All political campaigns have three things in common, regardless of whether they are successful or not: the candidate who’s running, the money spent, and the issues important during the race.
This may all seem quite basic, but too many candidates who should win have self-imploded because they skipped the basics.
Knowing how these three factors affect the results of an election, will help you make solid decisions for yourself and your campaign.
1. The Candidate Running
Yes, that’s you.
Congratulations for taking this step to run for public office.
This is a big deal no matter how high or low your contest is printed on the ballot.
Our democratic system works not only if people get up and vote, but if people like you offer themselves, their abilities and their ideas at election time.
Without candidates there would not be an elections. And without elections we wouldn’t have a representative form of government.
Candidates are a necessary factor for an election.
You as the candidate are a crucial factor for your campaign.
The voters will be examining you, sizing you up, and looking under your proverbial hood.
They will decide whether to cast their ballot for you — or for another candidate.
You will increase your chances as a candidate if two things are true.
One is that you fit the part.
The voters need to look at you and see a person they trust to represent their interests.
This happens in a couple of different ways.
The first is completely subconscious.
The voters will form an opinion of you based on how you present yourself.
Do you dress, stand, and physically look like a leader?
The answer needs to be yes or you will have trouble winning.
This doesn’t mean you have to wear the most expensive clothes, have the best hair, or that could grace the cover of a magazine.
But you do need to demonstrate in person, in photos, and in videos an air of leadership and accomplishment.
The second part is more obvious, if also poorly articulated by the voters.
You need to fit the district you’re running in.
This can mean a variety of things, but put simply the voters want to know that you’re one of them.
They want to know that you share their values and will fight for those values if elected.
This does not mean you have to belong to the dominant political party, ethnic group, or religious organization in the district.
Don’t get me wrong, having such things in common with the voters of your district will help, but they are not a necessity.
But you better be able to communicate effectively to the majority of the voters in your district, especially if you could be branded as an outsider or out-of-touch.
The voters want to know that you’re one of them.
If they believe you are, then you as the candidate will be an asset to your campaign.
2. The Amount of Money Spent
When I first got involved in politics, the amount of money spent to elect a candidate was pretty much the amount of money a candidate raised.
In too many places across America, those days are long gone.
Independent expenditure committees and Super PACs have changed the entire dynamic of elections.
It’s even trickled down to local races where such money can greatly distort the contest.
There’s really not much you can do when big money comes into your race.
If it’s being spent to elect you, hope it’s spent wisely and the messaging matches that of your campaign.
If it’s being spent against you, then hold on to your potatoes and keep working as hard as you can.
Hard work and solid messaging can overcome large sums of money spent against a candidate.
Not always, but I have seen it happen.
But regardless of whether or not a special interest decides to play in your race, your campaign needs to be spending an adequate amount of money to get elected.
How much is adequate?
However much it takes for you to effectively get your winning message out to the voters.
If that’s only $20,000, then you need to go out there and raise $20,000.
If it’s $220,000, then you best get to work raising it — and hire a fundraiser to help you.
Too many candidates who can win elections don’t because they don’t raise the money.
When they don’t raise the money, they don’t communicate with the voters.
And when the voters don’t hear from you and they hear from your opponent, guess who they wind up voting for?
That’s right. Your opponent.
Don’t be afraid to raise the money you need to win the election.
Figure it out, create a budget, then like the tortoise who beat the hare, spend time nearly every day raising the money to fulfill that budget.
When the time comes to spend it, spend it, but spend it wisely.
It’s only by doing these things that you’ll be increasing your chances of winning your election.
3. The Issues During the Election
The third deciding factor in an election are the issues.
Yes, you might find that hard to believe but the issues do matter.
The right issues can throw out a long term incumbent, upset the political balance of power, and help candidates win that no one gave the time of day to only weeks before.
That’s what’s happening around the western world currently.
It’s the main reason Donald Trump unexpected defeated Hillary Clinton, why Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, and why Emmanuel Macron led a new political party to win the presidency of France.
Many dismiss this political tide as “populism.”
They don’t understand what it really is: democracy in action.
While you may not agree with the results of some or all of these elections, you can’t ignore what the voters are saying.
Politics as usual isn’t working for the people and the people are willing to give something else a try.
How did this happen?
Because too many politicians have been ignoring the issues that matter to the voters.
When that happens the voters will chose the candidate who best seems to understand the issues, or at the very least understand their concerns and anxieties about the issues.
This isn’t just happening on the national or state levels. It’s happening in your very own city.
It’s nothing new. It’s always been there.
That’s why local candidates need to be out there talking to the voters constantly.
If you’re serious about winning, then you need to be serious about understanding the issues right now.
On top of these activities you can do yourself, I highly recommend doing a poll.
A good poll will give you insights into the minds of the voters that you would not get otherwise.
Last year I ran a city council campaign for a candidate named Chuck Conder in Riverside, California.
Chuck was running against a two-term incumbent that no one thought could be beat.
I knew Chuck fit the district as a candidate.
He’d lived in the community for years, raised his family there, and was a retired Air Force Officer.
That base was covered.
Fundraising was a different matter.
The incumbent not only had the fundraising advantage of being in office, but was a wealthy man.
Chuck would never be able to out spend him.
But Chuck had to spend enough to communicate with the voters.
Between the money he raised and funds he personally loaned to the campaign, Chuck met his campaign budget.
But where the difference was made in the race was on the issues.
Chuck not only did a poll, but he walked door-to-door nearly every day for at least two months.
Because of the poll and his door knocking, Chuck knew the issues in every part of his district like the back of his hand.
Chuck won because he took a serious look at the three factors crucial to the success of his campaign — himself as the candidate, the amount of money that needed to be spent, and the issues important to the voters.
Your take way here should be this: Do the same and win your election.