Why You Should Campaign Like Neel Kashkari

Guest post by Matthew P.

Today, the GOP candidate for Governor of California, Neel Kashkari, released a documentary video and accompanying WSJ op-ed detailing his experiences as a homeless man in Fresno.  He stepped off of a Greyhound bus, clean-shaven and presentable, with $40 in his pocket, a backpack with some supplies, and the clothes on his back. His goal was to spend a week living the life of a homeless man, in search of a job. Some people journey overseas on a mission of self-discovery; Mr. Kashkari didn’t have to travel as far.

Mr. Kashkari’s journey stands out as a supreme example of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, complete with some reflections about what he has taken for granted over the years.  To his credit, this is not the first time he has embraced the poor.  Throughout the primary campaign, he slept in homeless shelters and worked picking produce.  He also paid numerous visits to churches and schools in poor neighborhoods. Many credit this unconventional approach for his come-from-behind primary victory.

The video and op-ed document his undercover experience, complete with his sleeping on park benches, eating at a church mission, and relying on the goodness of strangers to sustain him. The video is worth a watch, and I encourage you to read the op-ed as well. Much of it is oriented toward California’s current economic disorder, but the lessons are palpable.

In the course of writing this blog, we see many examples of good things candidates are doing. Earlier, we praised Rand Paul’s speeches at historically black colleges and universities, along with other efforts to take his message to ears who wouldn’t necessarily hear it in their normal course of life. That may require a few visits to hostile territory, but we encourage you, dear reader, to try it. Respectfully engage people who you may not agree with. Spend less time at Lincoln Day Dinners and more time speaking to ordinary people.

Athletes say, “practice like you play,” and we say, “campaign like you would govern.” It will help you build empathy and credibility among people you will one day serve as an elected official. Here, we roundly discourage the divisive “rile your base with red meat, and turn ‘em out” style of campaigning simply because, while it may win you one election, that model is very bad for your long-term prospects of governing.

Much criticism has been piled on Mr. Kashkari for his background in finance and his wealth. Sometimes candidates counter this kind of criticism de rigeur by discussing their charitable activities, and by doing community service on the campaign trail.  And, if you are the kind of person who has a charitable background and have legitimate involvement in community service organizations, then by all means let that part of your character shine. Mr. Kashkari has a strong history of service, but by taking some time to experience the hardships of poverty, he took the opportunity to build a better sense of the daily lives of these he would like to serve. Plus, he can legitimately build credibility while learning.

Now, we do not expect you, dear reader, to try homelessness for a week. But we do encourage you to take some time and reflect on how your past hardships have helped you to become the person you are.  If your background contains periods of hardship, dredge up those memories, as painful as they can be, and use those episodes to help explain your positions to the voters. Let your human side show. Voters yearn for authenticity, and have richly rewarded candidates who deliver.

In the end, half of all candidates end up losing. Perhaps this isn’t the time for Mr. Kashkari. But he, and you, dear reader, should take a longer view.  Campaigns are long and grueling. Campaigning takes you from your family, and saps your finances and energy. So, please take your time running for office seriously, and do your best to make yourself a better person along the way. It will pay dividends once the voting is done, win or lose.

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My Frank Assessment of the NYC Mayoral Race

Lhota, DeBlasio NYC Mayoral Candidates 2013

Caveat – this is by no means comprehensive.

Funny story: On Election Day for the primary this year, I voted very late – got in a few minutes before the polls closed at 9pm.  I recognized the poll worker from my Church :)  She gave me a card and directed me to the voting machine.  I pulled the lever back and tried to toggled my choices for the Republican mayoral candidates, and none of the Republican levers would move.  I stuck my head out from the curtain and asked for some help – I demonstrated that my choices wouldn’t move, and the poll worker said, “Oh, you’re a Republican.”  She and two others needed help figuring out how to switch the machine to allow a Republican primary ballot to be cast, because I was the first – and only – Republican to vote in my polling place!  After a few minutes of discussion they figured it out, and I was allowed to cast my ballot and go home.  On my way out, I chatted with Church-lady, and she confirmed I was the one and only.  Ha!  Life in Harlem…

Anywho.

