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Originally published in the summer 2008 Kennedy School Bulletin
2002 MPP graduate Buzz Jacobs, a regional campaign manager for Republican nominee John McCain, remembers the dark days of Senator John McCain’s candidacy in the fall of 2007.
“We had no money. Our organization had been reduced dramatically. The pundits were calling our campaign over,” he recalled. “Instead of folding up our tent, we launched the ‘No Surrender’ tour and we talked about the war in Iraq as well as the senator’s candidacy for president.”
The campaign was raising less than a million dollars a month and had a quarter of the staff it needed. However, Jacobs’s support for his candidate never wavered.
“I never doubted him, even during the difficult period. I worked for him in 2000, and I stayed with him in 2008 because I believe in John McCain.”
Political campaigns are anything if not unpredictable. Dramatic reversals of fortune are commonplace, especially in the era of round-the-clock cable news coverage, blogosphere punditry, and the marathon campaign. Anything can, and often does, happen along the campaign trail, and the survivor is often the candidate whose organization can weather the inevitable storm. Being able to respond quickly is a key element of success, which is one of the strengths of the McCain system of a regional campaign.
As the manager for McCain’s southern campaign office — one of ten around the country — Jacobs is up at dawn to read the news clips relating to his candidate as well as the opposition. Following the lengthy conference calls with senior staff, communications, officials, and regional organizers and volunteers, Jacobs is busy with the myriad details of running a large organization spread out over seven states.
“The most challenging part is ensuring you are implementing the senator’s vision and telling the story about John McCain,” he says. “And in spite of all the various things we need to do, we constantly ask ourselves throughout every day, ‘Is what I’m doing getting votes for Senator McCain?’ This includes getting my grandmother, a lifelong Democrat, to register as a Republican and vote McCain.”