How to Win an Election. Step by Step


There is a hard truth about running for office. A lot of very smart, very passionate people
who try that lose. In fact, most who try it lose, including highly qualified, articulate,
accomplished candidates who could have won. Was it because they didn’t know what to
do? No. Every intelligent candidate knows you have
to have a message. That you have to execute your message. That you have to
have a strategy to reach your target audience, and get your voters to the
polls. But knowing what to do, and knowing how to
do it are two very different matters. And usually that is what separates
the winners from those who come up short. Who is this webinar for? If you are running for office this year, it’s
for you. If you’d like to run for office soon, it’s for you. If you think
you’d like to run for office someday, it’s for you. And if you are curious about
modern day campaigns and want to help good candidates win, this webinar will help
you do that. If you are hoping to learn how to spew hate
and sow division, you will need to go elsewhere. What you will learn in this webinar are the
four pillars of a political campaign, the elements of a campaign message and how
to construct yours, the various ways to execute your message, and how to pick
the one just right for you, how to plan your campaign strategy, so that voters have a clear
picture of what you are going to do for them, and how to outsmart your opponent through
an exercise I call war gaming. Campaigns in competitive jurisdictions are
complicated. They are hard, tough, and sometimes they’re mean. Very few candidates
win without the help of someone adept at navigating the minefields of a political
campaign. I’ll also be sharing with you a step by
step formula I have used to help U.S. Senators, Governors, candidates for President, Members
of Congress, Mayors, County Executives, Legislators, Judges and
200 other candidates who have won competitive elections. It is a formula I have developed during my
years as a political consultant. The formula works and my clients are proof. Some were democrats. Some were Republican.
Men, women, young, old, white, brown and black. In large cities, the rural
countryside, and the suburbs. They all had this in common: They sincerely believed in their cause, and
were running to improve the lives of those in their community, city or country.
They were problem solvers, not bomb throwers. They had integrity, and a strong
moral code. They did not spew hate, or sow division. They did not reflexivity
recite some party line talking points. They had a clear and compelling message, executed
it well, had a well designed strategy and outsmarted their opponents. In this webinar I’ll show you how to do
what they did. If you would like to speak with me about helping you advance your cause,
I tell you how to apply at the end of this webinar. All campaigns start with few fundamental questions.
No one can design an intelligent campaign or campaign strategy
without knowing the answers. Nor can you. Anybody who tries to tell you how to run your
campaign without this information is wasting your time. What is the job you are running for? All elected
positions have a unique set of responsibilities that profoundly affects your
campaign strategy and the issues you talk about. When is the election? Turnout varies election
by election, and that affects the number of people you need to reach. What are the rules for who gets to vote? That
profoundly affects the tools and strategy you will use to reach your target audience. What are the demographics, partisan affiliation
and voting history of your jurisdiction, and how are they trending? That
affects who you target and how you reach them. What is the current political environment?
The headwinds of political discourse are constantly shifting, and that affects your
message. What are your resources? Advertising costs
money and you can buy only what you can afford. Who is or who are your opponents? That affects
almost everything you say and do. No other campaign is quite like yours, for
no two jurisdictions are the same. No two election years are the same. No other jurisdiction
has the same demographic profile as yours. Nobody has the same opponent
that you do. Nobody has your voice, your story, your biography. The answers to those questions determine your
message, how you will execute it, your campaign strategy, and how you will outsmart
your opponent. One of the reasons good candidates lose is
they launch their campaign without first knowing this information. There are other reasons good candidates lose–common
mistakes that even smart candidates make: They copycat. They look at what worked for
somebody else in a different year, in a different jurisdiction,
and then assume that the strategy that worked for someone else will work for
them. It won’t and it doesn’t, for every race requires a unique message, a unique plan
to execute the message, and a unique strategy. High-priced consultants have also
been known to make this mistake. They don’t delegate. They spend too much
time mired in the day to day operation of their campaign, to the detriment of tasks
only a candidate can do. Candidates are the star performers in their own movie. They
must always be at the top of their game, and that is a full time job. They waste money. On things that don’t matter
at the expense of things that do. Usually because they are not up to date on
how and where voters get their information. Technology is changing everything.