An intelligent and no doubt attractive new reader that happens to be from my town asked me my thoughts on New York’s mayoral race in the comments of my last post.  And when I thought about it I figured other candidates – especially in big markets – might glean some helpful insights.  So voila, a post is born.

Here’s his question:

“I just found your interesting site by chance while researching materials for an NYC grassroots campaign. Are you still located in NYC? If so, what’s your critique of the Mayoral Race conducted by Republican candidate, Joe Lhota?”

This is for you, Thomas! (Also because I’m too lazy to write up a review of the whole race for non-New Yorkers, I’ve included links – like this one – in case you want to get an idea what current events I’m referencing).

Interesting question! You know, I’m surprised he hasn’t wrapped himself more around the issue of school choice. Last week charter schools took a half day off to march in the streets with parents and children – Lhota marched with them, and if it hadn’t been for the debate, I wouldn’t have known about it. De Blasio is staunchly anti-school choice – this should be a single issue campaign!

Now, I live in Harlem, so my on-the-ground perspective may be a little skewed; school choice
would be a super-hot topic here, and in a good way for Lhota.  Don’t forget – parents who care about their kids’ education are much more likely to be registered/reliable voters. But I would expect a Republican campaign in the city to start in SI and Brooklyn and work from there, so Harlem may be the last place on their mind (and rightly so, story above is exhibit A).

One other issue is that this biking/road-rage incident harkens back to the bad old days of ‘wilding’ in the late 80s/early 90s. Manhattanites who’ve been around long enough may fear the results of rolling back Giuliani/Bloomberg policing policies and that could be a winning issue for Lhota, too. Here in Harlem, those bikers are a real problem. I often see them tearing down Fifth Ave from the Bronx, popping wheelies and caring very little about pedestrians.

I realize this critique sounds pretty negative on Lhota, but it’s hard for me to get a frank assessment on the positives because I don’t see anything from the campaign, no doubt because of where I live.

I will say in regards to the debate (which was a little pointless since De Blasio chickened out – he can only hurt his campaign if he exposes just how liberal his platform is), Lhota didn’t seem as calm, confident, and prepared as Carrion – not as prepared, perhaps, or simply not properly prepped on how to respond to questions you’re not expecting.  Be decisive, not flustered!

Holy smokes, I just realized I haven’t seen any Lhota commercials…I don’t watch a ton of TV, but that should start soon, if it hasn’t already.  You can’t even hope to win city-wide in NYC if TV and radio aren’t a major part of your communications outreach.  Well, I guess there’s always hope.

And before I close out the topic, I can’t resist mentioning that Lhota’s nomination in the first place is classic establishment-Republicans-shooting-themselves-in-the-footism.  They chose to back the man they thought could win, instead of the best and most genuine Republican choice.  When will they ever learn that the voting public has an eerie knack for seeing through that play?

Thomas mentioned he was researching for a grassroots campaign in NYC.  So come along with me on a stream-of-consciousness ride through that subject, will you please?

I have no idea what your issue or candidate is, but I’m betting this post about fundraising will be helpful, along with  this one on GOTV organization, and this one on 72-hour campaigning.  There are more, but three self-promoting links is enough for now, I think.

Here’s the rub – “grassroots campaigning” doesn’t really exist in NYC.  There’s always some loon on the corner using traditional grassroots techniques (that work out in the real world of ‘Murica) to try and recruit Communists, or that guy who runs for whatever race is happening every single year on the Upper West Side – you know, the one with his name plastered on a van he leaves parked on the street – but he never wins, of course.

What “grassroots” would translate into here in the Big Apple (and most major metropolitan areas) is actually ‘influencer collection.’ I just made up that term, because as far as I know there isn’t a formal term for it yet, but the concept is not new.  The book Applebee’s America digs into the idea much deeper, but in summation, it’s the practice of locating significant members in a community – organization leaders, respected pastors, other politicians, union leaders, neighborhood/apartment complex/block association presidents, etc. – and convincing them to support you, thereby winning the votes of all the people they ‘influence.’  And because this city doesn’t have any real community, this system strangely works really well.  Influencers direct, and followers do what they do best.

