"The main theme was change versus more of the same," Stephan Miller tells me as he points to the headline of a page in a large yellow flip chart book. The pages are filled with handwritten outlines for everything from media strategy to messaging. Standing in Miller's equivalent of a campaign war room--a messy dorm-like apartment with a futon against one wall and a small TV tuned to CNN against the other--he maps out the GOTV strategy for one of his many presidential candidates.
Miller, a recent George Washington University grad, is just 22 years old, and he is light years away from managing an actual presidential campaign. But he is trying to carve out his own niche in the political consulting world: college elections.
Since the average campus campaign isn't that much different than the popularity contests that elect class presidents in high school, one would think there is little room for campaign tactics modeled on professional politics. But Miller says there's an actual market for it, which is why he founded Collegiate Consulting. He offers guidance to college candidates who are looking to rise through the ranks of student government.
Last fall Miller devised a sweeping online and grassroots strategy across eight college campuses in the United Kingdom. His candidate--Adam Pike--was running to head the Union of Jewish Students, which spans several campuses in the U.K. and Ireland. "Student elections are usually disorganized and amateurish," Pike says. But he thinks Miller brought a professional political feel to his race.
Miller developed a campaign website for Pike, along with a plan to create buzz on social networking sites. He also coined the theme: "The Right Strategy at the Right Time," a slogan students still repeat, according to Pike.
Miller dons a blue "Hillary for President" t-shirt as he explains the thrust of Pike's winning campaign theme: change. "It's probably the most common theme in college campaigns. You're either someone who's had proven results and a track record within the student government, or you're a 'change' candidate--someone who is saying, 'I'm a real student and these other guys are just politicians,'" says Miller, echoing the message that helped defeat his preferred candidate in this year's Democratic primary.
Miller goes on to describe the typical college candidate's game plan in minute detail, stressing the importance of online campaign tools and free media strategies. "A lot of it is just getting them to do the basics," he explains. …