Very quickly. What was a great way to reach a target audience two years ago,
or even last year, may not be the best way to reach them this year. Their message is a confusing mess. Voters
are busy people. If voters can’t quickly grasp why a candidate wants the job and what
the candidate is going to do for them, they will not spend time deciphering
a confusing morass of blather. They bomb on stage. They blow a speech in
front of an important audience, or wilt during a debate. They say or do something
stupid in an interview with a tv or newspaper reporter. Usually because
they were ill-briefed and ill-prepared. This is why good people lose elections they
could have won. And every single one of these mistakes can be avoided. Let’s now return to those four pillars of
a campaign…your message, how you execute your message, your strategy and an exercise
I call wargaming. Starting with your campaign message. All candidates
need one, but knowing that you need one is different than knowing how to do it. Your campaign message has five components.
Your biography, your story, your values, issue positions and what you choose to say about
your opponent. Your biography lets voters know you have your
feet on the ground and are qualified to do the job. It is through your story that you let voters
know what makes you tick; that they can trust you to make hard decisions on their
behalf. Voters need to know your values, your notions
of right and wrong, good and evil, causes important to you, for they want to
know that your values are in sync with theirs. The issue positions you choose to highlight
in your campaign lets voters know what you are going to do for them; how you will improve
their quality of life. Then there is your opponent — what you choose
to say about the person you are running against; why you are the better
choice. Finally, you need a slogan—a simple set
of words that helps voters remember what you stand for, what makes you the right choice,
or different than your opponent. Those are the elements of a campaign message. Simple. Right? Not so fast. What you choose to highlight about your background,
your story, values, and issue positions depends on what you are running
for, who gets to vote, the demographic profile of the voters you must have to win,
the political environment and most important, your opponent. You have one mission in a campaign. To get
more votes than your opponent. As you make decisions about the elements of
your campaign message, one question is paramount. Does the information help voters conclude
that you are the best choice? Voters are busy people. Inundating them with
information that is irrelevant to the choice they face is a waste of their time
and your resources. Meet Sue Kelly. Florist, mother, President
of her garden club. She ran for Congress in a crowded field that
included a four star general, an ex member of Congress, and a West Point graduate who
had won the Congressional Metal of Honor. What made Kelly different is that she held
more conservative positions on economic issues than her competitors, and more moderate positions
on social issues. She was also the only candidate who had lived
in the district more than two years. In her advertising, every aspect of her biography,
story, values and issue positions emphasized what made her different
from the other candidates. Her service to organizations that advanced
health care for women, years of community service in the district, support
for abolishing the capital gains tax, her libertarian positions on social issues,
and the fact that she had lived in the district more than 35 years. All things none
of her opponents could say or would say. What we called her unique selling propositions. Her slogan made the point. “If you think they
all sound the same, you haven’t met Sue Kelly.” She easily won the election and served 12
years in Congress. Sometimes a simple slogan is all it takes
to capitalize on the political environment or flaws in your opponent. Meet Nan Hayworth, who challenged an incumbent
Congressman in an upscale suburban district. In a year when voters were
in a restive mood. His slogan was John Hall. Congressman. Her
slogan was Nan Hayworth. Doctor. Mother. Businesswoman. Three things her opponent
could never say. In a year when voters were in an anti-incumbent
mood, unhappy with the status quo, she easily won a race the pundits said she’d lose. This is the what, the how, the why of putting
together your message. Your biography, your story, values, issue
postions, your opponent and campaign slogan. There is another reason you need to address
all of the elements of a campaign message in a competitive race. If you don’t tell voters what you have done
in your life, voters won’t know that you are qualified to do the job…and your opponent
will walk into the void and paint you as unqualified. If you don’t share some piece of your story,
voters won’t know why they can trust you, and your opponent will give them
reasons they should not. If you don’t let voters know that your values,
and your notions of right and wrong are in sync with theirs, your opponent will find
ways to prove they are not. If you don’t clearly articulate positions
on issues important in your jurisdiction, your opponent can and will portray you as
a blank slate afraid to tell voters what you think. Later on in this webinar I’ll tell you why
this mistake cost someone an election in a U.S. Senate race. A mistake that would
have been avoided had her consultant gone through the step by step process I just mentioned. Now that you know something about the how
and the why of your message, we’ll talk about how you execute it. There is the what you say, and the what you
pay to say, otherwise known as advertising. I’ll start with the words that come out
of your mouth. You will need to give speeches. You may have to debate your opponent. You
will be expected to conduct interviews with newspapers, and perhaps
radio and television stations. And unless you are paying for the campaign
out of your own pocket, you’ll need to meet and speak with campaign contributors. These are items only you can do. They cannot
be delegated. The words that fly off your lips can make or break your campaign. When you become a candidate you become a public
figure. Everything you say. Every word you say is subject to scrutiny.