Now, this phenomenon does work in more average towns and cities, too.  But not nearly in the extreme way it does here.  I believe it’s partly out of necessity.  With so many dwellings being locked-up apartment buildings and gated/guarded condos and townhomes, traditional door-to-door is impossible.

The point?  Aim for community leaders.  Get your candidate/representative in front of their organizations.  If that ends up being difficult – maybe your issue just isn’t in play right now and you can’t get the attention of any of the typical, busier influencers – aim for the tenant and block association leadership.  At the very least you can plan your grassroots effort around getting into those buildings so you can actually talk face-to-face with voters, leave campaign literature, and push your issue’s name ID.

They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.  While I disagree with most interpretations of that quote, I agree that NYC politics is about as harsh as it gets.  Anyone who simply survives it deserves a merit badge, and if you can win here, you can be successful in most of the rest of the political world.

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Political Technology: Why You Probably Shouldn’t Care

Quick story:

One fine day, I was managing a campaign for a typical Republican candidate in a slightly left-leaning district when, about 48 hours before Election Day, I was informed that I’d need to take 30 of my volunteers off important jobs like phone banking, door-knocking, and giving voters a ride to the polls, and have them sit in the polling stations next to the Big Book of Registered Voters, using their cell phones to tick off the names of the Republicans who came in to vote for some new technological doo-hickey thingamabobber…apparently the state party had put this all together for all the Republican candidates.  I still don’t know what it was, because it probably hasn’t been used since.

Anywho, I tried to cobble together some kids to do this incredibly boring task, but when E-Day came, I had better things to do and, whoops, apparently my race was the ONLY one not popping up numbers on their fancy new thingy they probably spent WAAAY too much money on, and boy did I get an unprofessionally worded phone call from my napoleonic boss!

Oh, but I won that race.  By a significant margin.  And you know who didn’t win?  Every. Other. Republican. In the state.  Well, running for a contentious seat in the state legislature.  We lost a ton of seats that year.

And what did I get for my insubordinate success?

you're fired political campaign

Except Trump is way better looking than my then boss.

But I was like –

Whatever political campaign

Whatevs, sucka.

And I moved to DC and never looked back.  Luckily, this experience was on-the-job learning gold.  After that, I had a whole new set of rules and tools that helped me avoid future techno mistakes.

So without further ado, here are the 5 rules of political technology:

  1. Don’t be distracted by shiny new gadgets or digital online thingies that promise to make Election Day run smoothly and give you the biggest win since GW the original was nearly crowned king of the USA.  
  2. Facebook likes and re-tweets are not votes.  And they never will be.  Even national level candidates still need to learn this fact.  I’ve actually seen campaign plans that based their numbers on the idea that maybe they were.
  3. If it’s not already in the budget, don’t spend money on it.  
  4. Yes, there are a few ‘technologies’ that you should invest in, the first being a website.  But not a $3,000 website some scheister tries to sell you on.  One your teenage son makes for you for like $10 a month through Hostgator (like this one!) and then uses to double as his final project for computer class.  You should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter because it’s fun and it’s free and it’s a great way to communicate, but it is NOT worth spending ‘real’ time or money on.
  5. Don’t let the state party, local party, a special interest group, or any other entity or person outside your campaign push you into spending time or money on something that’s not in your campaign plan.  You may be a Republican, but that does not make you beholden to them!
  6. Bonus rule!  You are running for county commissioner (or an equally local race), dude.  You do not need some crazy start up business sending texts on your behalf to every cell phone in your area code!  Do not pay for that $h*t!
At this point you are thinking, “Great!  I now know to be leery of political technology.  But I’m really not sure what that is.”  Ah, well, I’m glad you brought that up!  The term ‘political technology’ doesn’t really have a definition yet, but what you’re on the lookout for is -
  • anything online, including email and online fundraising
  • anything on cell phones, like apps voters can have on their phones, or texting services.
  • most things that give you ‘data’ that you can’t somehow dig up yourself, like a voter database.

