of the American Justice Partnership, a nationwide reform coalition with offices in Michigan, has managed scores of successful political campaigns around the country, including that of former Gov. John Engler.
Two candidates may differ broadly in viewpoint and have vastly unequal war chests, Pero says, but time is a campaign's great equalizer. There's never enough time in a political campaign's great equalizer. There's never enough time in a political campaign, and what time is lost cannot be won back.
"Planning enables a campaign to think through the entire effort ... to analyze what makes it strong and weak ... to develop reasonable goals and tactics," he explains. "It saves a campaign money and the chaos of zigzag decisionmaking." With a rational approach at a campaign's launch, then "only the most unusual or unanticipated event will cause it to course," he adds.
In comparison, talking about plans that are never implemented leads to lost opportunities and a potentiallylosing campaign, professional political advisers agree.
Pero and other campaign veterans took time to suggest what first-time candidates entering the rough and tumble of competitive politics need to know:
* Write your campaign plan when you are rested, and before mid-election stresses zap energy levels. Share it with family members, who may have to shoulder duties that the candidate once shared. Ask for feedback from family and those who've successfully waged a competitive campaign.
* Don't be your own campaign manager. Constituents expect your attention. A campaign manager can give you, the candidate, guidance and attention. Always remember: the candidate is a campaign's best asset.
* Meet voters on their own grounds. Coffee shops, neighborhood gathering places and private homes send a warmer, inviting message. The public spaces make the candidate accessible, and tell constituents that the candidate is open to discussion and able to reach for solutions.
Stay focused on the goal at hand. "Yard signs and endorsements are a plus, but they rarely make or break an election," says Tim Greimel, an attorney who serves on two grassroots positions, the Oakland County Commission and the Rochester School Board. "The biggest mistake some...