The Ten Basic Truths of Politics

Feel like you're not getting traction out there? Worried that your campaign isn't on the right track? It's time for a course correction. Start by considering the fundamental truths we've learned over many years in many campaigns.

1. The candidate with the most votes wins

Too many candidates operate as if they don't understand this basic fact. (So you're running for Congress with 5,000 Facebook friends? Outstanding. But it's not even one percent of the district! ) Do some basic precinct research. Prioritize and plan accordingly. Ignorance of the numbers is the surest path to ignominious defeat.

2. You win by maximizing YOUR vote and NOT by minimizing THEIR vote.

If you accept the fact that going door-to-door in a precinct will increase your vote by 10 percent, then here's a simple exercise: Let's say the precinct has 1,000 voters. If you're a Republican and the precinct's average R vote is 60 percent, then you'll earn 60 extra votes by knocking on every door. If it's a 40 percent R precinct, you'll increase your tally by only 40 votes for the same time spent.

3. Personal contact works.

In fact, it's the only campaign technique known to work every time. Reasonable people will ignore the party label and vote for you if they

a) know you,
b) remember meeting you,
c) remember hearing from a friend who endorses you, or
d) remember hearing from you on an issue important to them.

The goal of your campaign, therefore, is to accomplish items (d), (c), (b) and (a). In that order.

Important note for R candidates: Yellow-dog Democrats are not reasonable people, politically speaking. Their voting habits are rooted in family tradition, simple-minded liberalism, union membership or government dependency. These connections are not easily broken.

4. 80 percent already have voted. In their minds.

Most voters are unalterably partisan, a fact reconfirmed every year by polling data and election results. Only a minority are truly moveable. So the trick for a Republican candidate is to a) find and persuade that 20 percent or so, b) get the reliable Republicans to the polls.

5. Campaigning is recruiting

To paraphrase the immortal Woody Hayes: you win with people. Volunteers to call, canvass, talk to their friends and post a sign in the yard. Donors to raise and give money. The more people you recruit, the greater your chances of success. If you're having trouble recruiting effective help, it's time fix the problem.

6. Success results from the smart application of limited resources.

There's never enough money, time and help, so your skill in targeting, planning, budgeting and prioritizing is usually one of the factors determining victory or defeat. Working smart is at least as important as working hard.

7. Help is NOT on the way

If you're a challenger hoping for last-minute help from your caucus committee, we have a word of advice: Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Caucus committees are primarily incumbent-protection operations. They don't start out that way but there's always at least a couple of incumbents, mistakenly considered safe, who end up in need of help and money. Mostly money. Lots of it. At the expense of one or two hard-working challengers whose calls are no longer returned.

8. Forty five percent of households get a government check.

The smart Democrat candidates will reach most of them -- repeatedly -- with warnings of how those payments will stop if the Republican is elected. It might be that candidate's only issue. But it's an effective one.

9. No plan = No win.

A project with a hard deadline (i.e. election day) cannot be run by the seat of one's pants. A campaign plan is a weekly series of deadlines to accomplish important goals. (It also includes a budget and cash-flow chart.) Without those weekly deadlines, the weeks will pass with nothing accomplished. Start with a plan. Or don't start.

10. On election morning, half will already have voted.

... that's if your state allows no-fault absentee or early voting. (In a recent Cleveland-area primary, 70 percent voted early.) Are you prepared with a system to contact thousands of absentee voters on a daily basis and then remove from further contact those who've already voted? If not, then you should call us. The Filpac system handles this task well.