There are many reasons people choose to run for public office. Some of these are altruistic and based on a desire to genuinely make a difference while others are entirely ego-driven. All candidates should have a 25 word "I'm running because..." that articulates their public reasons for running. This is carefully crafted and is usually not the real reason a candidate is running. So why do people run?
Most candidates run to win. However, unless you run a technically flawless campaign your odds are slim. 95% of incumbents get re-elected. Even good challengers sometimes lose, but the ones who make the simple mistakes stand no chance. While most candidates want to win the race they're running for, there are a number of times where a candidate will run in an unwinnable race.
When starting your fundraising operations you want to pick the “low hanging fruit” first. This means finding and targeting the people most likely to give you money with the least amount of effort. Friends, family, co-workers are your best targets. These people know you personally and presumably like you. While many will say “no,” this group has the highest probability of saying “yes” and should be the first phone calls you make to raise money.
After you decide to run, you have to convince everyone that you are a viable candidate to win the election. Friends and family must be convinced if they are going to give you their hard earned money. Volunteers and activists must be convinced if they are going to give you their valuable time. Party officials must be convinced so that they do not work against you.
When most people think about a political fundraiser rubber chicken dinners come to mind. Lately campaigns have moved away from mediocre sit-down dinners and instead serve cocktails and finger food. A cocktail reception is a very common and often successful type of fundraiser, but it isn’t the only one.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of a campaign. They freely give of their time to help you do often tedious work. Campaigns wouldn’t succeed without them. Whether it is the little old lady stuffing envelopes and making calls or the 14 year old doing data entry, there needs to be a place on your campaign for EVERY PERSON who wants to help you. Everyone should have a role that caters to their skills, interests and expertise.
A famous political consultant used to say “In a tsunami, a lot of shit gets washed up on shore.” After meeting Members of Congress one often scratches their head as to how in the hell they got elected in the first place. The reality is that no matter how awful a candidate is, if they have certain skills they can increase their chances of success exponentially.
Too many candidates fail because they have issues in their background that they don’t disclose soon enough. Campaign staff hate it when you are months into a campaign and negative information on you surfaces that they didn’t know about. Everyone is forced to scramble and do crisis management, you get sidetracked. In reality, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure.
Many candidates decide to jump into a race without assessing their prospects. They see an opening and dive in head first. These are usually the candidates driven by ego who want to see their name in the paper, and these candidates usually fail. With this in mind, here are a few questions to help you decide if you are running for the right office or at the right time.
It is standard practice for campaigns to have a slogan. With people’s short attention span you really have to distill your message into a few concise words that describe who you are and why you’re running. A good slogan tells the voter everything they need to know in less than 9 words. Great slogans do it in way less.
When writing their official biographies, it happens with disturbing regularity that candidates mention their pets by name but neglect to mention their children by name. The first few times I saw this, I was shocked. Now, it's something I specifically look for when helping candidates write their bios.
When you meet someone face-to-face, 90% of how you are judged is based on nonverbal data—your appearance and your body language. Only 10% is influenced by the words that you speak. Whoever said that you can’t judge a book by its cover failed to note that people do.
Many candidates struggle with what role their spouse and children should play on the campaign. The answer is very simple: a flattering one. If they are not going to help or make you look good, don't use them on the campaign.