One Sentence Every Winning Candidate Must Know

The one thing nearly every winning candidate has in common is one sentence.  Yes, one sentence.

That one sentence they all know may be small in size but it is mighty in significance.

It can make the difference between a candidate winning or losing their election.

Knowing this one sentence can easily turn any candidate for office into the winner on Election Night.

How do I know this?

Because I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

I’ve been professionally involved in political campaigns since 1996.

Over the course of those twenty years I’ve worked with and consulted for candidates running for city council, school board, water board, judge, county supervisor, state legislature and the United States Congress.

The one thing these campaigns have taught me  is that regardless the size of the race or the money spent, the candidates who can clearly and concisely define the purpose of their candidacy down to one sentence have a huge advantage on Election Day.

This is the case when I’ve seen the candidate I’m working with win.  It’s been the case when my candidate lost.  A well-defined, clear and concise message has often made the difference each time. 

On campaigns where my candidate upset the favorite, or when my candidate was beat by the underdog — the winner’s well-defined, clear and concise message can be stated in one sentence.

So what’s that one sentence? 

It’s different for every candidate in every race, but there is a basic formula to it that applies universally.

I’m running for _________________to ______________________.

The first blank is the easy one to fill in.  It’s the name of the office you’re running for in the upcoming election.

The second blank is the main goal you wish to accomplish if you are elected. 


That one sentence can make a huge difference for your campaign and in the outcome of the race.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Of course it does.

Too simple perhaps?

There’s no such thing. 

Too many candidates get caught up talking about too many issues or too many details.  Doing so makes it impossible to connect with the voters.

Having a well-defined reason for running that can be stated in one clear and concise sentence will help you connect with voters. 

And connecting with voters is essential if you want to convert them into supporters and win the Election.

Let’s apply the one sentence formula to your race.

What’s the main goal you wish to accomplish if elected? 

Don’t be hasty in answering this.  Take your time and think it through.  Drill down to the essence of what you wish to accomplish. 

Your reason can be very specific or it can be quite broad.  It just needs to be crystal clear. 

I’m running for ___________________ to ______________________. 

Here’s some examples of making the one sentence work:

  • I’m running for City Council to make our neighborhoods safer by putting more police on the streets.
  • I’m running for School Board to ensure we have the highest achieving schools in our state.
  • I’m running for Water Board to keep water rates low and affordable.
  • I’m running for Judge to provide justice and fairness in our courts.
  • I’m running for Congress to keep our nation safe from terrorism.

Anyone can take this sentence structure and apply it to their campaign. 

There are three caveats to the one sentence however.

1.  Your goal needs to be achievable.

If it’s pie in the sky or something voters don’t believe you can accomplish, then your reason for running won’t connect with them.

2.  Your goal needs to be something the voters value.

It doesn’t matter if what you want to do in office is achievable if your goal isn’t important to a large group of voters. Goals that are too narrow in their appeal will reach a small group of voters, but leave the others out in the cold.

3.  Your goal needs to be about the voters — not you.

You’re running to represent the people in your district.  They want to know it’s their interests you will be fighting for if elected. They could care less about any personal reasons or ambitions that you are seeking office. 

Here’s three examples of of one sentence purposes that are candidate centered rather than voter centered:

  •      I’m running for Mayor to beat the incumbent who is a rude jerk.
  •      I’m running for Assembly to use the experience to later run for Congress.
  •      I’m running for County Commissioner to find something useful to do in my retirement.

All of those sentences may be true, but none of them work.  They don’t give the voters a reason to cast their ballots for you.

You must always make your reason for running about doing something for the people who you want to represent. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were a bit skeptical of my claim that knowing this one sentence will help you win your race. 

You’re right.  It takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and focus to win an election.

This one clear and concise sentence will however help you find your main point of focus as a candidate, provide the main theme of your campaign’s messaging, and connect with the voters you need to convert to supporters to win.

Don’t think it will work for your race?

Why not? You can see it working right now in both the Republican and Democratic Presidential primary races.

Donald Trump’s reason for running is clear and concise.  Voters know it even if they can’t stomach the notion of a Trump Presidency.

“I’m running for President to make America great again.”

You may not like Trump, his style, or his positions, but it’s hard to argue that ensuring that America is a great nation is a bad thing.


Understanding that and the power of Trump’s clear and concise message explains why he remains at the top of the GOP Primary field.

What are the other Republican candidates saying?

I’m really not sure.  The best I can figure is it’ something like this:

“I’m running for President to stop Hillary Clinton from winning.”

That one’s not going to work. Yes it may be enough for Republican voters, but it’s not going to get much traction with Democrats and Independents in November.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is having trouble with Bernie Sanders because she has also failed to put her reason for running into a clear and concise sentence.

Right now Mrs. Clinton’s one sentence would best be described as:

“I’m running for President to stop a Republican from winning.”

It’s surprising that she doesn’t have a more ambitious one sentence purpose for running that engages more voters — but that one sentence is the essence of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.

It says as much on her website. The popup that appeared when I visited her site read, “We can’t let a Republican win and rip away progress.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the reporters at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Clinton conceded that she should have used a government email to conduct business as secretary of state, saying her decision was simply a matter of "convenience." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

It’s interesting that she’s fallen into the same trap that most of the Republican field has, especially since her inability to define her candidacy in 2008 led to Barack Obama winning the Democratic Party nomination that year.

And she’s in some trouble again because of it.

Hillary Clinton’s message doesn’t connect with enough voters. It immediately alienates Republicans who might cross over and offers nothing to Independents 

More dangerously for her, it doesn’t connect with Democratic voters who don’t believe progress as they see it has occurred under President Obama.

And Bernie Sanders is taking full advantage of this opening.


Sanders’ email opt in box declares, “Nobody who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.”

The one sentence for why Sanders is seeking presidency is therefore:

“I’m running for President to ensure that no one working full time lives in poverty.”

You might argue with Senator Sanders on the ways that might be achieved, but it’s difficult to argue with the common sense and compassion of his goal.

Both of these examples demonstrate the strength and power of a candidate being able to clearly and concisely state the purpose of their candidacy in one sentence.

Knowing your one sentence is huge. 

It will help you connect with voters.  It will help you pick up endorsements.  It will help you raise money.

Yes.  Knowing why you’re running for office and being able to state it in one clear sentence will help you with donors.

It puts donors at ease when they are approached by a candidate who can state why they are running clearly and succinctly.   

I truly believe as a candidate you need to know your once sentence.  Being able to state in one sentence why you are running for the office you are seeking is invaluable.

So my challenge to you right now is to take the time to think about why you are really running for office.  Define what you really want to accomplish for the people of your district.

Use the formula and put it into words for your campaign.

I’m running for _________________ to ______________________.

I would love to see what one sentence you come up with for your campaign.

You can post your one sentence purpose for your candidacy in the comments below.