Sunday, June 1, 2008

Candidates: How to Win Elections

The following is me imagining that I'm Karl Rove . . .

June and July are important months for congressional candidates running against incumbents. Yes, they're times to raise money so that you can get your message across to voters. And they're critical in building an organization that will help you finish ahead of the opposition on Election Day.

However, perhaps even more critical than an organization and finance is your strategy and tactics. Strategy relates to your goal: is it to win, or is it to make a statement? Is your aim to win the race, or is it to build a foundation for a future win?

Tactics are the actions you'll take to achieve your goal. Distributing yard signs is a tactic, and so is making buys for TV and/or radio ads. The general principle is: don't spend any money unless you're darn sure it's going to get your votes. Don't spend it because some consultant told you to do so.

Basically, you need to determine where you're strong -- and where you're not. Basically, you're asking: what individuals and groups are for me and which aren't? Also, where can you build on your support -- and how many resources should you expend in doing so?

Because the time between now and election -- and it may seem almost endless now -- is in fact finite, you're forced to make choices. If working an area hard for a week might net you 50 additional votes, you need to ask if it's worth it. If there's another area where you might get 100 votes for a week's effort, then you should devote your time and resources there.

There's a tendency in politics to spend a great deal of time picking low-hanging fruit. I've been in phone sessions that focus on calling registered Republicans to make sure they vote. That's fine, but if your need as a candidate to get votes from Independents and moderate Democrats, it probably makes more sense to call them. In fact, it may make the most sense to ask them face-to-face.

The best way to get someone's vote is to ask them for it. If he or she resists, provide the person with a good reason to vote for you.

It's okay to ask in apparently unusual places. In the Republican presidential primaries, Mike Huckabee was the only Republican to accept an invitation to address the International Order of Machinists. The head of Machinists said Huckabee had made a good decision. Why? Because more than one-third of the Machinists were registered Republicans. (That would mean a good number of them were Independents.)

More to come on Monday a.m. (or earlier), including "make them an argument they can't refuse"

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