The "Circus" Comes to NHIOP

By Erica Hudson '18 | December 7, 2017

Mark McKinnon (Photo: Vanguard Seattle)

On Thursday, November 16, the Institute of Politics welcomed Mark McKinnon to present a lecture entitled, “Inside the Circus, How to Win.” McKinnon has a wide range of experience in the field of politics, having worked as the chief media advisor for five successful presidential primary and general election campaigns, including former President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, the late former Governor Ann Richards, and Bono. In 2014, along with Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, McKinnon established Mayday PAC, a political action organization with a goal of reforming ethics in the U.S. Congress. McKinnon currently produces the show, “The Circus,” for Showtime.

McKinnon’s presentation focused on media in politics, specifically televised candidacy announcements, speeches, and ads. He presented lessons from his campaign work and connected them to the 2016 presidential election. His stated four criteria for running a successful campaign:

  1. Articulate a clear rationale for running for office
  2. Tell a story, identifying the victim and villain in current affairs
  3. Make the campaign relevant to current affairs; what do people care about right now?
  4. Be authentic

“The Circus” is a weekly show, and the last season chronicled political events and stories leading up to the 2016 election. McKinnon discussed the challenge of recapping a week’s worth of information in one show, because new stories were breaking every day. While covering the 2016 election cycle, McKinnon noticed that President Trump met most of these four criteria in his campaign, whereas Clinton did not.

McKinnon entertained an audience full of Saint Anselm College students, faculty, and the general public in the auditorium of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. A brief question and answer period followed in which he explained his plans for the upcoming season of “The Circus”.

More information about Mark McKinnon and “The Circus” can be found on the show's website.