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Bill Clinton had James Carville. George W. Bush had Karl Rove. Behind some of the most prominent and successful politicians are the political consultants who manage their campaigns and help them get elected. Often, these consultants receive tremendous salaries for their expertise in developing media strategies, raising campaign funds and managing other aspects of a political campaign.
CNN Money reported in 2004 that about 50 percent of the people working as political consultants made more than $100,000 a year, adding that the potential exists for successful managers of high-profile campaigns to earn much more.
Political consulting jobs include working as a pollster, media strategist or opposition researcher. Pollsters conduct various polls for a political campaign, analyze the data and brief the campaign about the results. Media strategists write speeches, produce campaign advertisements, and help candidates develop a message and image. Opposition researchers, meanwhile, dig up dirt on a candidate’s opponents, looking for ways to demonstrate how their candidates differ from the opposition. CNN Money reported that all three jobs have high earning potential but may require years of experience working for much lower pay first.
Pollster and Researcher Salaries
Quoting a pollster for the campaign of former President George W. Bush, CNN Money reported that pollsters work long hours – sometimes 18 to 20 hours a day – but have the potential to earn more than $100,000 a year. However, achieving such a salary can take up to 10 years, depending on the size of the campaigns with which a pollster works. Beginning opposition researchers may make less than $30,000 a year, CNN Money reported. However, experienced researchers with multiple campaigns under their belts can earn six-figure salaries. The website quoted a Democratic opposition researcher, who stated that a $250,000 salary is within reach for some experienced researchers.
Media Strategist Salaries
Jim Duffy, a partner in a media strategist firm for Democratic candidates, told CNN Money that some strategists start out by working as a campaign’s communications director or press secretary. People in these positions can earn from $4,000 to $20,000 a month, depending on the size of the campaign. Working in such positions provides an opportunity to network with campaign media strategists, possibly leading to employment as a media strategist. Duffy reported his firm may hire associates for $50,000 to $100,000 a year, depending on a person’s experience and campaign connections. Duffy added that top-flight media strategists can earn up to $500,000 a year.
Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.