Survival of the fittest

Life on the campaign trail can be tough. It nearly brought Hillary Rodham Clinton to tears in 2008 when she was running for the Democratic nomination for president.

“As tired as I am, and I am, and as difficult as it is to keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise, try to eat right — it’s tough when the easiest food is pizza — I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation,” she said during a stop in New Hampshire. “So I’m going to do everything I can to make my case and, you know, then the voters get to decide.”

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As members of Congress, staffers and political advisers make one last push before Election Day to keep their jobs, The Hill asked veterans of the campaign trail for tips on how to survive the grueling election season.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.)

Clarke, known for being one of the most fashionable members of Congress, gave some advice on how to look good on the campaign trail.

“I carry a bag… of shoes. I wear my flats around and then change into my heels before an event to make it more formal.”

Jeremy Bird, Organizing for America deputy director

Bird was the Ohio general election director for President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He now works for Obama’s campaign field operation.

“Three things you can try to control to try to stay sane: how well you sleep, how healthy you eat and how much you stress. You’re having a great day if you can control one of the three. Otherwise, at least stop stressing about your health and try the coffee-pizza-beer combo.”

Doug Heye, Republican National Committee communications director

Heye has worked on political campaigns since 1990. He said a lot has changed since then, particularly the ability to navigate the field and stay in touch with family and friends.

“GPS makes it a lot more difficult to get lost, and cell phones [and] Blackberries mean you’re constantly in touch. I remember working the Lauch Faircloth [senatorial] race in 1992. I had a roadmap at the ready and always had to keep quarters at hand because calls into the campaign headquarters were done at various payphones.
 
“You’ll still be on various group emails with friends, but there’s a realization that you won’t see or have any real conversations with friends until after the elections.”

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)

Lynch said he keeps in shape so that he can do door-to-door campaigning.

“I work out an hour a day, religiously… You might have to do it at 5 o’clock in the morning, but…”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.)

Chu, a psychologist, said mental health and physical health go hand-in-hand. She recently gave so many speeches on the campaign trail that she grew hoarse. By the time she returned to Washington last week, she knew she was coming down with a cold, but she waited to go to the doctor until a few days later. She said she wished she had gone sooner.

“Take care of your physical needs right away. I [also] think it’s really important to get centered, to come back down to earth, to have a moment to relax. It’s important to take time for yourself and eat properly.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)

In addition to running for re-election, Franks has two-year-old twins. Franks used to work on a drilling rig “where sleeping was not part of the job description,” and called that “the best training for this job that I could’ve had.”

“I’m the poster child for how not to do it. I push myself to a ridiculous degree – to the point where I’m severely sleep deprived, like now. I try to take the little suckers out to campaign whenever I can. They’re the best little campaigners.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)

Scalise is also a father. He has a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.

 “I still change diapers. It reminds me what’s important in life … My wife and my scheduler talk multiple times on a daily basis. They make sure to carve out time for family.”

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.)

“Drink plenty of water, get a good night’s sleep and don’t take yourself too seriously. I like to employ humor. It helps me blow off steam or frustration or anxiety.”

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.)

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Bilbray said he’s more concerned about his 25-year-old son staying healthy and sane during his campaign for city council than he is about his own health during his congressional reelection. Bilbray, a surfer, also tries to get in the water as much as he can.

“You just understand that there’s going to be a period that’s going to be crazy. You have to find the parts [of campaigning] that you enjoy.

“If I can get in the water and catch a few waves, that helps me get through.”

Chip Saltsman, veteran political campaign operative

Saltsman led Mike Huckabee’s 2008 bid for the GOP presidential nomination as his campaign manager. This election cycle he has worked on Chuck Fleischmann’s GOP bid for Tennessee’s 3rd congressional district and Republican Andre Bauer’s campaign for South Carolina governor.

“One of the first things I do when I get somewhere — I find the nearest Fluff ‘n’ Fold [Laundromat].

“When it gets busy, a lot of your friends stop calling because they don’t want to bother you. I felt myself loving — even when I was in the midst of 18 different things — a phone call with a friend, because it was not work.”

Marsha Catron, Rep. Linda Sanchez’s (D-Calif.) communications director

Catron served as Bill Richardson’s traveling spokeswoman during his 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Always carry the daily schedule, a cell phone and cash on your body. You never know when you’ll get lost, left behind, or when a cab will drive away with your luggage.”

Sarah Huckabee, campaign manager for Rep. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) Senate bid

Huckabee has worked on the political campaigns of her father, 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, since she was a child.

“Tip 1: (True story!) If you find yourself stuck somewhere longer than planned with only one change of clothes, you can do what I had to do in South Carolina. Find a fellow campaign staffer of similar size and trade shirts each night, wash your new item and look fresh the next day!

“Tip 2: (Also true story!) Since you don’t have much time to date, be sure to check out the rest of the campaign staff early on. Pick a good one, and then marry him, like I did.” [Editor’s note: Huckabee met Bryan Sanders while he was working for her father’s presidential campaign, and the two married in May.]

Candy Crowley, CNN chief political correspondent and anchor of “State of the Union With Candy Crowley.”

Crowley has covered presidential and congressional campaigns spanning three decades.

“Every night, write down where you are, where you are going in the morning and what time you need to be there. Put it by your bed so when you wake up in the middle of the night or bound out of bed at the early-morning alarm, you can orient yourself. If you’re in a different time zone than your usual one, write that down, too.
 
“Never, ever hang anything on the hooks behind hotel room doors. Whatever it is, you will eventually leave it behind.
 
“Travel with one of those silk sleeping bags with a cover for a pillow. They are very compact and lightweight. I’ve done this for years, even before the bed-bug invasion. Oh, and never use the duvet in a hotel room.
 
“Invest in a small, portable power strip.”

Molly Henneberg, Fox News correspondent

Henneberg has covered several elections, including the 2006 midterm congressional elections and the 2004 presidential campaign.

“Drink more water than usual ... flying dehydrates you.

“Bring your own pharmacy. Everyone gets sick. Better to have your own remedies at hand than to have to figure how to get to the closest drug store at 1 a.m. when you finally get to the hotel.

“Sign up for points and miles for all hotels, airlines, car rental companies — it adds up quickly to a post-election getaway trip.

“Be prepared for your suitcase not to arrive at the one cold, rainy location on your trip.

“Move heaven and earth to make sure your crew and tech colleagues get good meals and rest.

“Enjoy a fascinating insider’s experience!”