These are the types to avoid, at least, because at the local level they’re really not worth the money.  If you’re in a really hot race and they really are worth the time and money, I guarantee a friendly special interest group will be more than happy to shell out the cash and manpower to make it happen.  If they aren’t willing to pay for it themselves, it’s probably not worth paying for.

In conclusion, while technological advances have definitely changed the way campaigns are run and won at the congressional and presidential levels, they simply don’t make much of an impact below that point yet in most of the country.  In more urban areas, *free* technology (not specifically political in nature, however) like Facebook has proven to be a method of breaking through the noise to get some attention, but still has no real impact on election results.  Stick to the basics, the methods that have worked from our nation’s Day 1, and you’ll carve out a clear path to victory.

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What’s In A Name? Using A Crazy Name To Yourself Get Elected

funny names on political yard signs

My favorite posts to write are the ones that answer real questions from real readers of my blog!  Here’s one I received via GOP Campaigner’s Facebook page:

” I would like to run for office in the foreseeable future. I have always been very passionate about politics and serving others…but I have an unusual name that people usually find very uncommon. In your experience, how important is your name? I know this question is little weird but I can foresee it being an issue especially in conservative states, I am republican, however. I even thought about changing my name to something little more Anglican.”

My dear reader, don’t change your name!  At least, not if you like it, anyway.

There was a time when boring names like John, George, James, Thomas, etc. were the rule in politics, but that’s probably also reflective of the make up of the country at the time.  America is becoming more ‘ethnic’ by the day, and you need only take a look at the names of some of our current congressmen to see that.  Oh, and our current president is names Barack Hussein Obama.  Having a unique name doesn’t mean you have to abandon any hopes of running in a successful political campaign.

A funny name can actually be a good thing.  It’s different, so it stands out in a radio ad or on a yard sign.  Things that are ‘different’ are easier to remember, giving your name identification a boost.  There are a lot of ways to leverage an interesting name in your favor in your run for office.  Here are just a few:

  • Use word play to tie your name to your district, your platform, or the elected office you’re running for.  A little cleverness will not only help voters remember your name, but also a little about your campaign.
  • Use your nickname.  You can use any variation of your name that you choose on the ballot, including some nicknames.  If your state doesn’t allow using the nickname alone (“Smiley Smith”), they may at least allow you to include your nickname in the complete name on the ballot (“John ‘Smiley’ Smith”).  Not only are nicknames more memorable, they help to make you seem more relatable.
  • Shorten your name.  If your name is difficult to pronounce, consider finding a way to make it shorter or easier without changing the ‘essence’ of your full name.
  • Emphasize paid media that boosts name ID, like radio ads, billboards and yard signs, in your campaign planning and budgeting.

Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing is that you own your name.  You can be proud of your heritage and be a patriotic and dedicated public servant at the same time.  In fact, nowhere is that more true than in our great country.

The 2012 elections made it pretty clear that the Republican party knows it needs to embrace cultural and ethnic diversity within its own ranks in order to garner much needed ‘minority’ votes in national elections.  They just haven’t quite figured out how yet.  We desperately need brave Republican candidates from Latino, Asian, African American, Native American, Arabic, Jewish, and many other backgrounds to step up and plunk their funny sounding names on the ballot with a big fat (R) next to it.  Without them, the GOP will be going out of style along with names like Albert and Eugene.

And hey, just for fun, check out some of these funny political candidates’ names.

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The 3-Word Campaign Slogan Strategy

jackson 5 campaign slogan strategy

"Easy as 1-2-3." Get it?

The 3-Word Campaign Slogan is like the campaign manager’s Staples ‘Easy Button.’  It’s short.  It’s to the point. It gets the job done.    If you’re running a political campaign, it’s just the silver bullet you need.  So how do you pick the right three words?

