2:28 p.m., Sept. 16, 2010----Patti Solis Doyle, longtime confidante to Hillary Clinton who managed the vice presidential campaign of University of Delaware alumnus Joe Biden in 2008, opened the University's inaugural National Agenda 2010 lecture series with a talk titled “Playing the Game” on Wednesday night at Mitchell Hall.
When it comes to “the game” of politics, Solis Doyle offered up many nuggets of wisdom for all the aspiring politicians in the room.
“Join a campaign and you'll work long hours and earn lousy pay,” she said. “Chances are, your candidate's going to lose. But you'll travel, you'll see your handy work on the front page of the morning paper. You'll build some of the closest friendships you'll ever have in your life.”
Those hoping to enter the world of politics should understand that almost everyone has to start out by doing the grunt work for a political campaign, Solis Doyle said, adding that duties could be to “scope out a location for a political event, build a crowd, hand out signs and show the reporters where to go and hop in a car and move on to the next event, probably before the candidate has even finished her speech.
“But if you're good, you'll move up. When you get the chance, know what you like, what turns you on, and go for it.”
Solis Doyle stressed that it is critical for political novices to roll with the punches when roles are assigned, citing her own personal experience with Hillary Clinton as an example.
“If you do not get the role you wanted, it pays to take what you get and make the most out of it,” she said, adding, “Campaign managers hate whiners.”
Solis Doyle said that she went to Arkansas in 1991 to work for Gov. Bill Clinton as he mounted a presidential campaign. “When I arrived in Little Rock, the campaign manager informed me that I would be working for the spouse (Hillary Clinton). I was hugely, hugely disappointed,” she said. “I remember talking to my manager, saying, 'This is not fair. I want to be where the action is,' and, boy, was I thoroughly surprised.”
Solis Doyle also spoke about how the political spectrum has changed since she started her career in politics. When she began working on the Clinton campaign, the staff consisted mostly of white males. She credits Bill Clinton's hiring of Susan Thomases with helping change the way women got involved with politics.
She said Hillary Clinton also played a huge role in the ascension of women to the political forefront, not only in her own campaigns, but also behind the scenes, where Solis Doyle said she was urging other politicians to consider women for various roles that in the past would have been given to men.
“The fact is there were only a handful of women playing this game when I started; most of the top players were guys and nearly all of them were white,” Solis Doyle said. “Fifteen years later, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton faced off (for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination), it was a very, very different situation.”
Solis Doyle also discussed how new technologies and social media are making polls increasingly unreliable when it comes to predicting the outcome of a race. “Because so many of these first time voters are young people, they have cell phones, they don't have home phones, so pollsters can't get hold of them,” she said. “So we don't know what they're going to do, and I really think that right now, polls are not an accurate way to figure out what's going to happen.”
Solis Doyle stressed that for those interested in getting involved with a political campaign, it is important to follow their hearts and work for the candidate who inspires them. She noted how nobody gave Bill Clinton a shot when she worked on his campaign, but that did not deter her from following the candidate she saw best suited to be president.
“As I said before, chances are that your candidate is going to lose. So you might as well be inspired by the person that you're killing yourself for,” she said.
National Agenda 2010 is sponsored by the University's Center for Political Communication and moderated by Ralph Begleiter, center director. The next speaker in the series is Jim Crounse, one of the top Democratic direct mail consultants in the United States, who will talk about “Reaching the Voters,” on Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m., in Mitchell Hall.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Duane Perry