Campaign world


A writer I know went to work for Bernie Sanders a while ago, and I congratulated him. Then I said to a mutual friend, “I would never tell him, because I don’t want to ruin his excitement, but he’s really going to hate Bernie by the time it’s over.”

“Why do you say that?”

I share this story told by a famous campaign consultant — about how, in the beginning of your career, by the time a campaign is over, you really, really hate the candidate. Then, when you’ve been doing it a while, you start hating the candidate after the first month.

And now? “Now I begin hating the candidate when I’m on the plane, going to meet them for the first time.”

Then I said Bernie shows every sign of being a micromanager who doesn’t let other people make decisions. “(Our friend) thinks he’s going to write these soaring speeches, and what he’s really going to do is write stuff he won’t even recognize by the time the comms director and the candidate get done with it,” I predicted. “It’s like working in a factory.”

So this morning I read this:

Unlike Clinton’s container-ship-sized campaign organization with more than 300 on staff, Sanders has a much smaller operation. On Saturday he traveled with only his campaign manager, his communications director, a videographer, and his wife. He figured out most of the logistics himself — securing boarding passes for the group and leading everyone through the Minneapolis airport from one terminal to the other.

The campaign pays 25 full-time staff members in Iowa and rents offices in 10 different towns. Sanders has just 10 full-time staffers in Vermont, 5 in Washington, and 4 in New Hampshire, plus 11 paid interns in Vermont and New Hampshire.

He revels in this relative lack of professional help. To make his point, he briefly commandeered an interview with a reporter last week in Washington.

“Ask me who my campaign finance director is,” he said over coffee in a Senate cafeteria.

“We don’t have one. Ask me who my pollster is,” he said. “We don’t have one.” He said he writes his own direct mail.

Oh, for Christ’s sake. Really? The candidate shouldn’t be dealing with fucking boarding passes. His staff should be doing that, while he introduces himself to people in the terminal and asks them to vote for him. That’s just stupid. It drains time and energy that should be used for the things only the candidate can do.

There are a lot of things to get done on a campaign, and he doesn’t seem to have enough people. If Bernie had enough good staff members, they would have kept him from cancelling that meeting with black activists at Netroots Nation. They also would have known that prominent people are frequently targeted by demonstrators there, and they would have prepped him for that.

But Bernie knows best. Well, time will tell how that works for him.