The message part of your campaign has five components: your rationale, your story, your values, your issue positions, and what you say about your opponent.
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Today, we’ll talk about how you communicate your positions on the issues.
Issues matter, and they decide elections. And in the absence of any other compelling differences between you and your opponent, voters will take into consideration your position on the issues of our time to make a decision in the voting booth. This is what voters want to know. Are you someone who would vote the way I would? Would you make the same policy decisions I would?
ways you can use your position on the issues to distinguish yourself from your opponent. Those that work best are those in which you and your opponent agree that you disagree— on an issue in which your opponent is on the wrong side of an argument. That is worth repeating. The issue that will work best for you is one in which you and your opponent agree that you disagree, where a majority of the voters are on your side of the argument.
For example. In 1984 Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan had a disagreement on Taxes. Mondale wanted to raise them and said so. Reagan said he didn’t. Advantage Reagan.
In 1994, George Pataki and Mario Cuomo openly disagreed about the death penalty. Pataki was for it. Cuomo was against it. At a time when crime was rampant in New York it helped Pataki win an election for Governor.
More recently, candidates created strategic fault lines over Obamacare, taxes, pay equity, gay rights, charter schools, special taxes on wealthy people, the death tax, trade.
In fact this part of your campaign is where you can be your most creative. A place where you can pick a fight and come out on top. Inventory where you and your opponent are on the issues, find a difference and pick a fight you can win.
- There are economic issues: Spending. Debt. Jobs. Trade. Immigration. Zoning and Development. Budget Deficits. Entitlements.
- Social Issues: Charter Schools. Climate change. Healthcare. Campaign Finance. Ethics reform. Religious Freedom. Crime.
- Foreign Policy: When we go to war and when we don’t. The Middle East. Fighting terrorism. Treaties. Nuclear Agreements. Israel.
- If you are running for Mayor or City Council, it could be the level of city services, Garbage pickup. New playgrounds. Cleaner Streets. Safer Neighborhoods, inner city drug dealing and the level of police protection.
A word of caution. The issue that you pick needs to be relevant to the voters and the office you are running for. And though you may have found a great issue that defines the election in a way that works for you, you will still be expected to answer questions on the issues that may not be part of your advertising strategy.
A few suggestions:
- Do your homework and know what you are talking about. Most voters are not sophisticated about every issue that I have just mentioned, but they will expect you to be well informed and they will expect you to have some sort of opinion.
- If you are blindsided by a question and know nothing about the subject, it is better to say that you are still studying the issue rather than blather gibberish in front of a TV camera or pretend to a reporter that you know what you are talking about when you don’t.
- Be consistent. Flip flopping on any issue is not something that will endear you to voters or reporters.
Through the years I’ve seen many candidates win elections and create careers in public life by becoming the champion of a new cause, a new idea, a new policy initiative or a new way of doing things. That’s the way our democracy is supposed to work. Be bold. Be brave. Voters like it when you are.
Have questions? You’ll find me at 845-458-1210. Or email me at Jay@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.
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