Sean Phillippi: Don’t blame the consultants

American elections concept with silhouettes on flag
It’s unfortunate that money talks so much in politics, but it is an undeniable reality.
Sean Phillippi

After yet another election cycle that saw most Florida Democrats get their clocks cleaned, the blame game and finger-pointing, which has become so predictable that you can almost set your watch by it, began anew.

There are several, mostly foreseeable and predictable, reasons Florida Democrats lost again.

I hope to delve deeper into some of those reasons in the coming weeks, but before drilling down on the actual shortcomings here in Florida, it is important to dispel one consistent construct I have been hearing for years that misses the mark.

That erroneous construct is that the consultants or the consultant class is largely to blame for Florida Democrats losing.

This is flat, and fundamentally, wrong.

Political and campaign consultants aren’t to blame for the perpetual losses suffered by Florida Democrats because they have no inherent power. The only power that consultants have is the power to convince others who have power, based on the station they hold in the political world, to give it to them.

Many consultants are quite talented at consolidating power and far less so at leveraging that power to win campaigns, but simply being a consultant is a source of exactly zero influence.

Three main groups have intrinsic power to leverage themselves or give to others to utilize: elected officials, elected party leaders, and donors.

Dollars and power are distributed to Florida Democrats based on personality, with little to no accountability. This is not a bug in the system; it is a feature that those who have controlled the most money in this state over the last eight years have worked hard to keep in place.

Asking or expecting those who have benefited most from this broken system to change course to something more meritocratic is an exercise in lunacy. Changes must be demanded, and the group that is by far the most likely to be the tip of the spear to fix the broken Democratic structure in Florida are the donors.

It’s unfortunate that money talks so much in politics, but it is an undeniable reality.

Money is needed to hire staff and run effective programs. If Florida’s largest donors, who are even more livid than normal after another cycle of seeing their money set on fire, demand changes and cut off funds to every entity that doesn’t implement those changes, you will see transformation at warp speed.

Elected party leaders and elected officials definitely want to win more, but the status quo isn’t the worst thing that could happen to them.

That is why donors must flex their muscles and bring others along with them. Small-dollar and grassroots donations have not once been a successful main funding source for a party organization, so we need to stick with a funding model that has proved to work.

Quantifying the results of every program run, and having standards and benchmarks across the board, should be the new normal.

If this was done, the consultant class would either adapt or fade to allow a new group of people to deliver consistent results.

If people don’t know how to properly quantify the results of the programs they have run while losing their most competitive campaigns, then that would speak volumes.

If such work was done, I am sure many people would be astounded by the large amount of wasteful spending in campaigns. That is why most consultants and campaign professionals will kick, scream, and do everything in their power to resist any and all accountability.

It is also why it is desperately needed.

As a data scientist and campaign consultant, I have consistently won at least 80% of my clients’ races here in Florida, so winning in this state is entirely possible. It is also why I have a unique perspective as to what is wrong with Democrats in this state.

I am scaling back my campaign consulting business, so this is not an exercise in self-promotion or me trying to get a bigger piece of the pie.

The first step in fixing any problem is identifying that there is one. There are fundamental problems with Florida Democrats, and unless they are fixed, Florida will become a permanently red state this decade.

The problems and solutions aren’t hard to identify. We lack the political will among those who have the power to institute change to leverage that power to require that changes be made.


Sean Phillippi is the managing member at TLE Analytics.

Guest Author


  • Need Better Candidates

    December 10, 2020 at 7:01 am

    Your lineup kinda sucks too!

  • Dan Ericks

    December 10, 2020 at 9:25 am

    A self-serving article written by a consultant.

Comments are closed.


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