Politics on the Baseball Diamond

just a little something i wrote during happier times (i.e. when the Phillies were still playing in the postseason)…

Virtually everyone who knows me is acutely aware of the fact that I’m obsessed with my hometown baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies. What they probably don’t realize, however, is that there are so many similarities between a baseball team’s season and campaigning for political office.

For all intensive purposes I’m going to liken the general manager to the candidate. The players may play the game, but he is the collective face of the team and the one that ultimately controls all of the shots. He bring in the players – the campaign staff, if you will – and his skipper to control the reins and manage the team.

At the beginning of the campaign – the offseason – the general manager needs to decide the general makeup of his campaign (the team). He needs to assess the team’s strengths and weakness and work on acquiring players that will theoretically give him the best chance of winning, much like a campaign will craft and disseminate its narrative. Spring training is when the candidate commissions its first polls and/or focus groups to test its narrative and messaging strategy. It is the first opportunity for the general manager to assess the team he built and make any necessary changes. Opening day is the kickoff of the primary campaign, and for the next five months you are in the heart of the primary campaign season, going through the necessary steps to get one inch closer to the final prize – having a chance to compete in the big postseason dance. You have the same ebbs and flows of a campaign in the baseball season – battling division rivals, the All-Star game, losing key players to injury, and of course reassessing the team come and adding or subtracting players if necessary at the July trade deadline – but at the end of the 162 games only the teams with the best record in each division (and a fourth team, known in the baseball world as the wild card) get to move on to the general campaign – the postseason. And, obviously, you win the election by winning the World Series in October.

So why make this correlation, you may ask? All too often the little picture is lost within the campaign. Every little aspect of a campaign will ultimately play a role in whether a candidate is elected, from a home run message to a blown GOTV effort. There’s a reason why the best campaigns spend thousands of dollars on polling each and every message disseminated on mailers and campaign ad aired on TV and radio, or on seasoned campaign vets to helm the operation. And successful campaign managers know how to do all this, from bringing in the best team they can acquire to have the best chance at making it to the postseason, to keeping their fans – the donors – happy and willing to support the campaign and give it the capital it needs to succeed year after year. I’ve seen too many strong candidates lose because of the operation they run, or the people they associate themselves with, and with the general election more than a year away at this point it is not too late to step back and look not only at the macro, but also the micro, picture of what is ahead.

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