The five pillars of a winning campaign
Back in the day, as they say, there weren't enough Republican-leaning districts to make a majority in the Ohio Senate. So we had to pick the best targets. Soon we developed the Five Pillars theory and learned that if we could outshine the opposition in three of the five, we'd usually win.
One's attractiveness, biography, commercial success or resume doesn't matter. (The graveyard of forgotten candidates includes entire sections for telegenic newspeople, decorated soldiers, wealthy businesspeople and technocrats.) The best candidates are leaders who can recruit. So they will build their following into a crowd of volunteers, fund-raisiers and donors. Without relying on the state organization (or in the case of Congressional candidates, the NRCC) for money and volunteers.
It's now how much, it's how it's spent. Which candidate can raise enough for the right campaign plan, and who can spend it most effectively?
You need at least two, and in 2021 the Democrats have gifted us both: silence in response to urban rioting, and incompetence everywhere in government, from Afghanistan to inflation to Coronavirus. These are health and security issues atop everyone's hierarchy of needs.
Strategy and execution. This where the rubber meets the road. Can you form the right strategy, target the right voters and then recruit the people, raise the money, and keep everything moving and on schedule?
Refers to the voting habits of the district and the mood of the electorate. Voting habits rarely change and turnout is the key. The all-important enthusiasm gap means a candidate is either riding a wave or swimming against the tide. For Republicans, 1984, 1994 and 2010 were important "wave" elections. (Keep your fingers crossed for 2022. Good signs everywhere.) Some districts aren't winnable except with help from a bad opponent or strong political tailwinds in a particular year. Some "safe" districts turn into expensive rescue jobs when we're swimming against the tide (as we did in 1982, 1990, 2006 and 2018).