Mark Archibald

The Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary are important. Although, candidates who fail to meet expectations after campaigning in two of the nation’s least populous states routinely argue that neither is representative of the rest of the country. Still, most political observers recognize that only the top finishers are equipped for a long campaign.  

Presidential hopefuls in 2024 should consider glad handing supporters and answering pointed questions while passing out pork chop sandwiches at the Iowa State Fair, or maple syrup covered pancakes at any number of New Hampshire VFW’s, a normal part of a larger job interview. While some candidates underestimate places where farm fields and trees outnumber people, constituents in these states are known for their discerning nature. Speeches are the easy part, those who are truly successful at the political game are able to empathize on a personal level. Activists who repeatedly show up to rural diners and meet and greets for several contenders can tell if a candidate is fully invested.

Real political work begins well before any crowds gather in mostly barren offices with more precinct maps and pens than telephone lines. 

Dedicated staffers and volunteers lay the early groundwork for successful runs long before the scrutiny intensifies or camera lights shine brightly. During an off-year election the summer season is equivalent to football conditioning and tackling drills in the heat. Sometime near the end, everyone is looking forward to the fall, having grown tired of seeing the same people and doing the same things. 

The real fun in politics and football begins in September. 

Texas High School games and college football camps will soon be kicking off. Dreams big and small will be realized, but similar to electoral politics the foundation of success on the field is determined long before the opening gun sounds.  

A former boss, who became my best friend, mandated that his staff take respites away from politics every week during his run for an Illinois State House seat. He understood that a refreshed mind improves productivity. While the boss officiated under the Friday Night Lights, I escaped by watching Notre Dame Fighting Irish football every Saturday. 

I’m fanatical supporter of Notre Dame, I have many happy memories sitting beside my grandfather cheering together and talking during timeouts.  

I’ve been lucky enough to attend two Notre Dame football games, and would love a chance to see the Irish play in College Station, Texas in 2024. 

Although I respect Aggie traditions, if I were lucky enough to see them run out onto Kyle Field, I’ll still wear green, because I am all in for that and every other season. 

Politics and sports are a part of me. I cried tears of joy when Notre Dame completed a perfect regular season in a 2012. I’ve also experienced tears of sadness when it became clear that the 2014 Illinois State House race ended agonizingly close to the goal. In the end I wasn’t ashamed of either emotion, because I was all in.    

Mark Archibald is a freelance reporter and columnist. His opinion column, On the Mark, recently won first place in column writing from the North and East Texas Press Association’s Texas Better Newspaper Contest, an annual contest for member newspapers honoring the best content published in the previous year.

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