Competitive, hard hitting elections are usually won by the candidate who throws the best punch in the final hours. In this video, how to outsmart your opponent in a political campaign.

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In a recent video I mentioned there are four key pillars of a political campaign: Your campaign message, how you execute it, your strategy and how you outsmart your opponent.

Today we’ll discuss something I call war gaming. How to anticipate everything your opponent might do, and develop a plan to counter it.

If you’ve ever watched a great football coach, you’ve seen it. When the coach notices the other team pulling out the star runners, and putting in star pass catchers, they in turn send in players good at defending a pass play.

They know what they are going to do in any situation because they have studied game films; they know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team. They anticipate every stunt the opposing team might try, and what they’re going to do when they see it coming.

It’s called war gaming, something all smart political candidates do after they’ve put together their campaign message, execution plan, and plotted their campaign strategy. I’ll show you how it’s done.

  • First, jot down what you are going to say about yourself: Your bio, story, values, issue positions, and what you expect your opponent to say about their own background, story, values and issue positions.
  • Next, note what you plan to say about your opponent, and how you expect your opponent will respond to you.
  • Finally, anticipate the attacks your opponent will launch against you; the holes they will try to poke in your biography or your story, your issue positions, or silly things you once did or said.
  • Then War Game: Develop a plan to respond to everything your opponent might do.

In every competitive political campaign I have ever worked, we have gone through this exercise, and you should too:

It was the middle of the night in Santa Barbara when my phone rang. When I answered I heard a familiar voice, the campaign manager of a U.S. Senate race I was consulting in California. He wasted no time getting to business, “Jay, our opponent last night sent a new spot to the stations. It starts airing at 7 am on the Today Show.” It was a blistering attack ad, which the manager recited to me as I took notes.

We had anticipated this might happen, and we had a plan in place. I called the manager of a local editing facility, and told him we needed to edit a spot at 4 am. I called our voice talent, told him grab some coffee and meet us at the studio. I then wrote the script of our response ad. We finished the edit at 5 am, sent the spot to the stations. We were on with our response before our opponent’s attack ad ever aired.

Nothing had been left to chance because we had war gamed everything. I had a thick file of research and facts at my fingertips. We had pre-selected the editing facility and voice talent we’d use. They knew to keep their phones by their bedside. We had created a large file of pictures and footage so that we had plenty of visuals to use in the spot. We had pre-planned how to quickly get our spot to the stations regardless of the hour. It saved the career of a United States Senator.

There is a price to pay for not going through this exercise in a political campaign. It’s call chaos:

Chaos happens when you get hit with something you never saw coming. Chaos happens when you have no idea what to do. Chaos happens when nobody on your team anticipated the attack, when nobody on your team can agree on what the response should be.

Chaos is one of the reasons good candidates lose.

If you would like some help with your campaign, please visit my website at JayTownsend.com.

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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