THIRTEEN MINUTES

Winning, Losing, and Living as Taught by the 2016 Election

SAMUEL S. CHEN

FOREWORD

HON. JEFF COLEMAN

          Look closely and you’ll see them. Lining the walls of gyms and American Legion halls in rural Iowa and New Hampshire or hovering offstage while the candidate walks into the limelight, small armies of college students and unmarried, recent graduates man their posts — one eye on the candidate, the other on their mobile device. Hailing from every color of the political rainbow but always clad in the same conservative uniform worn by generations of aspirants, they lend every campaign an air of legitimacy and energy.

 

          Young political operatives are drawn to the fracas for reasons unknown to their parents and apolitical friends. With paltry compensation, eternal schedules, and impossible deadlines, the business of running campaigns looks like a recipe for premature death to any sensible observer.

 

          Campaigns promise the entrepreneurial a chance; they satiate the human longing for mission and purpose. For the contestant and their battalion of foot soldiers, it’s a chance to expose evil and slay the dragon as soon as it surfaces. The sport of political combat is 90% adrenaline and 10% a combination of plans, principles, and policies for the months after the election. It’s the race to win the narrative — yours and your opponents — before yours gets written for you.

 

          Sam Chen was one of these. Well-spoken and poised, he’s been the trusted shadow to congressmen, governors, and even a presidential candidate in the months leading up to their biggest political moments. He’s been the counselor to shell-shocked families devastated by an opponent’s attack ads or blindsided by defeat. He’s helped sickened campaign workers move forward after their candidate was felled by his own hand or friendly fire from supposed allies. He’s helped pen the words to both victory and concession speeches and whispered words into the ears of the candidate that changed the direction of press conferences.

 

          Sam knows the drill. He knows when to step out of the camera shot, and when to step in between the gaggle and his boss. He knows when it’s time to speak hard truths and when it’s important to clear the room and let silence be the loudest voice.

 

          As a political professional, Sam Chen has guarded the essential trait of those hoping for a long and fruitful political career — conscience. His observations in this book are an honest recollection of his years in what Teddy Roosevelt called “The Arena.” For those curious about life behind the curtain, don’t miss a word.

 

JEFF COLEMAN

Former Member, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Founder and Principal, Churchill Strategies

Hon. Jeff Coleman is a former member of the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, representing the 60th Legislative District of Pennsylvania.

 

He is the founder and principal of Churchill Strategies and additionally serves as Director of Branding and Design for Princeton Strategic Communications Group. Coleman is the author of the book With All Due Respect: Recovering the Manners & Civility of Political Combat.

© Samuel S. Chen, 2020