Monday, May 26, 2008

Republican Challengers: Winning Political Tactics

Candidates and Staffers: It makes great sense for every candidate to be on Slatecard, which is an independent organization raising money online for Republican candidates. You can get more information on Slatecard and its fees (which are modest) by e-mailing Joe at: I've heard nothing but good things about the organization.

Note to Candidates and Supporters: In the columns below, I discuss how candidates can get more visitors to their web sites. Today, on one of my national blogs, I'm getting more than double the usual number of visitors. Analyzing where they're coming from ,I can see that the "catchy" title is bringing most of them. The title is: Kanjorski's Words Driving Democratic Defeat. Also, I have the same photo/caption that I do below this comment. I also note on that blog that I got my first visitor from the following: Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh Municipality. I invite to visit that blog and see how I'm getting more people to beat a path to my online door: Remember, the more visitors you get, the more people will contribute. Give people good reasons to visit your web site, and the more money you'll raise.

PA's 11th district Democrat Congressman Paul Kanjorski, a symbol of corruption, assuring two of his constituents that a Democratic Congress will ensure that they live forever.

Republicans Challenging Incumbents in Pennsylvania (and other states) -- what works (and helps you raise money) and what doesn't work? In politics, some approaches that used to be successful (such as handing out campaign buttons) are no longer effective. Almost by definition, Republican challengers of Democrat incumbents will have less money and so they must rely on low-cost, high-impact tactics. Doesn't the candidate with the most money win? Not necessarily -- look at the Bob Casey victory ($17 million spent) against Sen. Rick Santorum ($27 million). "If you can't outspend them, then you have to outsmart them."

One approach that really works in presentation/discussions is to use a moving anecdote (one that reveals something about you and your life). Here's an example from 13th district candidate Marina Kats (as reported in The Bulletin):

"Ms. Kats differs with Mrs. (Allyson) Schwartz (Democrat incumbent) strongly on whether Washington should act presently to phase out the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Speaking to The Bulletin from her law office in Feasterville, she described looking upon an American flag that was flown for a year and a half over the base of her colleague Christopher Hudock when he was called to active duty in Iraq. Upon returning, he gave Ms. Kats the flag to hang in her office. She describes it as a reminder of the imperative that America prevail.

[Kats says] "I am supporting the withdrawal of American troops as soon as possible, but only when it is safe to do it for us and our national security interests." My comment? Perfect.

More on what works (and what doesn't) follows:

What doesn't work? Campaign buttons . . . because most people wear them once. Buttons have gone the way of the smoke-filled room. (If people ask for them, have a few around.)

What does work? Eye-Catching yard signs . . . particularly in much-travelled areas . . . they're better than billboards. (Caution: volunteer to put the signs up yourself so that they don't end up in someone's garage.)

What doesn't work? Expensive multi-color mailings . . . because they're not cost-effective and usually get treated as junk mail.

What does work? Talk show appearances . . . where the candidate pays nothing and gets to mention his or her web site several times. Exploit "free media" to the greatest extent possible.

What does work? Candidates' web sites that give people a reason to keep returning . . . and to use word-of-mouth to get others to visit. To get people to return -- and to recommend the web site -- it's necessary to keep refreshing it . . . with new pictures, videos, cartoons, press releases, and the like. Don't have a "one (visit) and done" web site.

What doesn't work? Robo-calls that automatically dial a zillion numbers and (generally) leave a message on voice mail. Such calls have worked in the past, but they are starting to back-fire. DON'T overcall people and, when you do call, make sure there's a human being available.

What does work? Mini-Town-Hall meetings . . . which can take place in a supporter's family room . . . and might have a dozen people (or more, hopefully). Critical to give the people information about the web site . . . to ask for votes and support, including financial. Give them a REASON to donate . . . an appeal that speaks to their interests. If you have six people at a meeting ask them to contact ten friends each. Leverage, leverage, leverage.

What doesn't work? Letters appealing for funds . . . when the most effective fund-raising should be actual face-to-face or "virtual" face-to-face (on the web site). There are exceptions to the this rule . . . but if you're going to do "mailing for dollars," you need to have fundraising professionals involved.

What does work? Identity and affinity appeals . . . meaning that if you're a female talk to women's groups . . . or if you're a former police officer talk to lawmen's and lawwomen's groups . . . or if you're of Russian descent, talk to groups of Russian-Americans, including people who live "outside" your district. People are more likely to give you their time and money if you're "one of them."

What doesn't work? Taking out print ads in large dailies . . . because it's too expensive.

What does work? Taking out less expensive ads in weekly papers . . . which tend to stay around longer than dailies . . . and actually get read.

What doesn't work? TV ads (expensive, $$$$$$$) in major markets . . . because they're very high cost . . . and they work less well in each election cycle . . . and they irritate nearly as many people as they attract. In the Pennsylvania Primary, Obama spent $10 million on wall-to-wall TV ads, and he ended up 9.2 point behind Sen. Clinton, who spent a fraction of what Barack did.

What does work? Radio, radio, radio . . . drive time . . . drive time . . . drive time. I can still hear Christine Todd Whitman's voice from her highly effective radio campaign in New Jersey against Sen. Bill Bradley. Vary the times, lengths (30 seconds or 60), and subjects. Keep mentioning your web site . . . and your need for listeners' support.

What does work? TV ads (yes, they sometimes make sense) that put an opponent away . . . when he or she makes a major mistake. Check out the Heather Wilson bio in and scroll down to her race against Romero. He said he opposed the death penalty . . . and Wilson immediately put out an ad that said (correctly) that Romero opposed the death penalty for child assaulters who murdered their victims. And Senor Romero's campaign went down like a rock thrown in the ocean. . .

Note: Please visit Cong. Wilson's web site at: She is an absolute jewel of a candidate.

1 comment:

David All said...

Good column. Hope others give it a look.


David All