Self Research: What Could Make You Look Bad?

Too many candidates fail because they have issues in their background that they don’t disclose soon enough. Campaign staff hate it when you are months into a campaign and negative information on you surfaces that they didn’t know about. Everyone is forced to scramble and do crisis management, you get sidetracked. In reality, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.

As soon as your opponent sees you as a credible threat they will hire a researcher to find all of the dirt on you. Some things are easy to find. Arrest records, lawsuits, bankruptcies, divorce papers, your personal voting history, these are all public records. But they will keep digging. As a candidate, you need to assess what’s out there on you, who knows what, and what they might say. Look for possible vulnerabilities and obvious ones. Even sealed court records, transcripts or private medical records will mysteriously become available to reporters.

Nothing in your past is too big of a challenge as long as it is addressed up front. Being dishonest with your team about the truth doesn’t help you at all; it just does a disservice to your campaign. Once you figure out what the most inflammatory things are you can figure out how best to negate them. This is not to say that everyone on the campaign needs to know your secrets, but the core group of consultants and the campaign manager certainly do so they can prepare for any eventualities.

Things to consider:
Anything about yourself you would never tell your mother
College pranks
School Grades
Fraternity hazing
Spring Break
Old paramours and ex-spouses and custody battles
Spats with neighbors
Parking tickets, speeding tickets, DUI’s
Military service
Embarrassing photographs
Plastic surgery
College roommates – what do they know or will claim they know?

With key staff, you must then develop a strategy so that these issues do not hijack the campaign and distract from overall message. Sometimes the ideal strategy to inoculate yourself is to embrace the past. Stick it right up front in your stump speech. “Yes, this happened. It made me who I am today,” or “That was a long time ago, but it taught me…” Other times, you may not want to discuss items in your past. You could explain them away but would rather they not come up in the first place. Maybe you feel that certain issues are “below the belt.” In these cases, you still need to prepare a response should it come out, but you can set it aside until the issue surfaces. Then instead of scrambling for a response, you have one already prepared.