Political candidates are attracted to person-to-person campaigning among the voters.  They want to be seen in neighborhoods where voters live or work; advance teams frequently spend time looking for opportunities for appearances at outdoor events such as ball games, amusement parks, resorts, parades or major public events for their candidate to attend, be seen and develop personal relationships.  An in-person visit to a community center, where questions are taken and answered by a candidate can, and often does, provide an edge for the candidate who takes the time to show up, especially over an opponent who has appeared elsewhere but doesn’t make it to your street.

The job of an “Advance man” is to see to it that the visit leaves behind a positive feeling with the crowd about the candidate personally and about his or her message as well.  It sounds easy, but it is not.  Advance men (a gender neutral term), have a list of important items to be considered and planned for, everything from providing effective emergency responders, to logistical planning and providing successful strategies.  The best advance men are highly organized, effective communicators and clear thinkers who don’t forget that they are responsible for an effective appearance in support of the campaign strategy. An advance men’s roles in a candidate’s appearance are as conductors not musicians; they must direct the band and not play in it.

Advance men are not expected to be bodyguards or security personnel; it is their role to ensure that adequate security, from private or public law enforcement, are there to protect the candidate from physical harm while at the same time providing appropriate access to the candidate for members of the public, invited guests, and the media, to be able to interact with the candidate. That is why the candidate is there – and that is why the public has come.  Advance men know that crowd control is a part of campaign planning. Controlling the crowd does not require unwanted or impermissible touching. Hand touching members of the crowd should be avoided, and only resorted to if required in defense of the candidate or another against a threatened physical harm and then only by one serving as part of the security team.  Successfully predicting who in the crowd may be there solely to disrupt the event is rare. Screening the crowd in advance and having a plan for the removal of likely disrupters, can often identify individuals and groups more likely than not to be a potential source bent on disrupting the event.  Experienced or well-trained campaign personnel can often identify potential trouble -makers for security prepared to lawfully control such situations.

Most campaign events are planned well in advance and are executed with care and precision.  The appearance is usually not an isolated occurrence but rather is  packaged with other appearances on either end of it. A typical day of campaigning may include a community breakfast, several local appearances, a media covered speech on a campus, time for a fundraising telephone call, perhaps a luncheon with major supporters and ending with a formal dinner.

On any given day, time may also be built in for a yoga class or trip to the gym, or  for travel for statewide or national campaigns. Keeping the candidate in motion involves many different members of the team but ensuring that the candidate is prepared for the appearance, is up to date on related news events, has required speeches available for him, has access to wardrobe changes, has available meals breaks and other usual personal items. Good advance work can solve problems before anyone is even aware of their potential and identify opportunities valuable to a candidate before anyone else on the team has discovered them.

Every member of a campaign team has an important role to play at different times during the campaign.  Sometimes events move so rapidly, that getting out all of the necessary information required to make a timely plan just isn’t possible. All members of the campaign team deal with this frustration from time to time.  Unfortunately, an Advance man in the field putting together logistical information concerning the departure or arrival of a flight moving the candidate to a planned event, or a change in a hotel room reservation for a different hotel, or the loss of a computer disk or a missed phone call with a key supporter, can be too complex to fix on the fly. Experienced Advance men have long-standing contingency plans for any foreseeable emergency and are prepared to respond to these eventualities.

Charles Slepian has served as an Advance man for elected officials and political candidates in various parts of the United States.  He escorted former New York City Mayor John Lindsay on college campuses from New York to Oregon and during volatile disturbances on city streets during anti-war riots and racial protests during the civil disorders of the 1960s and 70s.  He served as Deputy Commissioner of the N.Y.C. Department of Public Events, and received on behalf of the City of New York visiting heads state and Minsters of Government from around the world during their visits to New York City.


 Charles G. Slepian

Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center

Email: charles.slepian@frac.com

Text: 503 804 3138

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