The Fix spends a lot of time thinking about politics. Maybe too much time.
But, that time has not been wasted! We have used it to develop a handful of immutable political rules that govern this world. They are true. Period.
So, when Reid Wilson, the newest Post political reporter, penned a column entitled "The Five Rules of Politics" we were intrigued -- to say the least. Here are Reid's five rules: 1) He who understands the rules will win 2) All politics, and politicians, are local 3) The uber-strategist is a myth 4) The only constant is change 5) Campaigns matter.
Reid's right. But five rules isn't nearly enough! Below are five more. Got some of your own? Let's hear them. We want to build a standing "Fix Rules of Politics" post.
1. Money is most things...but not everything. You always want to be the candidate with the most money in a race. Money means that you run a Rolls Royce campaign while your opponent runs a Ford Festiva campaign. And, money typically equals support. (If people are willing to give their money to you, it usually means they will vote for you.) But, simply raising a ton of money -- or even a ton more than your opponent -- doesn't guarantee success. Jon Corzine spent tens of millions to get elected governor of New Jersey in 2005 but all of his money couldn't save him against Chris Christie four years later. Josh Mandel was among the best fundraisers in Senate races in the country in 2012 and never really came close to beating Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). If money = success, Al Checchi would the governor of California, Tony Sanchez would be the governor of Texas and we would be debating the historical legacy of President Steve Forbes.
2. ....and no swing voter cares about campaign finance reform. A corollary of sorts to rule #1 but we are giving it its own rule. We've covered lots and lots of campaign over the years, many of which the side with less money insisted that the other side's fundraising -- usually from the candidate's own pocket would be a major issue for voters. And it never is. We still remember well going into the White House a few months before the 2010 midterm elections and having top strategists for President Obama insist to us that all of the super PAC spending by conservative groups was going to become an issue for Republicans across the country. Nope. Here's the deal: When voters are asked in a poll whether they think getting money out of politics is a good thing, they almost universally say it is. But, they don't vote on campaign finance. It's too abstract as an issue. And, while we're at it, the same goes for term limits. Just not something voters actually vote on.
3. Candidates matter. The person at the center of the campaign matters a whole hell of a lot more than many people -- particularly those in the political chattering class -- like to think. Without a good candidate, even the best political operatives will come up short. It's like that old marketing axiom: No matter how good the marketing campaign, if the dog doesn't like the dog food it won't sell. Bill Simmons (of Grantland.com) has a theory that the basketball team with the best player on it tends to be the one most likely to win close games. Same holds true for politics. In a toss up race, choose the better -- more natural, more charismatic -- candidate. That's usually the winner.
4. No politician goes to Iowa by accident. NONE. Regular readers of the Fix are familiar with this one. Latest example: Vice President Joe Biden is going to Iowa next month to headline Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry. Some people -- Twitter, we are looking at you -- suggested that Biden is simply making good on a long-standing commitment to an old friend. Um, no. Biden is signaling to anyone who's paying attention that he is interested in running in 2016. There is no trip to Iowa by a politician like Biden that means nothing. Ditto the trip Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is making to Iowa this week. She only lives across the border...ha ha... it doesn't mean anything. No. She knows what she is doing. And what she is doing is seeding the ground for a possible run for president.
5. Saying "no" to a race doesn't mean you aren't running. Newark Mayor Cory Booker recently told Politico's Maggie Haberman that he would neither run for president in 2016 or allow himself to be picked as the vice presidential nominee. That "no" doesn't mean nearly as much as you might think, however. Politicians from Barack Obama on down all, at one time or another, deny interest in a race that is later becomes clear they are very interested in. When a politician says "no" you should translate that to mean "not right now". Politicians are in the business of moving up the ladder and when the chance comes along to do that, they usually take it -- no matter what they've said in the past.
So, what rules did we miss?