A question many government and public affairs consultants grapple with is whether it makes sense to base operations inside or outside of the Washington, D.C., area. For me, the answer was easy: abandon the Beltway and move back to the Hoosier heartland.
Whereas the media power centers are still based in New York and Washington, D.C., the political power centers are rapidly relocating to state capitals such as Indianapolis.
I saw this firsthand in spring 2011 when then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, weighed a potential campaign for president. Reporters and aspiring campaign staffers descended on the Circle City to figure out what was what and if Mitch would run. Then a few months later we hosted the Super Bowl. It was like we were living in the epicenter of the universe.
Looking back at those crazy few months makes me chuckle because when I left my role as Republican National Committee's chief of staff in 2009 to set up shop in Indianapolis, the reaction was apoplectic. "You're going back to Indiana?"
It was unfathomable to many that someone would dare vacate the Beltway rat race, but I did. And the reasons that brought me back home again in Indiana are even more relevant in our present political environment.
"Out here," as some call it, we don't get caught up in the latest cable news chatter because it's the way of Beltway life. We get caught up in the latest festival, parade or town hall because it's the way of real life.
We don't have proximity to perceived power, we have proximity to real power: voters. We rarely have to guess what voters think. We know what they think. We talk to them every single day on the street, in coffee shops and at community events. We feel their frustrations. We know how they struggle getting the kids to school, putting dinner on the table and gas in the tank.
All this gives us a fresher and healthier perspective of what's going on in the real world and why so many Americans are fed up with Washington, D.C.
The personal relationships and human interactions we have each day trump any text, tweet, email or phone call. For this reason our work flourishes. Plus, with the avenues of communication and transportation we have at our disposal we can connect with a client on a moment's notice or be at their doorstep after a couple of hours on a plane if need be.
While the idea of being in what was once labeled “fly-over country” may still seem quaint, let's be honest. The real answers to our problems won't come from Washington, D.C., they will come from "out here." That's why being based outside the Beltway, and in the heartland, is the best bet.
A version of this column appeared in Campaigns & Elections magazine.