Well, if you’re following the GOP Campaigner Planbook, you know that you need three main themes, or ‘points,’  to focus your campaign in a manner that aligns well with both your candidate’s values and the communities wants/needs.  You can also check out my post on campaign messaging.  This is accomplished by:

  1. Determining and prioritizing what’s important to the voters in your district.
  2. Prioritizing what’s important to your candidate/campaign.
  3. Finding the overlap on the above two lists.

Now you want to find the top three items on the list that match.  Keep in mind, your campaign doesn’t have to be about your candidate’s number 1 pet issue.  Likewise, choosing a second or third priority issue as your campaign’s focus doesn’t mean you value your first priority any less.  All this process does is line up your candidate’s priorities with those of the district voters.

Why do we have to go through this rigamaroo?  Well, you’re not going to win with an unpopular, boring or irrelevant issue, no matter how much the candidate pounds his drum.  Likewise, trying to get a candidate to champion an idea that he doesn’t truly believe in will come off fake and forced, not to mention he won’t be as capable at thinking on his feet about the issue – and that turns voters off.

So back to the 3-word campaign slogan.  Let’s use an example.  Say you’ve chosen these top three issues:

  1. Small businesses have been closing left and right. You want to incentivize entrepreneurship (we’ll call in a ‘incentive program,’ because voters like that sort of thing.  But we’re Republicans, so those ‘incentives’ will probably be a series of tax cuts and credits that roll back previous administrations’ tax hikes).
  2. The city parks aren’t well cared for, are run down, and thus attract a ‘bad element.’
  3. The public schools are filled over capacity.  Teachers are overburdened and under-equipped.

There are a couple of ways you can go – literal or conceptual.

The literal method works really well for executive offices like mayors and town managers, while the conceptual method works well for offices like councils and state representatives.  I think voters are more impressed with the literal method because it’s very honest and straightforward (which is the opposite of what they expect from a politician), but it doesn’t really matter which way you go, so long as you are reflecting those 3 key points you’ve chosen.  Rather than explain what each is, here’s an example that illustrates it:

  • Literal – Small business, Parks, Schools
  • Conceptual – Prosperity, Recreation, Education

Get it?  With the first, you’re putting a stake in the ground and saying ‘this is exactly what I plan to do.’  With the second, you elude to those things (which will be repeatedly expounded upon in your PR, advertising and public speaking) and you gain an added versatility with conceptual words that allows you to draw on others’ ideas and helps the voter accept the message with their own spin on those values.

The 3-Word Slogan is optional.  There are many other things you can do.  However, if you’re stuck for ideas, you’re trying to cram too much into one sentence, or you need to get the job done fast, the 3-Word Campaign Slogan Strategy is guaranteed to solve the problem.

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Staying Grounded – It’s What Normal Voters Do

vote ballot normal voter

I used to scour every newspaper in the state before my boss got to work.

I used to have cable news constantly playing in the background in my office.

I used to pull all-nighters planning GOTV activities in meticulous detail.

I used to put truckloads of passion and effort into a career that most people blow off as “dirty” and don’t even bother participating in once or twice a year.

That’s because I wasn’t normal.  And you aren’t either.  People who work on and run in political campaigns are crazy.  But what’s worse is that we are frequently flabbergasted that there are folks walking around that couldn’t care less about what we do.  The fact of the matter is – brace yourself – we are the one percent (of Americans that give a hoot about politics).

The average voter doesn’t know and barely cares about elections.

As much as I like to think that everyone else in America gets political news alerts from five different major media outlets, they do not.  The truth is, you’re lucky if they watch the evening news.  At the very most, your most involved voters may attend a public meet-the-candidates type event and read the local daily newspaper.  That’s about is obsessed as they will get.

I know, I think it’s a travesty, too.

Let the voters lead your message, not the media.

So what’s the lesson here?  If you want to win over the average voter, you have to get your head out of your, uh, newspaper, and think like the average voter.

Are they thinking about municipal bonds first thing in the morning, like you, city council candidate?  No.  They’re thinking about getting the kids out the door to school.  Or about the proposal they’re presenting at work later that day.  Or about where the money for the next mortgage payment will come from.

