There’s really only one thing that differentiates a winning political candidate from a losing office seeker. It’s so clear and obvious that many candidates miss it. Simply put, winning candidates focus on winning the election. Losing candidates don’t.
Yes, it’s obvious that as a candidate for elected office your focus should be on winning. Yet I’ve seen too many candidates give their attention to something other than victory because they weren’t 100% committed to the task at hand.
And guess what? All of the candidates I’ve seen who were not laser focused on winning wound up losing.
If you’re running for office, you better be in it to win it. If you’re not, then you shouldn’t be running at all.
That’s why you should never take the decision to run lightly. You need to ask yourself if you are 100% committed to doing all it takes to be victorious on Election Night.
If you’re married, you need to have your spouse’s support. Without it you won’t be able to focus, especially when things get tough – and they will get tough. Like Lloyd Bentsen once said, politics is a full contact sport.
You need your spouse’s total commitment to the endeavor. If you don’t have it there’s a good chance you’ll lose your race. You might also lose your marriage. Even worse, you could lose both.
Now if you’re married and both you and your spouse are all in, then are you legitimately prepared to do what it takes to win?
Are you willing to raise the money necessary to successfully communicate with the voters?
Are you willing to go on the attack if circumstances require you to do so?
Are you willing to make the time commitment necessary to spend hours every day walking precincts and doing all of the activities required of a candidate to win an election?
If your answer isn’t a 100% yes, then you shouldn’t be running.
Even if it’s a 90% commitment to your cause you’re still in danger of losing. Why? Because if you’re running against a candidate who has an even stronger desire to win, they will beat you.
A few weeks ago I saw this principle play out on a campaign I was working on in Riverside, California.
Two-term City Councilmember Paul Davis was being challenged by Chuck Conder. Chuck retained my services to consult for his race.
Now I was quite familiar with Paul Davis. Eight years before Davis had beat a two-term incumbent named Frank Schiavone I’d been helping.
Davis beat Schiavone in that race for one simple reason: He was focused 100% focused on winning, Frank Schiavone wasn’t.
While Schiavone raised the money, sent out mail, and participated in the forums, he didn’t walk a single precinct that I’m aware of.
On the other hand, Paul Davis did. He went the extra mile and he removed the complacent incumbent.
Now eight years later, Davis took on the role of the complacent incumbent who took his re-election for granted.
Yes he raised money. Yes he sent out plenty of mail. Yes he attended all of the forums. But Chuck Conder won the race.
Why? Because Chuck was totally committed to winning. Davis wasn’t. He was focused on other things.
Two weeks before Election Day, Paul Davis proudly took several days off of campaigning to go to Las Vegas. Instead of knocking on doors and working to persuade voters, Davis was out of state at the convention for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
When we heard Davis was going to the convention, the campaign considered calling him out for being more interested in taking junkets than taking care of business for his constituents. We decided against it.
We intentionally didn’t want to do anything that convinced the incumbent to stay in town and campaign. We wanted to take full advantage of his absence. And we did.
While Paul Davis was out of town playing big shot at the Shopping Center convention, Chuck Conder was walking holes in his shoes going door-to-door to meet and talk to the voters.
When the ballots were tallied, the voters made the decision to remove Paul Davis from the City Council and replace him with Chuck Conder.
Many people were surprised by this outcome remembering how Davis had beat Frank Schiavone eight years before.
But Davis didn’t have the focus in 2017 that he’d possessed in 2009. Chuck Conder did and he won.
If you want to run for elected office you need to be very honest with yourself about how hard you are willing to work to win.
You need to be 100% committed to the task like Chuck Conder was in his race for Riverside City Council.
And you need to know that your spouse is 100% behind the effort as well. I can tell you from first hand experience that Chuck’s wife Sharon was completely supportive of his campaign.
Now should either of those not be true for you, then you should reconsider running for office.
The voters can tell who wants it more and the candidates who don’t campaign with their whole heart usually wind up losing.
You need look no further than the rise and fall of Paul Davis who beat an incumbent he outworked, then lost his office because he was outworked by a totally committed and 100% focused challenger.