Be wary of candidate’s significant others.

One of the many tips we pass along to aspiring campaign managers is to always interview the husband or wife, or significant other, before agreeing to run someone’s campaign.  That was one of the first key political lessons we learned.  The scars healed long ago but the memory lingers on.

As a young man, we were eager to show our stuff politically and we called a guy who was already a celebrity who had said he wanted to get into provincial politics.  We had already determined that a number of the key politicos we knew wanted him to get involved. We met over lunch one day and found that we were both on the same wavelength on where we felt the party needed to go.  He was so pleased that he asked that a small group come to his home that Sunday afternoon to discuss a campaign.  He said to have people bring their bathing suits and prepare for a relaxed day.

Relaxing was not the first thing that came to mind when meeting the guy’s wife as she came out of the pool in a bathing suit that was quite transparent when wet.  That was, in some ways, the high point of the day.  The lady was a popular entertainer and a strikingly beautiful woman.  She made quite an impression.  And it was not all good.

It was soon clear to the group that she did not welcome her husband’s political ambitions.  Nor did we feel all that welcome.   That proved to be one of the most difficult campaigns in our career.  We learned a heck of a lot, as it was also our first loss.  It was the first time that we had to deal with a candidate’s spouse who needed more careful handling than the candidate.  The candidate said at one time that the wife really liked me.  Our retort (after the campaign) was that “she likes me like a vulture likes dinner.”  When they divorced within a few years, it was easier to have him as a friend.

One time when we were asked to help a mayoral candidate, we knew him but had never met his wife.  On first meeting with the two of them, we reported back that we would have to get her to be the candidate and send him on a long trip during the campaign.  It worked out that he lost badly, she divorced him and she went on to a series of high profile political appointments.

Some candidate spouses are great at going to the doors with the candidate, while others should be sent to different doors.  There are also soul mates that can only be used on the sign crew or to do literature drops.

But the campaign manager argues with this person at their peril.  Always remember, the spouse or significant other will always have the last word, in the privacy of the bedroom.

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