In the beginning - before the billboard, bumper sticker, cocktail party, compromise, contribution, debate, issues paper, leaked poll and "media buy" - there is The Plan.
The Plan is a writtern document. It is part statistic, part strategy, part dream. Most politicians have one. Some religiously follow it. Some ignore it. Some protect it with locked vaults and security guards. Some release it to the world in an effort to be taken seriously.
Several months ago, Thomas A. Farrington, a lawyer and Democratic policy maker in Prince George's County, wrote The Plan for his favorite politician and gubernatorial candidate, Maryland Senate President Steny H. Hoyer (D-Prince George's). It is a concise document, amounting to some 90 pages, with a poetic title ("Drawing the Circle Wider") and 10 chapters ranging from demographics to scheduling, contained in a red plastic loose-leaf binder.
The first chapter of The Plan, under a "General" heading, consists of 15 precepts Hoyer must follow in his campaign for the 1978 Democratic nomination for governor of Maryland.Each point is made up of declarative sentences, while so many does and don'ts that one Hoyer aide refers to it as "the Romper Room pledge."
Some points appear open to challenge, such as the one that claims: "Steny is running for governor and no other office. There are politicians inside and outside Prince George's who believe Hoyer will accept a lesser spot, such as attorney general, on a ticket headed by Acting Gov. Blair Lee III.
Some points merely reflect the law of the land, as in: "Every contribution will be reported."
One point is critical of the candidate: "Although Steny's public appearances are excellent, his media appearances are average. As a result, immediately after the '77 (legislative) session, he will work with media people."
One point reflects the open disdain Hoyer, Farrington and attorney Peter O'Malley, the campaign manager, have for the gritty ideological campaign techniques of Henry Howell, the Virginia Democrat who recently lost the race for governor in that state.
"The sole purpose of this campaign is to promote Steny's candidacy. The campaign will be positive, not negative. We are working against no one. We are working for Steny. Our intent is to draw the circle in such a manner that all present candidates will feel comfortable in stepping inside and supporting Steny."
Only one of the 15 points discusses a possible campaign issue - the effect of the recent conviction of Democratic Gov. Marvin Mandel:
"His political base, his political supporters and his political allies come from an entirely different area. Steny's vote on the racetrack legislation (central to Mandel's trial) was against the move from Marlboro and against overriding the veto (i.e. - he voted right), therefore Steny should not be hurt personally by the trial. He might be affected by a broad-brush anti-Annapolis or anti-politician approach."
And one point neatly summarizes the paradox of the Hoyer campaign: How to exhibit organization without being subjected to talk of "machine" politics:
"Steny's background as an organizer is highly respected. Some without his ability criticize it. We believe that organization in politics does not discourage participation. It encourages effective participation.
"Every candidate will be attempting to build his own campaign organization. If Steny's organization is worse, we may look ashamed. However, if it is better, we intend to be proud of it, not to apologize for it."
The second chapter, "Campaign Organization," begins with the words, "Dows Law: in a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion." Assuming that Farrington is at a high level of the Hoyer organization, his work in this chapter adheres to the law.
Under Farrington's scheme, a gubernatorial campaign requires the following army: a campaign director, campaign coordinator, campaign counsel, issues director, finance chairman, treasurer, administrative secretary, scheduler, director of field organization, headquarters manager, in-house polling director, print director, broadcast director, driver-phototgrapher, person-to-person director, organization-to-organization director, along with a full complement of committees on issues, finances and scheduling.
The duties of each member of this army are spelled out in precise detail. The driver-photographer, for instance, must shape up to three paragraphs of instructions, including:
"In early stages, he wilI advance Steny on major events. He will go to the major event area several days in advance to meet with all the hosts of all the events that day to aid in improving the day's events. He is responsible for photographing Steny at events and for assuring that the photo and proper cut lines are promptly delivered to the director of communications."
For that effort and more, the driver-photographer does not rate a box of his or her own on an elaborate flow-chart Farrington has prepared for this chapter.
The chapter on scheduling, which has the most potential for being ignored, is written in similarly authoritative fashion. This is what it says about Judy Hoyer, the candidate's wife:
"Judy will campaign with Steny on events selected by them.
"Judy will campaign on her own at events selected by her. Judy will not campaign extensively until April of 1978.
"When Judy campaigns on her own, she will be driven.
"Whenever Judy is campaigning, with Steny or alone, the scheduler will arrange to have a Host or Hostess present at the event to introduce Judy."
Hoyer's wife must wonder when she reads such directives. She has been "campaigning extensively" with Hoyer for more than a year - without a driver.
The thinnest chapter in The Plan deals with issues. It consists, in fact, of a mere listing of one-word subjects - taxation, labor, agriculture and so on. "We had little more in there," Farrington explained in a recent interview.
"But Steny took one look at it and ripped it out. He wants to set his own issues. As for the overall message, that will be determined by the political climate early next year. It depends a great deal on the legislative session."
The Plan lends such importance to the next legislative session that it says Hoyer should not campaign except on weekends for those three months.
The most detailed chapter concerns communications, even though Farrington admits that the communications director - as yet unnamed - will "do it the way he wants. "The Plan calls for a radio budget of $125,000, a television budget of $200,000, and $150,000 going to direct mail, $70,000 to campaign materials, $50,000 to newspaper advertising, $150,000 to polling services and $5,000 to outdoor advertising. That adds up to more than $600,000.
"Forget, those figures," conceded Farrington. "They don't mean a thing. They'll be revised completely." (Hoyer, with one fund-raising event already and another planned for January as far less than $100,000 in his treasury.)
According to the section on television, The Plan calls for an emphasis on "thoughtful, five-minute mini-documentaries" rather than shorter spots. It argues with a mixture of idealism and pragmatism.
"The TV spot has become the epitome of glimmickry - it's too slick and we don't want to look slick. A semi-news treatment which can be done in five minutes was a look of authenticity."
The television analysis is based on the premise that Hoyer would officially announce for governor in September, 1977. That time has come and gone, without the announcement. So much for the infallibility of The Plan.