You are the star of your own play. The main attraction in your own movie. You must look and sound the part, for if you
want voters to listen to you, you must look like you are worth listening to. You therefore must be well rested. Well dressed.
Well groomed. Well read. Well briefed. Well prepared. Your supreme obligation is to play well the
part only you can play. For most candidates, that is a full time job. There is an art, and a science to practicing
for an important speech, an interview or a debate: How to pivot off a difficult question to a
topic that gets you votes. Knowing what you are going to say during the
first two minutes of an interview, regardless of the question asked. How to control your body language and keep
your cool in the face of hard questions. How to leave your opponent playing defense
during a debate. How to use a news story to offer the perfect
sound bite during an interview. I always help my clients prepare for interviews,
debates and major speeches. They are important. There is a lot at stake.
Even the most talented and experienced of public officials perform better if they invest
in practice and preparation. I mentioned there are two ways to execute
your message. Now that we’ve talked about the words you say, we’ll turn
to your advertizing tools, what you pay to say, the media you use to present yourself
to voters that will never meet you or hear your speeches. They include your website, video and television
ads, radio, persuasion mail, telephone calls, internet ads, newspaper ads,
volunteers, handouts and yard signs. All cost money. All candidates have to make
some hard decisions about which are best for them, for very few can afford to do all of
them. As you make choices there is one question
that is more important than any other. What is the most cost efficient and effective
way to get your message to a voter? There is no standard answer to that question,
for no two jurisdictions are the same. In a statewide race, cable and commercial
television is usually imperative. Mail and internet ads are used for niche markets.
In small, rural jurisdictions, sometimes mail, yards signs, and newspaper
ads are the answer. In suburban districts, it is usually an adroit mix of radio, internet
ads, persuasion mail, telephone calls and ads in weekly newspapers. Ultimately, your decisions will be based on
your resources, the jurisdiction where you live, the number of voters you must reach,
and the demographics of your target audience. This is also a decision that smart candidates
delegate. To people who do it for a living. For with the rapid changes in technology,
television viewership, radio programming, social media, and internet advertising,
what may have worked well for a candidate a few years ago, or even last
year, might not be the right answer this year. Meet Rob Astorino, and Steve Neuhaus. In 2017,
both were County Executives in the New York’s Hudson Valley. Both running
for reelection. Both Republicans. In a difficult year for Republicans. Both had in past campaigns made heavy use
of cable television to drive their message, supplemented with targeted mail. In the 2017 campaign, they took different
paths when executing their strategy. Astorino stuck with what he’d done in the
past, spending more than 2,000,000 on cable TV Advertising. Neuhaus took a fresh look at demographic and
viewership trends, and decided to change course. He cut all the cable TV out
of his budget, and decided instead to put it exclusively into mail, internet
and facebook advertising. In a bad year for Republican candidates in
the Hudson Valley, Astorino lost. Neuhaus won a landslide victory. Technology has changed everything, and going
forward it will profoundly alter where and how voters get their information. There is
a high price to pay if those working for you are not up to date on where voters get their
information in your jurisdiction. These are the steps to deciding how to execute
your message. The what, the how, and why it can be fatal if you execute a campaign
based on data that is out of date. As you interview consultants and professional
help for your campaign, make sure they have up-to-date information, easy access to this
kind of research, and that they know how to use it. Now that we’ve talked about your message,
and you how execute it, let’s turn to your strategy. The way you are going to roll
out your message. Think of your strategy as a movie. It has
a beginning. An end. A story line. A logical sequence. Otherwise the movie makes
no sense. You may have a great bio, a compelling narrative,
values in perfect sync with voters, and popular issue positions,
but if you don’t reveal those to voters in a manner they can easily understand, they’ll
never understand you or your message. As you begin to plot your rollout, your strategy
for what you are going to say, and when you are going to say it, look at
all the tools you have decided to use, and select one that you will use as your primary
tool, then use the others to supplement and support it. The best way to show you this is by example. In a recent primary in New York, an underfunded
candidate challenged a 10 term member of Congress in a democratic primary. She looked at all of her options and decided
the only tools she could afford to use were social media, a website, text
messages and volunteer phone calls. She produced a very compelling video that
had all the elements of her message, her biography, story, values, and issue positions. She then used social media to share it and
drive people to her website, where many volunteered their email address and phone
number. They were then contacted by volunteers. The strategy worked. Her video was viewed
two million times. She won the election, despite being outspent 18-1. Two years ago in a race in a suburban district
we concluded that cable television viewership had become too fragmented
to be of much value. We instead used mail as our lead tool, a sequence
of mail pieces sent to a broad audience to reveal the candidate’s
biography, her story, her qualifications, her work on behalf of children, the elderly
and the poor. We then used internet ads to supplement and
highlight information contained in the mail pieces to highly targeted niche audiences.
