Raz Shafer is the subject of our next Email Interview. Raz is a veteran political operative with nearly a decade of experience in political coaching and voter contact operations.
Over the last 7 years, Raz has trained thousands of activists and candidates how to win campaigns, worked for a range of non-profit political organizations and served on the official staff for United States Senator Ted Cruz.
Raz left Senator Cruz’s office in 2014 to launch his own political consulting firm My Campaign Coach, with a focus on grassroots organization, deployment and campaign coaching.
GB: A little over a year ago you started My Campaign Coach and have since been developing candidate training courses, launched the How to Run for Office podcast and are developing a lot of free content to help conservatives run better campaigns. What motivated you to start that and what are you trying to do there?
RS: Candidate and Activist training was really where I started, so it was more about getting back to my roots. My first political job was to help conservatives run better campaigns and be more effective activists. I loved doing it and saw how quickly it paid off. Plus, I got to see the power of giving principled individuals the tools and training to win. I got to help good people get elected and do great things.
My goal with My Campaign Coach is to do campaign training better. There’s some solid training out there already but I think the experience that my team and I have, both in training and in actually winning elections, gives us a unique experience and perspective set. We’re also unique in that we’re fully virtual. All of our standard training is offered online, either live or self paced. We’ll do in-person work as well but focusing online lets us help more people faster and at a lower cost for the folks we coach.
GB: Your background seems pretty varied on the surface, in that you’ve worn hats ranging from Senate Aide to activist trainer and running a Super PAC. One thing that has been a consistent focus in each of those areas though is your focus on campaign ground game and building strong relationships. Why do you think that kind of door to door voter contact is still important in the age of twitter and Facebook?
RS: First of all, let me say that I’m not a one-or-the-other kinda guy. I absolutely love running strong ground and digital campaigns. The fact that you can carefully target voters and microtarget messages is awesome and contributes to why each is important.
The reason that social media isn’t going to REPLACE block walking is the personal component. There’s nothing better at persuading or turning out a voter than a live human being sharing their conviction, connecting with the voter and asking for their support. Human nature hasn’t changed and won’t anytime soon, so I’m comfortable saying that canvassing will be an important campaign function for a long time.
GB: What do you think is the biggest mistake campaigns make in their door to door effort?
RS: There are a lot of easy mistakes that folks make but the biggest one is not doing it. Not running a door to door campaign is a huge error and it’s going to cost you votes, if not the election. Knocking on somebody’s door, listening to their concerns and communicating your reason and passion behind supporting a candidate is incredibly powerful. The personal interaction side has a huge impact.
It’s often sweaty and always guaranteed to wear you out. Sometimes you’ve got to worry about dogs, other times you get yelled at. You’re never going to get 100% success but I promise you that it will move the needle in your favor if you do it right.
GB: Looking big picture at campaigns, to what area do most campaigns consistently devote too little time and too little attention?
RS: In my opinion, the answer is clearly logistics. It’s not just neglected in politics though. In war, business and about anywhere else you can imagine it’s importance is underestimated. It’s the least sexy of the primary campaign systems but probably the most consequential in the final reckoning.
My favorite example of this is in military history, looking at Napoleon or Hitler trying to take Moscow. These guys lacked nothing in firepower, great minds or money but they still failed catastrophically (thank God!). It was “General Winter” that defeated them. They couldn’t keep socks or boots on their troopers’ feet or the right shoes on their horses or treads on their tanks. If you don’t have a good logistical train, your strategy, tactics and financial or human assets won’t matter a bit.
You’ve got to be willing to do the un-sexy, yet important, campaign functions well if you want to win. Mastering your logistical concerns is a great way to grow your advantage and ensure smoother sailing.
GB: 2016 was a crazy year for elections and one of the big questions coming out of it is, “How did we get it so wrong and what should we learn from that election?” The answer to those questions obviously has huge implications for how we look at campaigns in 2018 and beyond. What’s your take on that question?
RS: I’ve really struggled with this question up until recently but I think there is one area where I think we can definitively say the landscape has changed: Branding.
The lesson that people need to take out of that from 2018 isn’t that they need to adopt Trump’s brand. That’s a big mistake that I’m already seeing. Folks who think they can be blustery and piggy-back on MAGA, etc. It’s not going to work. They need to make their own brand and it needs to be more than platform planks. It’s a reflection of your personality, convictions, how you carry yourself and what you want to be and do.Every candidate needs to discover, cultivate and deploy their brand. Not Trump’s brand. Not a generic GOP or DEM brand. THEIR brand.
Every candidate needs to discover, cultivate and deploy their brand. Not Trump’s brand. Not a generic GOP or DEM brand. THEIR brand.