If you want to craft a campaign that resonates with voters, concern yourself (and your campaign message) with the voters’ concerns.

You were once a normal voter, too.

Lastly, don’t forget that you were once a normal voter, too.  You haven’t always slept, breathed and ate local politics, and someday you’ll be a normal voter once again.  So don’t let this whole “I’m a CANDIDATE” thing bloat your ego and skew your perception of reality.  The day after Election Day you just might be back to being whatever it was before you ran for office.

And that’s okay.

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3 Tips for Effective Campaign Sign Marketing

political campaign signs

Guest post by Megan E. – A Texas Marketing Enthusiast

One of the most cost-effective ways that politicians actively spread their message is through signage, particularly through famous campaign yard signs.

Here are some tips to creating the most effective campaign signs for marketing your political position:

          Choose an effective color combination

  • Choose colors that are easy to read like white on blue background or yellow on black background. You want people to be able to view the sign from a distance.
  • Stick with the same design. If you want someone to remember and recognize your campaign, make sure you are using a consistent message and design.
  • Don’t use negative colors alone. Colors like red or yellow can sometimes be viewed as negative like a stop sign or yield sign. This may be good if you are asking people to “vote no”, but otherwise, use another color with it to balance out the harsh connotation.
  • Be bold! Don’t use a white background with black lettering, let them see that your campaign has style and create custom campaign signs that show your unique style.

    Use graphics for appeal

  • Borders have been known to help focus a reader’s attention toward the information outlined within. Use a border around your sign or phone number to try and engage a reader to look at that information.
  • If you have a logo, or another graphic, add it to your political sign. Make sure you keep this graphic consistent across all of your signs so that your logo is easily recognized wherever your signs are. These work really well for recognition to those who are visual learners.
  • Don’t clutter with too many graphics, keep it simple. One logo or graphic is enough to make a sign pop, if you add too many then you risk creating clutter distracting people from your important message.

    Use good sign frames

  • One of the easiest ways to make your sign stand out among the rest of the political signs is by using a professional sign frame instead of a wooden stake. Wire stakes are also a clever and cheap alternative to the wooden stake that adds a hint of professionalism, but metal frames or “H-frames” definitely do the trick. You can find metal sign frames for cheap on most websites that sell signs.

Keep in mind that there are several other ways to get the word out about your campaign such as campaign rallies, building a website to help spread the word, and even social media like Twitter and Facebook. Let the world know your political opinion, and make the most of your campaign money by effectively spreading the word with cheap signs and clever branding.

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How to Approach Negative Campaigning Without Being an A-Hole

Every once in a while I come across an incumbent candidate who is just a bad guy.  He doesn’t represent the district well, he takes advantage of his elected position and he no longer cares about the taxpayers.  Oftentimes this guy has committed offenses that should land him in jail.  He may even have a newspaper trail a mile long behind him of coverage of his heinous activities.

