I could not have anticipated ever writing this article. Then again, I don’t think any of us could have anticipated the way this novel coronavirus has so dramatically impacted our country in the last week.
The absolute most important thing right now is the health and safety of our communities.
That’s why we are and we must practice social distancing — a term I wasn’t even familiar with when this year began.
We have to protect the older Americans who can be hit the hardest by this virus, which may be ten times more deadly than the flu.
Let’s hope and pray that this is not the case.
We also have to do all that we can to prevent our hospitals from being overloaded with patients afflicted by Covid-19, as has happened in Italy.
Those are the two main reasons our country is doing social distancing and sheltering in place right now.
The fact is that the novel coronavirus is here and it’s going to have an impact.
Even if certain aspects of the virus’ impact are not yet fully known, lessening the severity of that impact is the goal we are all working to achieve.
And yet this all happens in a presidential election year.
Many states and communities still have primary elections coming up.
Skipping elections is not something that happens in the United States.
However, as of this writing, Connecticut, Deleware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island have all postponed upcoming primary elections.
They will occur (possibly through Vote By Mail) and Election Day for you will still arrive.
So how do you campaign for office when person-to-person contact is being strongly discouraged to stop the spread of this deadly virus?
Here are five things you as a candidate can do during this time of fear and uncertainty as our country works to contain, mitigate, and defeat this coronavirus.
1. Demonstrate Leadership
During any crisis, people look for leadership.
Today they are looking to the President, their governor, and their local elected officials to provide that leadership during this pandemic.
That’s why the novel coronavirus is a bigger threat to Donald Trump’s re-election chances than impeachment was or that Joe Biden could be.
If a majority of Americans believe President Trump provides true leadership during this crisis, he will likely be re-elected.
If he’s perceived by a majority to not have provided leadership, then there’s a very good chance he won’t be re-elected.
The same is true of a governor, mayor, or other elected official who appears helpless or hapless if their constituents wind up hit hard by Covid-19.
Local governments are the front lines in this war against the coronavirus.
If you’re an incumbent running for re-election, you need to be well aware of this, as not providing leadership could cost you your office.
And if you’re running against an incumbent, this could be your opportunity to show the voters that you are the leader they want to put in office the next time around. (See also: The Pros and Cons of Running Against an Incumbent)
This article, How Candidates Can Show Leadership During the Coronavirus Crisis explains the three things you need exhibit to demonsrate your leadership to the voters of your community.
2. Utilize Your Online Assets
Your website, your Facebook page, and all of your other online assets have just increased in value.
Why’s that you ask?
Because online you now have the opportunity to provide necessary information that people are desperately looking for during this crisis.
There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there about the novel coronavirus — especially from China.
Some of it has caused people to panic and horde bottled water, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer.
Some has caused people to ignore the risk the coronavirus truly presents, especially to older American and those with heart and respiratory issues.
Therefore, use your campaign to be a center for truthful and useful information that people need and want.
Share information you find helpful on Facebook, Twitter, and any of your other social media accounts.
(This article 5 Things Candidates Should Share During the Coronavirus Crisis goes into greater detail)
Experiment with using Facebook Live to communicate with the people in your community.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has converted a room in his home into a studio so he can broadcast out live rather than let the President and the White House news conference steal the show.
Post updates of pertinent information on your website. Consider adding a coronavirus section to it.
You can also send out email newsletters to the voters specifically regarding the virus.
And if you see blatantly false and potentially dangerous information online about the virus, don’t be afraid to debunk it even if you piss some people off and lose a potential vote or two.
Telling the truth, helping to protect the members of your community, and slowing the spread of the virus is more important than having the support of an uninformed, loud-mouth wack-job or two.
Use your online assets to do this — but be very careful to ensure what you share is truthful and accurate.
3. Send Mail
A solid mail program should already be a major part of your campaign.
Good political campaign mail tends to win elections, as I have harped on time and time again in my articles.
There’s no reason to not continue your mail program during this crisis.
Still, your campaign’s message needs to be aware of what’s weighing on the minds of the voters.
And you and I both know that today their minds are on the coronavirus and the uncertainty that next week, as well as next month, holds.
If you ignore this fact, you may come off as out of touch which you don’t want to do.
You should address the virus in a way that demonstrates leadership.
Like you should do with your online assets, don’t overblow and underplay anything.
Make sure that any statements you put in your mail are truthful, compassionate, and relates directly to the office you are running for.
4. Make Phone Calls
Going door-to-door remains the best way for you to personally meet voters and convert them into supporters.
Right now if I was to tell you to go door-to-door, you’d wonder if I’m trying to get the coronavirus to spread throughout your community.
During this pandemic, I can’t give that advice.
Keeping you, your family, and your community safe is as important to me as keeping my family and community safe from this damned virus.
Therefore, for the first time since I’ve been running campaigns, I am admonishing candidates to NOT GO DOOR TO DOOR on their campaign.
Instead, take the time to sit down and call the voters whose doors you’d otherwise be knocking on.
There’s a good chance they are home right now and will be open to taking your call.
For example, during the week of March 16th, volunteers for Donald Trump’s re-election made 3.2 million phone calls and signed up another 500,000 volunteers.
And volunteers are always the most committed voters.
I don’t know what script they used so I can’t share that with you, but I will give you this advice when making your calls.
Unlike during more normal times, don’t start off talking about your campaign and your agenda if elected.
Ask them how they are, what they’re thinking if anyone they know has contracted Covid-19, and how they’ve been affected by the virtual shut down of America.
You might even ask them if they have enough food, given the run on our grocery stores that’s been happening.
Show compassion and concern for the voters and use your best judgment about what to talk to after that.
5. Host a Telephone Town Hall
Holding large campaign gatherings and rallies is obviously off the table right now.
Eliminating smaller campaign gatherings like coffees is also something I recommend.
Reducing the spread of the virus is paramount right now, so why push it by even doing a coffee?
Still, there’s no reason you can’t still host a Telephone Town Hall.
I’ve written about Tele-Town Halls before and have seen them be very effective for candidates.
Hosting a Tele-Town Hall is a solid opportunity for you and your campaign.
With many people nervous or scared about the virus, your Tele-Town Hall could be something your community needs.
It could provide an opportunity for people to express their fears and frustrations.
And if you get a genuine health expert to join you on the call, this could be a solid way for you to provide key, factual information to the residents of your community.
Again, you will want to go light on the campaign aspects of such a campaign.
But by demonstrating care for your would-be constituents and providing important truthful information to them, you’ll also be showing yourself as a leader.
Remember, the people want leaders….and leaders win elections.
Be a leader!