They say a man is only as good as the people he surrounds himself with, and for the 2016 presidential candidates, this saying most certainly holds true. Campaign advisors and managers are almost as vital to a presidential bid as the person running, and yet, rarely do they get any attention. The Vector decided to shine a spotlight on the advisory teams of the four front-running presidential candidates, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders.
For Donald Trump, his status as a political outsider combined with his experience in the business world caused him to take a pragmatic approach to campaign staffers. Despite the tensions between him and the more mainline Republican politicians, his staffers are veterans of dozens of different Republican elections, including presidential races like Ford in 1972, Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and George W. Bush in 2000. In addition, his staffers are veterans of numerous Senate, House, and state elections. Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, shares many of Trump’s views on current politics, and was quoted in a Wall Street Journal interview as saying “…we want people working on the Trump campaign who are tired of the way things are. That’s the way the voters feel.” Lewandowski also apparently shares Trump’s fiery personality, according to Bruce Berke, a New Hampshire lobbyist, “Corey was a pretty aggressive guy on issues. He was a go-getter… and he was not afraid to air out an issue.” Lewandowski has been accused of being too aggressive, however, and was accused of grabbing a reporter’s arm at press conference in Florida. The Trump campaign stands by Lewandowski and insists that he did nothing wrong. Initially arrested for battery, police dropped all charges against Lewandowski because the police believed he was merely reacting to what he saw as a potential threat.
Bernie Sanders’ approach to his political advisers is in stark contrast to Donald Trumps’. Where Trump is ruthlessly pragmatic, Sanders’ is more in tune with his own ideology. Sanders’ attempts to appeal to both younger and older voters resulted in him turning to a company called Revolution Messaging, which currently leads the online portion of Sanders’ campaign. Typically, a campaign will devote one person to web and multimedia outreach, or have a general communications team that handles outreach through traditional and newer outlets, such as social media. Sanders’ campaign is unique for employing an entire firm for this area, but Revolution Messaging is a competent adviser in it’s own right, having served organizations such as the AARP, the ACLU, and the NAACP. Sander’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has been an assistant to Sanders for most of his political life. His only experience in political campaigning came from Sanders’ Senate race in 2006. His lack of experience has caused some controversy, as fellow Democrats have criticized him for poorly handling some incidents, such as when he claimed that he’d interview Hillary Clinton for Vice President during an interview. Sanders has gone on record saying that Weaver’s remark was inappropriate.
During an interview with the National Review, Ted Cruz claimed that he would not “run a traditional campaign with a bunch of D.C. consultants who are fleecing donors out of their money.” Ted Cruz’s commitment to a lean, mean, campaigning machine has forced him to substitute manpower with technology and brains. One technique used by chief strategist Jason Johnson is called behavioral micro-targeting. This technique gathers information on individual voters, their behaviors and buying habits, and analyzes them, which gives the Cruz campaign information on what the most effective campaign appeals would be. If Johnson is the brains of the operation, then campaign manager Jeff Roe is the brawn. Described by the St. Lewis Post-Dispatch as a take-no-prisoners strategist who’s methods are as questionable as they are effective, Roe is not one to mince words. He’s been quoted as saying “You strap it on in the political battlefield and you’re going to have things said about you. You strap on the chinstrap and go to war.” While Roe may seem ruthless, his consulting firm, Axiom Strategies, has an 81% success rate.
Unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s long years in politics, both as a First Lady and as Secretary of State, have given her deep ties to many of her advisers. A fair amount of her staff worked for Bill Clinton during his time in office, and she has even inherited some of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign staff in the form of Chief Strategist Joel Benenson. The Washington Post described Clinton’s advisers as a “Closely knit Praetorian Guard around Clinton that plots strategy, develops messages, and clamps down on leaks.” With that said, Clinton’s advisers aren’t stuck in their old ways. Campaign manager Robby Mook’s approach is to “test everything, question assumptions, and let data drive things.” Mook originally began working in politics at age 14, when he volunteered for a Vermont State representative. From there, he continued to work with Vermont democrats, eventually working his way up to the Governor of Vermont, and finally working with John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Mook’s management style is heavily focused on data analytics, but this style has earned him his share of criticism from some of Clinton’s staff and donors. After Clinton’s narrow victory in the Iowa caucus, the Associated Press reported that some of Clinton’s allies had floated the idea of demoting Mook. As of time of writing, Mook remains in his position as campaign manager.