Last week we discussed how to quickly and painlessly construct a campaign message by turning it into a compelling story. Today I’m going to give you an example of a candidate who did and won an epic election.

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First, a quick review. The elements of any good story include the following: A threat. An evil. A villain. Fear. A victim. hope. Opportunity. A resolution. A hero.

I am old enough to remember the campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980, who though far more conservative than the electorate, decisively defeated incumbent President Jimmy Carter.

Reagan very clearly identified the threat. Rampant inflation. A decline in the standard of living. Too few jobs. A rusting military.

The villains? Jimmy Carter. The Soviet Union.

And he clearly articulated the fear. A nation in permanent decline. The growing menace of a communist superpower. A decline in American military might and losing the Cold War.

The victims were the American people and our standing in the world.


He offered hope and a resolution through some very specific solutions. Across the board tax cuts. A buildup of our military. Taming inflation, lower interest rates, and optimism that America could once again prosper and regain its stature as the greatest military power on earth.

Who was the hero in Reagan’s story? Some say it was Reagan himself, but I disagree. He challenged the American people to be the heroes – – to summon the courage to vote for a new course, to close the book on a sad chapter in the American experience, and to once again make it that shining city on a hill.

Reagan carried 44 states, won a landslide victory over an incumbent President, and delivered on every single one of his promises.

Several books have been written about that campaign, and he is still revered as one of our greatest Presidents. Just as important, people who lived through that 1980 campaign still remember it.

Reagan did something too few candidates know how to do. His campaign told a story. It had what we call a narrative arc: A threat. An evil. A villain. Fear. A victim. Hope. Opportunity. A resolution. A hero.

Next week I’ll be back to talk about how you can use this time tested formula in your own campaign, regardless of the office you are running for.

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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.

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