Worst Mistakes Candidates Make #4

Not Doing their Homework on the Jurisdiction, City or District.

I once read a book written by someone who had run for public office as a Republican. In his book he remarked that he did not know that 65% of the voters in the district were registered democrats until long after he’d filed his candidacy. In other words it never dawned on him until midway through the campaign that he did not have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

It’s hard to fashion an effective marketing strategy if you don’t know your market, and the demographics of those to whom you are making your case.

It’s not rocket science. The homework should be done before the campaign goes public.

The basics? Party affiliation. Ethnicity. Race. Religious affiliation. Income. Age. Employment status. Major Employers. Union Membership. Percentage of women who work outside the home. Percent employed by local, state and federal government versus the private sector. Unemployment rate. The number of parents with children. The counties, towns, or civil subdivisions where voters live. The media markets in which they reside. Major news outlets. Important newspapers and talk radio stations. School districts—their enrollment, budgets. The location and enrollment in private and charter schools. Important Elected officials.

Just as important, every candidate should study the historical voting patterns of the district, broken down by civil subdivision, broken down by election district, for there is often a sizable difference in the electorate in off-year versus presidential years. It’s hard to discern the number of swing voters in a jurisdiction absent this kind of homework. Hard to establish your target universe without knowing where and who the targets are.

Going into a campaign without having access or knowing the information referenced above is like walking into an exam without having studied the material. You may slug your way through it, but chances are you’ll walk out of the test kicking yourself for not having studied. And chances are you’ll probably flunk the exam.

And a personal note. I am forever amazed at the number of incumbent politicians who fail to do their homework, and more important, fail to monitor the demographic changes in their jurisdiction. Districts and jurisdictions do change over time as people move, businesses open and close, etc. Ignore the trends at your own peril.

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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.

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