The Fundamentals of Political Campaigns

It’s a fundamental truth of politics that if you don’t win, you can’t govern.

You can’t implement policy if you aren’t elected to a position that allows you to do so, or if you don’t have sympathetic elected officials that are willing to help. With that being the case, it’s critical that conservatives know the basics of effective campaigning if we expect to see our ideas implemented in government.

The good news is that the fundamentals of successful campaigns are the same today as they were thousands of years ago.

Julius Caesar once said that the only thing needed to conquer the world was “men and money”. Modify that idea slightly by adding “message” and you’ve got a thumbnail sketch of what political campaigns are all about.

They’re known as “the Three M’s”

The Fundamental Elements of Campaigns:

  • Manpower: Do you have the supporters that can build a successful campaign organization?
  • Money: Do you have the resources to identify, inform and mobilize your supporters – and get your message out to the public?
  • Message: What are you saying – and does it motivate people to get involved?

These three elements are universal to all campaigns. They don’t change.

They are “elements” in the sense that virtually every aspect of a campaign’s organization and activity revolves around one of them. That means that you should arrange your campaign accordingly around those areas of responsibility, (ex. communications, fundraising and organization). Don’t make things any more complicated than they absolutely need to be.

Regardless of whether a campaign is national, state or local in scope, the objective is the same. To win. Having the most devoted and numerous volunteers, the most money (or enough) and the most compelling message goes a long way towards that goal.

In addition to being the fundamental “elements” of campaigns, they are also the fundamental sources of political strength.

Don’t forget it.

The Fundamental Imperatives of Campaigns:

The same principles that apply to successful grassroots activism also apply to political campaigns. Generally speaking, there are three fundamental imperatives for any election campaign:

  1. Identify and organize your supporters
  2. Inform them
  3. Mobilize them

They are “imperatives” in the sense that virtually everything that a campaign does should accomplish one of these items.

Without identified people who are willing to support the campaign, you don’t have a campaign. Without information (built around the campaign’s “message”), you can’t motivate people – and they can’t help educate and motivate others to join the effort. And if they’re not mobilized to turn out (and help turn out others) on Election Day, you’ll lose.

These three “imperatives” should constitute the vast majority of the time, resources and effort spent on behalf of any campaign. Use them to evaluate all of the campaign’s activity, in the terms of: “does it accomplish any of the three imperatives”.

If it doesn’t, think twice.

The Four Rules to Winning a Campaign:

When it comes to winning an election, it’s not complicated. It’s not some secret formula that you need to pay a lot of money for, and it hasn’t changed since this country first started holding elections. You need more votes than the other guy (or gal).

The “rules” for how to make that happen were spelled out best by someone who (at the time) was a little known congressman from Illinois who went on to get himself elected President.

It’s a straightforward “mobilization” plan that derives from the fundamental “imperatives” listed above.

  1. Obtain a complete list of voters
  2. Determine how they will vote
  3. Contact the favorable voters
  4. Get your voters to the polls

In other words, start with the outer rings of the target and work your way down towards the bulls-eye. When it comes to summarizing the basics of a “get-out-the-vote” strategy, you can’t do much better than that.

Of course there are a number of other aspects to running a campaign, but they don’t really matter very much if you don’t do the basics. No matter how much modern technology may change “how” things are done, the fundamentals still apply.

No matter what kind of political or issue-based campaign you’re working on, don’t let yourself get sidetracked.

Do the fundamentals. You’ll be glad you did.

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