Republican candidates and their campaign managers, who in Connecticut usually are more familiar with the agony of defeat then the thrill of victory, are going to school to learn how to get elected.
An eight-week management training school for politicians, which National Republican Co-Chairman Mary Crisp calls a model for other state organizations, was opened April 14 at Wesleyan University here by the state GOP Committee.
It is one of several plans the Republicans have devised in hopes of recovering from the party's election debacles across the country last week.
Replete with homework, attendance requirements and graduation certificates, the course has attracted about 170 party officials and political hopefuls, including some who were soundly defeated in 1976 statewide election and say they are tired of losing Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in Connecticut by 200,000.
The classroom drill, which ends June 2, does not address cosmic ideological differences between the parties, leaving it to the students to pick their spots on the political spectrum.
Rather the course teaches such fundamentals of election stumping as scheduling, fundraising, canvassing, polling and vote-targeting - and a few news-management subtitles, such as leaking articles to the media, floating trial balloons and "putting the lid on" stories.
A glossary accompanying a press relations course stresses the value of favourable publicity, and offers this definition of deep background disclosures: "You take the press into your confidence. "You give them just enough to say without being quoted directly."
Anews "leak" according to the glossary is "usually done to test public reaction."
But Frederick K. Biebel, party state chairman, said it is the basics that the candidates need the most.
I've been in politics 30 years, and I'm great believer in nuts-and-bolts organization. I've seen too many people lose because they didn't have the basics," Biebel said in an interview.
In a lecture hall at Wesleyan, which was selected because of its central location, the party workers received some sobering advice the othernight about campaign finance reporting from Carl Cella, counsel to the state committee.
"Don't forget to file through campaign expenditure reports. It can save you a lotof time - like five to 10 years," Cella told the group.
It's not the law or a year in jail that causes the problems for you. It's the opponent who asks how can you be trusted in office if you don't do what you're supposed to in the campaign."
Another speaker lectured on fundraising, citing the adage that money is the "mother's milk of politics."
Robert P. Odell Jr., president of National Direct Mail Services of Washington advised. "Raise their (contributors) expectation levels. People don't get offended by being asked for money. It means they've arrived."
Other guests speakers include John P. Sears. Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign manager: pollser Tully Plesser, Richard Wirthlin, president of Decision Making Information Inc., of Washington and Santa Ana, Calif., and public affairs consultants F. Clifton White.
One of the students intensely taking notes in a recent audience was Tim Upson, who last year was beaten by a 13 per cent margin in a Sixth District congressional race by incumbent Democrat Toby Moffet.
"We had no real organization in that campaign. All the kinds of things we are learning now we didn't know then," said Upson, a Watertown prep school admissions director who says he plans to run again for Congress.
"Obviously, I think I'm more competent than the man in office, so what winning an election comes down to is organization. That's what we're learning here," said Upson.
Another loser last year, Anthony Rodriquez, 25 of Waterbury, said the campaign management course could have made a difference in his race for the state legislature.
The first Hispanic to run in the heavily Irish and Democratic district, he lost by 530 votes to William Scully, a four-term incumbent.
We worked hard, but there were a fewthings we miscalculated. There were a few things we did'nt know, even though we came very close," said Rodriquez. "I'll run in 1978, and I'll do a few things differently," including forming a "more solid organization" and better targeting of voters.
Rodriquez and Upson conceded that ideology and political tradition with heavily in the outcome of any election. But they suggested that GOP candidates who improve their campaign organizations can increase their success with Connecticut's sizeable independent voting bloc, and even with registered Republicans.
Other losing candidates taking the course include James Sanders, a black Republican, and Peter Ciullio, both of whom ran for the Legislature last year in the Waterbury area. Also enrolled are Senate Minority Leader Lewis Rome and several aides to House Minority Leader Gerald F. Stevens.
While the Connecticut program is believed to be only one now operating, it is similar to a short-lived course sponsored in 1961 by the National Republican Committee, called Mobilization of Republican Enterprise (MORE).
The Wesleyan program was designed by Caroline Westerhoff, of the City University of New York, who recently moved to Middletown, Westerchoff said the academic setting is important, and she noted that two dozen of the political workers are receiving college credits for the course.
Biebel said he planned to propose expanding the program nationally at the weekend Chicago meeting of the Republican National Committee. Meanwhile, he said, the course is being videotape for use in "mini-courses" throughout the state.