Volunteers were used to knock on doors and make phone calls
in key geographic areas. She was the only candidate in a four way race
who used this strategy. She won a landslide victory. In a recent campaign in a small, tight knit
rural district, we used newspaper ads, for it happened to be a community with a very
well read local newspaper. We used the ads to highlight the accomplishments of a long
serving incumbent who faced a very spirited challenge from a well financed opponent. We supplemented the newspaper ads with persuasion
mail to reach certain niche audiences. His volunteers knocked on doors
and made phone calls. He won a comfortable victory in an anti-incumbent
year. I am not sharing these examples to suggest
they are just right for you. I share them to illustrate a point. There is no one size fits all campaign strategy
that is right for every candidate in every jurisdiction. Your strategy is unique
to you, unique to your jurisdiction, your resources, where and how voters get their
information, the political environment, the demographics of the voters
you must have to win, the opponent you face. Any professional help you hire should be factoring
in all of these as they construct your strategy. Do any of these strategies have anything in
common? Yes. In every single one the candidate used the
lead advertising tool to communicate all the elements of a campaign message, a
biography, story, values, and issue positions in a logical sequence that voters could follow
and easily comprehend. We then used secondary tools to reach important
niche audiences. This is the what and the how of a campaign
strategy. If you want voters to understand your message, follow this step
by step process. People who are experienced in the business of helping candidates
know the art and science of creating a strategy and rolling out a message. If you cannot find that kind of help, I’ll
show you how to apply to work with me at the end of this webinar. A quick review. I mentioned at the beginning of this webinar
that there are four key pillars of a campaign. We’ve now covered three of them, your message,
how you execute your message, and how you devise your strategy.
I’ll finish up by addressing something I call war gaming. If you’ve ever watched a great football
coach, you’ve seen it. When the coach notices the other team pulling out the star
runners, and putting in star pass catchers, they in turn send in players good
at defending a pass play. They know what they are going to do in any
situation because they have studied game films; they know the strengths and weaknesses
of the opposing team. They anticipate every stunt the opposing team might try, and what
they’re going to do when they see it coming. It’s called war gaming, something all smart
candidates do after they’ve put together their message, execution plan, and plotted
their strategy. I’ll show you how it’s done. First, jot
down what you are going to say about yourself-your bio, story, values, issue positions.
And what you expect your opponent to say about their own background,
story, values and issue positions. Next note what you plan to say about your
opponent, and how you expect your opponent will respond to you. Finally, anticipate the attacks your opponent
will launch against you, the holes they will try to poke in your biography, or your
story, your issue positions, or silly things you once did or said. Then war game. Develop a plan to respond everything
your opponent might do. In every competitive election I have ever
worked we have gone through this exercise, and you should too. It was the middle of the night in Santa Barbara
when my phone rang. When I answered I heard a familiar voice,
the campaign manager of a U.S. Senate race I was consulting in California.
He wasted no time getting to business. “Jay. Our opponent last night sent a new
spot to the stations. It starts airing at 7 am on the Today Show.” It was a blistering attack ad, which the manager
recited to me as I took notes. We had anticipated this might happen, and
we had a plan in place: I called the manager of a local editing facility,
and told him we needed to edit a spot at 4 am. I called our voice talent,
told him grab some coffee and meet us at the studio. I then wrote the
script of our response ad. We finished the edit at 5 am, sent the spot
to the stations. We were on with our response before our opponent’s attack
ad ever aired. Nothing had been left to chance because we
had war gamed everything. I had a thick file of research and facts at my fingertips. I
had preselected the editing facility and voice talent we’d use. They
knew to keep their phones by their bedside. I had created a large file of pictures and
footage so that we had plenty of visuals to use in the spot. We had pre-planned how
to quickly get our spot to the stations regardless of the hour. It saved the career of a United States Senator. There is a price to pay for not going through
this exercise. It’s call chaos. Chaos happens when you get hit with something
you never saw coming. Chaos happens when you have no idea what to
do. Chaos happens when nobody on your team anticipated the attack, when nobody
on your team can agree on what the response should be. Chaos is one of the
reasons good candidates lose. Meet Jill Docking. She once ran for the U.
