Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Joe Gaylord – his former senior strategist who engineered the Contract with America in 1994 – have a new book out detailing how the Republican take-over of the House that year came about.
“March to the Majority” is loaded with excellent campaign advice and tips for winning elections. Here’s one I found particularly important…
“(Reporter Art) Pine pointed out to me that I had all this theoretical knowledge, but I had to learn about people. This was paired with an earlier lesson from my biological father, ‘Big Newt,’ who was particularly good at connecting with people.
“He explained to me once that when you go into a bar or a party, the first thing somebody asks you about is what they want to talk about. The trick is for you to get them on their topic, and they will think you are terrific because they are getting to talk about the thing they care about.
“Most people don’t want to know about you, they want to express themselves. I found that advice to be generally true. So I spent much of my time in the early weeks and months of my first term listening to people and learning from them. It was the beginning of developing the concept of listen, learn, help, and lead.”
There’s an old piece of advice that goes something like this: “God gave you two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in the same proportion.”
If you’re running for Congress and a voter tells you the burned-out street light in front of her house is an issue of concern, do you talk to her about the burned out street light or your proposal to put the U.S. back on the gold standard?
No, dealing with burned-out street lights isn’t exactly part of the job description for a Member of Congress. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about WINNING your election so you can GET to Congress.
And if after listening to the voter’s concern, you then fire off a letter to the city’s Department of Street Lights asking it to do something to fix the woman’s problem – and copy the voter on your letter – even if the street light doesn’t get fixed, at least you’ll get credit for trying to help – and probably get that voter’s vote.
Listen. Learn. Help. And then they’ll let you lead.
By the way, Speaker Gingrich interviewed me for his “Newt’s World” podcast last week. The interview – “Episode 587: Preparing for the 2024 Election” – is now up. You can catch it by clicking here.