This is all great stuff for a challenger candidate.  And I would never suggest that you ‘pretend’ that your opponent has done no wrong and not acknowledge their faults when appropriate.  But using negative information to your advantage in a political campaign – negative campaigning – is a very dangerous game.  You’re already playing against someone that doesn’t play fair.  So before you venture down the low road, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Pick your battles wisely.  Your opponent has cheated on his wife numerous times, owes thousands in back-taxes, and voted to legalize partial-birth abortion and let teens get abortions without parental consent.  What do you talk about?  Well the answer depends on you more than him, actually.  What is your platform about?  What issues are you running on?  If you live in a very conservative area and are running on a pro-life platform, it makes perfect sense for you to slam your opponent hard on life/choice issues.
  • Fight your battles with the correct weapon.  Let’s take the example above.  We have 3 very different, negative qualities that can be used against an incumbent opponent.
    The first one, cheating, is a very personal issue.  It’s a sucky thing to do, but really it’s none of your or anyone else’s business.  So I would never directly bring anything like that up in a political forum.  What I would do is take public opportunities to show off your own wife of 20+ years (whom you have never cheated on, I presume) and stress the importance of family values and the virtue of marriage and child-rearing to society.  You should also bear in mind that drudging up information like this hurts not only the candidate, but his wife and children as well, and obviously they wouldn’t need any more of that.
    In the second instance, unpaid taxes, well that’s hypocritical since his job consists primarily of responsibly handling the money that we law-abiding citizens do pay, but negative information like this is terribly difficult to pin down and prove, and making a muck of it will always degenerate into a he-said, she-said scenario that won’t do a challenger candidate any good, and is more likely to backfire if the public thinks that’s all you have to say about anything.  Therefore I would stick to the strategy of being overly open and honest about your own financial affairs, and not directly attacking your opponent on it.  If there’s an opportunity to crack a good joke at your opponent’s expense, however, I wouldn’t object to taking it.
    The third offense is an issue-related problem that can be backed up with information from your opponent’s public voting record.  The only time to directly attack an opponent is when you can site statistics or votes from credible sources.  It’s also important to allow the media to break negative information and then capitalize on it.  If you have to leak it to them, fine, but you breaking the news through your own campaign just makes it look dirty and concocted.
  • Fight for a good cause.  If your candidate’s whole strategy depends on smearing the opponent, run as fast as you can.  Any candidate for office should be able to stand on his own merits and be confident that he can win without the use of any negative campaigning whatsoever.  There is nothing more demoralizing than spending 6 months on a campaign trail talking about how awful, awful, awful your opponent is.  Choose to work for virtuous candidates that you can spend 6 months praising on the campaign trail.  Win or lose, you’ll be a lot better off for it.

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How The Internet Has Changed Politics

internet campaign politics

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Internet has drastically changed the tactics and strategies many campaigns use to communicate to their constituencies.  But it hasn’t really changed politics.  If anything, it has simply amplified politics, making it a more commonplace part of the average American’s daily life.  The changes that have occurred, however, have made it much easier for Mr. Smith to get to Washington, and much more likely to get prematurely kicked out, as well.

The Dawn of Retail PR in Politics

Thanks to campaign websites, email, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, smartphones, and a host of other web 2.0 creations, political communications folks have amassed a wide variety of online tools to bring their campaign message directly to the voters.

Gone are the days that you have to wine and dine reporters in order to get favorable coverage, crossing your fingers that they don’t mangle your press releases.  Gone, too, are the days of brazenly having DC mistresses while your wife maintains your seemingly perfect family life back in Smalltown, USA, or of making excuses and accusations like “That was clearly taken out of context,” or, “I was misquoted,” because chances are the event or speech in question will be posted to YouTube moments after it happens. The Internet has given politicians the raw power to make or break their own reputations.

Everything in Real Time

The Internet has exponentially sped up the process of getting messages from sender to receiver, and back again.  In the blink of an eye, the whole world can – and will – find out about how you goofed up an important speech, dropped the F-bomb at a somber ceremony, or dialed 900 numbers from your cell phone.  Additionally, a candidate or politician that wants to have real communication with their constituents can do so much easier, faster and cheaper than ever before through social media, live chats, email and blogs.

Journalism Is Weakened

Since the dawn of our nation (and before) journalism has been the leading shaper of public opinion.  But thanks to the internet, journalism as we know it is fundamentally changed.  As evidenced by websites like the Drudge Report, Conservative Blogs Central and many more, it’s no longer necessary to get a degree in English and work for a paper and ink newspaper to have a dramatic impact on public opinion.  Average American citizens everywhere have the opportunity to at least make their voices heard by writing blogs, commenting on major news outlets’ online articles, microblogging through Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and even connecting with each other in person via Meetup.

Politics Is Still Politics

Despite all of the changes we’ve seen since the dawn of the Internet age, politics is still the same.  It’s about people.  And not just any people, your people.  The people that you represent, a.k.a. your constituency.  And it’s about maintaining an open dialog, being true to yourself and true to the needs and wants of your district.  While there are many new ways to facilitate open communication, the core meaning of politics will never change.

 

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