A quick tutorial on what dictates your political campaign strategy and how to best deal with the hand you are dealt.
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It is utopian to believe that a candidate for public office has total control of their campaign. In the real world of politics no one does. Which is why in most cases a political campaign strategy is nearly always dictated by things outside your control, regardless of the year or jurisdiction or the office you seek.
Your political campaign strategy is dictated by the political environment, your resources and your opponent. Your job as a candidate is to adapt to those constraints and use them to your advantage.
The political environment is like the weather. It is ever-changing, and your campaign rhetoric must address what is on the minds of voters in an election year. If your message is irrelevant to voters, you will be irrelevant to them. And this year is a perfect example.
Eight months ago, President Trump was planning a campaign that celebrated a thriving economy, low unemployment, and trade deals that created new manufacturing jobs in the rust belt.
Covid–19 changed everything. And not just the campaign of the President. It has profoundly affected the political campaign strategy of Joe Biden, and nearly every campaign being waged for the Senate, Congress and the Gubernatorial races this year.
Other events have also affected the political winds of this election season. Race relations, the cost of health care, loss of health insurance, help for the unemployed, rising crime rates, and civil unrest.
The environment now dictates that you say something about these matters if you are running this year. Our current sea of discontent also affects the tone of your message. The appetite for change is abundant when 80% of the voting public believes the country is headed in the wrong direction.
The second item dictating your strategy are the resources you have to work with. No campaign ever has all the money it needs. You cannot spend money you don’t have. Thus, your resources dictate the size, length and breadth of your advertising effort.
There are a plethora of ways to advertise- mail, yard signs, video, cable and commercial TV, radio, Facebook and internet advertising. As a general rule, when resources are scarce, it is best to do two or three things well, and be at peace with not doing the others.
As you construct of your budget, the most important question to ask is what it costs you to get an impression in front of a voter. In statewide races, the answer is usually television. In small local races, it is usually Facebook and internet advertising.
The final item dictating your strategy is your opponent. The campaign being run by President Trump is very different than the one he would have run had Bernie Sanders been the nominee. Likewise, the strategy you employ to defeat your opponent is dictated by the opponent you draw.
Your opponent has their own unique history, unique biography, unique point of view and notions of right and wrong — all of which affect the contrast you draw and offer the voters.
It is rightly said that a political campaign strategy can be complicated. It can be if you make it so. Sometimes the easiest way to devise your strategy is to accept that which you cannot control, and concentrate on that which you can.
In the modern age, a lot of rules about political campaigns have been broken. The rule you’ve heard today is one of the few that has stood the test of time. Your campaign strategy will always be dictated by the political environment, your resources and your opponent.
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
How to win an election:
Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.