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The inside story of the Peter Casey Irish presidential campaign by his American advisor

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04.12.2018

You never know what the next job will be.

Cell phones. Mutual funds. A domestic beer. A supermarket chain. An ESPN project. Condos starting at $1.4 million. A “midsize” bank. A golf course that needs 500 members before construction can commence. Ford trucks. Or maybe another technology company that will require three or four weeks to understand what they actually do, if they stay in business that long.

When working in advertising, you never know what you’ll work on next. Or for how long.

It was a late night phone call from a headhunter:

“Hey, you want to work on a presidential campaign?”

The initial thought that seeped through my foggy brain was that the presidential election is two years away, so maybe I can collect a nice paycheck for a couple of years. I am definitely up for that, absolutely.

Having worked on three presidential campaigns I know this: no matter how hard or lazily I work, it won’t make a difference. No difference whatsoever. Way too many people will be involved, the campaign will be crippled with self-doubt and second-guessing, and the only time I’ll see the overwhelmed candidate is when I turn on the news.

Act enthusiastic, I tell myself, and I say: “I’d love to work on it.”

“Good to hear, because the election is three weeks away.”

The phone call had woken me from a good snore on the couch, but I didn’t think I had been asleep for two years. Had I, Rod Serling?

“Three weeks away?”

“Yeah, pack your bags and get over to Dublin ASAP.”

“Dub... lin?”

“Yeah, and not the Ohio one. First, tell me all that you know about Irish politics.”

“Aaaahhhh? Does someone wear a crown? And the one with the most votes usually wins?”

“Brilliant.”

“Brilliant” and “grand”, I will soon learn, are the two most overused words in Ireland. Actually, they are the four most overused words, because, with the right sarcastic inflection, both words can be used to mean the exact opposite too.

Before booking my flight, I’m told that the candidate is Peter Casey; he’s a successful businessman and a celebrity - he was a regular on the Irish version of Shark Tank called The Dragon’s Den. In fact, I find out that two of his fellow “Dragons” are also running for president: Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy.

“So,” I ask, “how are his chances?”

“Pretty dim.”

“What are they saying?”

“He’ll come in sixth.”

“And how many candidates?”

“Six.”

“And how many votes are they predicting?”

“One percent.”

“One percent?”

“But everyone thinks it’ll be less.”

“And who is the campaign manager?”

“He just quit.”

“Why?”

“Might have something to do with the last place prediction, and 1% of the votes.”

A couple weeks later I would have responded with “brilliant,” the sarcastic version.

So we agree on a fee, which basically consists of flights, a room at the Clayton Hotel, and all the Guinness and shepherd’s pie I can order. Years ago I attended a funeral at a Greek Orthodox Church and the priest announced: “One’s life can be measured in how many good memories they amassed.” Admittedly, you shouldn’t seek life lessons from funerals, especially one as tragic as that funeral, but that concept always stuck with me, and I had to believe a presidential campaign, in Ireland, with a last-place candidate, and the world’s freshest Guinness at every pub, could result in some decent memories, so I accepted the job.

The next day I depart for Ireland.

I land in Dublin at 7 a.m. I retrieve my luggage and head for a cab. With every ounce of moisture sucked out of me in the six-hour flight, I notice the airport bar is open, and the bar is packed. Actually, there is one person at the bar, but it is “packed” by the usual 7 a.m. standards. Besides, it is “last call” back home.

Approaching the lounge, I hear my name called; it sounds like someone else’s name, because of the accent.

“Jerry!”

It’s a “Derry accent” I will discover, but even after three weeks in Ireland all the regional accents sound similar to my untrained ears.

“Jerry,” someone shouts again.

Can’t be?

It’s the candidate, Peter Casey.

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Results from the Presidential Elections and Blasphemy Referendums. Candidate Peter Casey talking to the media at the convention centre Dublin, Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Results from the Presidential Elections and Blasphemy Referendums. Candidate Peter Casey talking to the media at the convention centre Dublin, Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

He has come to the airport to give me a ride. In the United States the candidates never know your name, but in Ireland, they apparently wake up extra early to escort you to your hotel. I haven’t done all the research, but I believe Harry Truman and Rutherford B. Hayes never did this for anyone working on their campaigns.

Ireland, what a splendid country.

Why, I ask myself, did all my grandparents leave this place?

Oh, I remember - famine, poverty, pestilence, discrimination, a hatred for the English, and too many sausages at breakfast, but still, the people here are so nice, couldn’t my ancestors have put up with a little more famine, pestilence and the rest?

Peter says, it’s grand to see me, I hope your flight was okay, and do I want to stroll over to the “wee café” behind us for a sausage roll. Yes, it has just been confirmed, I am in a nation of sausage-addicts.

On the ride to the hotel, I glance at the speedometer. We are hurtling forward at 140 miles an hour; Peter is trying to outrace the morning........

© IrishCentral