Personal Politics – From the Man Who Got Paul, Cruz, and Rubio Into Office

For Brendan Steinhauser, politics is personal.

“Politics for me is about real world issues that affect us every day,” said Brendan, campaign manager for Senator John Cornyn of Texas. 

Since playing an integral part in the organization of the tea party in 2010, Brendan has helped elect many prominent conservative politicians, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and many others.

Brendan isn’t alone in his effort to make conservative politics personal.  He helps recruit and train new grassroots activists for a growing movement.  And it’s paying off.

With a Republican majority in Congress, many incumbent and newly-elected conservative politicians have local grassroots efforts to thank.  More importantly, they have the people behind those efforts to thank – people like Brendan who took the offensive.

“Many of the folks I’ve recruited over the years are passionate about the future of their country, and its impact on their families,” Brendan said.  “I try to encourage them to do something productive about their concerns, and channel their passion into a cause or candidate that fits their personality and interests.”

A veteran of effective and proven strategies, like those taught at the Leadership Institute (LI), Brendan has trained many local activists how to impact their communities through door knocking, phone banking, and social media.

“We conservatives can apply LI’s approach to politics extremely well at the local level,” he said.  “This will not only improve things at the level of government closest to the people, but it will build our farm team for higher offices.”

The localized political movement is growing in response to the many challenges our country faces.  Conservatives everywhere are becoming more involved and their principles are now appealing to a wider demographic. 

“I believe that conservative policies are the solutions, and I really enjoy helping candidates and elected officials who are fighting for these policies and can win the arguments for them as well,” Brendan said. 

Rather than pander to moderates, he believes candidates should focus on making the case for their beliefs, winning over independents and undecided voters in the process. 

“I believe that conservative candidates can do this by demonstrating how their ideas work better than the failed ideas of the far left,” Brendan said.

Sound political theory is great, but making it personal is one of the most effective ways to get votes.  Look no further than John Cornyn’s campaign, one where the conservative senator won an unprecedented majority of Latino votes in Texas this November.  Brendan helped Senator Cornyn win the Latino majority through a personalized effort. 

“Our staff attended hundreds of events, meetings, and social gatherings around the state,” he said.  “We visited very diverse communities, including our inner cities, barrios, rural areas, and suburbs.  We even visited a colonia along the border with Mexico, which is a very poor area made up of recent immigrants.”

Focusing on building relationships is invaluable.  Listening to individual concerns while explaining practical, achievable solutions goes a long way.

“As we met with folks and listened to their concerns, we tried to find common ground, even if there were policy disagreements,” Brendan said.  “People appreciated that willingness to start a conversation, and we earned lots of respect that way.”

This strategy demonstrates progress in conservative tactics. 

“The left tends to do better integrating emotion and compassion into their arguments, but I think conservatives are improving,” said Brendan. 

The results speak for themselves.

The beauty of grassroots politics is that activists, like good candidates, are standing on their principles.  They’re activists because they care.  They’re fighting for a cause that’s their own.  Even though people won’t always see eye-to-eye, someone who fights for what they believe in earns the respect of those around them.

Unfortunately, caring doesn’t win elections.  Brendan, however, is also very good at winning. 

What is the key to his success?    “Working hard and working smart,” he said.  The foundation of a winning effort is figuring out the right strategy and then effectively and energetically implementing it. 

Brendan took LI’s Youth Leadership School (YLS) in 2005.  He has taught at six since then.

“LI is one of my favorite conservative organizations in the movement,” Brendan said.  “The most important lesson I’ve learned from the YLS is about organization.  The way Morton Blackwell and his team developed this concept and instilled it in campaign operatives and activists over the years is really important.”

In politics, winning or losing a campaign often comes down to organization.

“The better organized, efficient campaign that understands the real world of political campaigns is going to have a better chance of winning,” Brendan said.  “LI is the best place for conservatives to learn how to win.  And you owe it to your conservative philosophy to learn how to win.” 

Brendan advises all activists and aspiring campaign managers to run a race at the local level. 

“There is no better way to learn about the importance of a good candidate, and of face-to-face communication,” he said.  “If you want to understand grassroots politics and the power of what LI teaches, you should get involved in a local race and see the impact of good political organization.”

There has never been a more important time for conservatives to take a stand for their principles.  Fortunately, grassroots activism provides an effective means for conservatives to make an impact in their communities and beyond.

Brendan has embraced and helped revolutionize the conservative grassroots effort.  His winning strategies, fueled by his passion for his work, have yielded amazing results and point to great things to come.

Please congratulate Brendan Steinhauser for receiving LI’s Conservative Leader Award.

To nominate a Leadership Institute graduate or faculty member for the Conservative Leader Award or Conservative Leader-In-Training Award, please contact LI's Director of External Affairs Carol Wehe, at

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