Long hours, lots of stress, very little sleep, and loads of junk food – veteran campaign worker Ken Snyder says he has done his body, and health, no favors over the years. “I’m 50 now – but if you cut me open, I’m probably 80 on the inside,” joked Snyder, one of the founders of Snyder Pickerill Media Group in Chicago.
He spent years on the ground, managing campaigns for politicians including senators, and congressmen. He was the communications director for the campaigns of former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and former Philadelphia Mayor John Street.
Snyder likens campaigns to a deployment. “You are away from your family, and even when you’re home, you are on your laptop, on your phone, you never shut it down.”
Snyder says waking up during the hot phase of a campaign is more like being jolted awake by a ping of anxiety. “The data is coming in, is it in my inbox? We have a press event coming up, did we get the story?” All sorts of thoughts race through your head.
Snyder describes himself as a stress eater, which has replaced his previous habit of stress-smoking.
“In 1998, during a governor’s race, a campaign worker stood on my chair and took a photo of my desk. There were 50 empty coffee cups with cigarette butts, empty candy bar wrappers, and empty chips bags,” Snyder said.
Time is the most precious resource during campaigns, says Snyder, not money, but minutes.
During a campaign in 2011, he ignored a worsening cough. He felt that he simply couldn’t take time off for a doctor’s visit. When he finally did go to see a doctor, it turned out that he had pneumonia.
He said during every campaign, there’s a time when everybody gets sick. “When one person gets sick, and they power through it, which by the way, is expected, the whole campaign turns into a petri dish – it’s 3,000 square feet of illness.”
At the end of the 2011 campaign, Snyder’s weight had ballooned to 200 pounds. “I’m 5’7″ should weigh about 165 pounds, I was obese, and I decided to be more health conscious.”
He advises young campaign workers to treat their bodies like the candidate. “Make time for it, care about it, don’t ignore it.”
At the end of a campaign, Snyder says it feels like going off the edge of a table, and he has often experienced something he calls “end of campaign depression.” But, there’s a cure for that.
“All of the sudden, you wake up on a Wednesday morning, and it’s over, so you hit the beach!”