S. Senate in the State of Kansas. Stellar qualifications. Well spoken. The kind
of middle of the road democrat that can win an election in Kansas. She also happens to be Jewish. Fearful that
voters in a state filled with conservative evangelical Christians would not react well
to her religious affiliation, Mrs. Docking omitted any mention of her religion during
her campaign. During the final days of a hotly contested
race, thousands of evangelical voters received a phone call. What is called a push poll.
They were asked who they planned to vote for. If they said Jill Docking, they were asked
a second question—“would you still vote for Jill Docking if you knew that she
refuses to let her children go to church or attend Sunday School?” Because she’d never talked about her religious
affiliation, those receiving the call knew nothing of Mrs Docking’s religious
beliefs. And because they knew nothing, they assumed that Mrs. Docking
was an atheist or agnostic. Because her team had never anticipated that
her opponent would pull such a filthy stunt, it sank her campaign. Competitive politics is sometimes a blood
sport. You don’t have to be filthy, or unethical to win, but you should never
assume your opponent shares your ethical standards or your moral code. Now you know why you heard me say that competitive
campaigns are complicated. They are hard, tough, and sometimes they’re
mean. You stand a much better chance of winning if you go through the step
by step process I’ve described in this webinar. It is very hard to win a
competitive election if you don’t. There are a number of ways you can apply what
I shared, or find help to advance your cause You are welcome to use the information I’ve
shared in this webinar to design and execute your own campaign.
You can watch the 300 free videos on my You Tube Channel, which cover in detail almost
every aspect of a political campaign. You can contact the political party organizations
in your state or community. There are organizations that maintain a list
of companies and people that help candidates for office, including Campaigns
and Elections, and the American Association of Political Consultants. If you’d like to speak with me, I do accept
a limited number of clients. If you are interested, please complete the application.
In it you’ll find some questions that will help me research your jurisdiction so
that I am well prepared for a conversation with you. Once I’ve reviewed it, I’ll send you an
email so that you can schedule a time for our talk on a day and time convenient
to you. There will be no charge for the call. You
should expect that our conversation will last an hour. I am particular about who I work with, just
as I expect you to be particular about who you work with. This is what I will expect of you: You must be sincere about what you want to
do for your jurisdiction, community, city or country. I care that you are willing
to stand for something grand. That you fervently believe in a cause. You must have integrity. You must be coachable, and anxious to learn. You must want to win. This is what you can expect from me. I don’t care what party you belong to. I
have worked with democrats and republicans, and people of all persuasions
around the globe. There are good people in almost all political parties. I don’t care about your ideology, or whether
you call yourself a liberal, moderate or conservative. If you are running for the right reasons,
to fix a problem, correct an injustice, right a wrong…those
labels don’t mean much. It is not my role to impose my beliefs on
you. My job is to help you express your views and win an election in your jurisdiction. I will not ask you to parrot the playbook
of a political party, or sing the gospel of a special interest group. I will be helping
you express your ideas, and doing what works best for you and your campaign. During our conversation we’ll talk about
your jurisdiction, your message, how you plan to execute it, your strategy. Urgent challenges
that you may have. Problems that need attention. How I can best help you. If I can’t help you, I’ll say so. If I
can, I’ll tell you how. I can also tell you this. If we work together, you will grow. Personally,
and professionally. You will become a smarter and a much better
candidate. You will speak with greater confidence, passion
and authority, knowing that you have a message, a plan, a strategy that is
right for you and your jurisdiction. And while no one can guarantee you victory,
you will run a much better campaign for having worked with me. That is the what that you will receive from
me. There is also a why I do what I do and before I close I’ll share that
with you. I believe politics can and should be a noble
profession. For it is through people unafraid to live their passion that billions
have been freed from the yoke of bondage, freed from the chains of poverty and offered
some measure of the freedom that is the inherent right of all humankind. The greatest rewards I have known have come
from helping good candidates prevail in the marketplace of ideas, right
a wrong, correct an injustice, advance a cause, improve the lives of people in their jurisdiction. It is what I was born to do. If you are interested in talking, complete
the application. I’ll send you a link with available time slots on my calendar, and you
can pick a date and time convenient for you. I hope something I’ve shared served to advance
your cause. Or made you a wiser candidate. Or inspired you to use your talents to advance
a noble cause. Until we meet again, or even if we don’t,
I wish you good luck, a good campaign and success in public life.

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