This is by no means a comprehensive write-up of the conference, but just some things that stood out to me.
Campaign Workshop - Like fellow Watercooler-ite Roberta, I attended the campaign workshop last year, and was pleased that there was some different material presented this year. I think last year’s presentation was perhaps more informative, but I was very pleased with the more-or-less comprehensive Candidate Manual produced by American Majority. Anybody who is thinking about running for office in the future would do well to put one or two of these workshops under his/her belt beforehand.
Government and Teacher Unions are looking like major bad-guys as long as state and local government finances are tight. Simon Campbell was an outstanding moderator of the education panel. Mr. Campbell successfully ran for school board director on a platform of stopping payroll deductions for teacher union dues and “telling the truth” about teacher unions. (Gasp!) This was accomplished in a district that I’m led to believe is not a district where one would assume such a message would be well-received. If Mr. Campbell can win every precinct in his school district, and the Governor of New Jersey can make a common-sense case against teacher union demands, I have to believe the nation as a whole is ready to take on these institutions aggressively.
Messages versus Messengers - One of the points Kellyanne Conway hit upon in her presentation was the transition from 2008 being a year of individuals and messengers (Obama, Palin, Hillary Clinton, etc.) to 2009-10 being a time of focus on issues and messages (spending, taxation, war, health care, etc.). This idea was preceded by Phyllis Schlafly’s remarks the previous day concerning the 2012 Presidential primary. Schlafly said that we don’t want a candidate who is going to be the issue, but one who will speak to the issues, perhaps somebody not currently prominent on the national scene. While I don’t share Phyllis Schlafly’s optimism about Jim DeMint’s national prospects, I think the general idea is a sound one.
Myth Busting - While I’m on the topic of Ms. Conway, it’s always good to hear a pollster confirm one’s own heretical ideas. Specifically, she claimed there is zero evidence for the “He can win”/”He can’t win” concepts about candidate ideology, and that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I’ve been beating that dead horse for, what, a year or so now? She also took issue with Karl Rove’s assertion that ethical scandals cost the GOP majority in 2006. Rather, and in my opinion somewhat obviously, the GOP’s worm had started to turn long before the ethical scandals took off.
Herding Cats - It’s often said that the Tea Partiers that they are essentially leaderless and decentralized, and that this is generally a good thing. I tend to agree, though this comes with some obvious drawbacks. Tom Shakely made an interesting point comparing Tea Partiers and younger voters; both groups have upturned the traditional “leadership/follower” model and are more reliant on social media. Kevin Kelly of the Philly Loyal Opposition spoke about the benefits of holding open planning sessions to allow folks to develop a sense of inclusion and ownership in an organization. As someone who has served on a number of bylaws committees, this makes a lot of sense to me.
Where are the candidates? Some were there, but quite a few weren't. Those who missed the event may have made a mistake.
Personal Notes - It was really great meeting up with fellow Watercooler contributors Roberta Biros and Fred Mullner. We had our own peanut gallery going on during Dick Morris’ speech, and we had perhaps a little too much fun speculating on Mr. Morris’ state of sobriety that evening as he meandered from topic to topic, making bold and questionable assertions along the way. (At least he looked like he was having fun.) The meals served at the conference were miles better than the gray fish served last year, though I question the use of Earl Grey as an iced tea.