Spouses can be a trusted ally or a hazard to your campaign.
I like to do an initial candidate interview with the spouse present. This is purely strategic. I want the candidate and the spouse to know from the very beginning how much work is involved in fundraising for a campaign.
Not if, but when the candidate feels overwhelmed the spouse is a great ally to help remind the candidate why they are being asked to be on the phone/road/campaign trail so much.
What if they are a problem spouse? There are a lot of variations and different ways to deal with each. Right now I am going to talk about the “Awkward Talker” candidate spouse.
For example, I am at a fundraising event for a client whose spouse was there. I had not known the spouse to have awkward conversations before, but my eyes were opened wide that night. They were speaking to someone they knew and I was involved in the conversation. The guest told us about her granddaughter having a child, the spouse then says “well, your daughter must have been a very young mother”. They were trying to make a statement about how young she looked to be a grandmother, but that is not how it came across. I recovered making a joke about how young she looked and kept an eye on that spouse the rest of the night.
We all know how we have the best of intentions in a conversation and yet can say things that are offensive. Especially if we are not used to small talk and then put into a situation of only ever having small talk.
Give your candidate’s spouse a job to keep their mind focused.
What I did from then on was assign someone from my staff or a trusted volunteer to keep an eye on the spouse at events and help them not get in awkward conversations. Small talk is an art so always determine if the spouse can do it or not and try to help them before disaster strikes.
If your candidate’s spouse is unteachable and continually awkward. Give them a job to do at the event. Could they be in charge of making sure everyone has a cocktail? Could they have the yard sign sign-up list? Choose carefully and give them a job and you might just avoid a snafu.