You have until Labor Day

So you're running against a well-funded Democrat in a Democrat district. Congratulations. History demonstrates that your chances are in the single digits.

To use the football analogy, it's the end of the first quarter and you're already behind by three touchdowns. Yes, you still can win. As long as you start -- today! --doing everything right.

In mid-July the election is 16 weeks away but in many states early voting starts in 12. In ten weeks you'll need to start reserving -- with lots of cash -- crucial advertising spots in a campaign that could easily cost half a million dollars or more. Which means you have until Labor Day to raise enough money and recruit enough help to demonstrate that you're a candidate who can win. That's the only way you'll attract enough support in the final two months to make history and beat the odds.

Perhaps 80 percent of the volunteers and donors who will propel your effort are as yet unknown to you. Right now they're dying to get involved on behalf of a Republican who can make a difference. They'll join in the closing weeks but only if you've created enough excitement to make them feel they're not wasting their time.

In other words: to make yourself a winner you must first demonstrate viability. Which in politics is measured by your bank balance and the stature of those supporting you.

Starting today, forget about the fairs, parades and all the other diversions on which losing candidates squander irreplaceable time. Forget about the polling, focus groups and strategy sessions because none of it will matter without the money to broadcast your crafted message. Forget about the news releases; no one's listening except your opponent. (Let the sleeping dog lie for now.)

Here's a simple plan for the summer:

(or for three months out if it's a primary)

1) This week:

Take stock of yourself.

Why would anyone want to vote for you? Help you? Contribute to you? Can you say it in ten seconds? (We're amazed by the number who can't.) Sometimes that's all the time you'll have to make an impression. Much is riding on your ability to recruit and raise unheard-of amounts of money. Which is impossible if your hair or clothing style is offbeat. If you're running for Congress, it's time to start looking the part.

Prepare an electoral plan.

In other words: a precinct analysis so you'll know exactly where the votes are; where you must maximize the R vote and where the fishing is best in the sea of democrat-leaning precincts. This is your road map. Without one, you cannot credibly explain to anyone how you expect to win. Without one, you don't know whom and where to recruit. It's not enough just to ask someone to walk a precinct. You must instead secure their commitment to generate the Percent Needed, which is part of the precinct analysis.

At Filpac we provide a precinct analysis for all new customers who request one.

Come up with a simple budget: 1) Advertising. 2) Everything else

All you need to decide about advertising right now is the approximate cost. Everything else, such as the content and media mix, can be debated later. In the Everything Else category, establish the sum required for your headquarters, any salaries, phone, internet, (Oh. And the Filpac system.), travel, food and the like. Raise that sum first and place it in a separate account. By doing so you'll demonstrate to potential fund-raisers and donors that everything they give or raise will be used to reach voters rather than to cover overhead. Which will raise your stature (and potentially their involvement!)

Filpac includes a budgeting feature to keep your finances on track.

2) Starting next week:

Two PIP meetings per day.

Potentially Important Person. Someone who can give or raise at least $5,000. Someone who can influence 5,000 voters Someone whom you want to transform into a VIP (a Very Important Person). (Examples: known large donors, "downtown money people", party fund-raisers, public officials, key volunteers in past campaigns.) Meet with two each day. Ten each week. If you successfully recruit half of them, on Labor Day you'll have about 30 VIPs on your side. With a budget and electoral roadmap, you'll help them envision their part in your plan.

Campaigning is recruiting. Seeing oneself in the role is the most important element in recruiting.

Approaching these people is difficult if you don't know who they are. Filpac makes it easy to import lists of all kind from many sources, which enables you to develop profiles of potential donors and supporters. You can share these profiles to those involved in your recruiting and fund-raising. (They'll be even more impressed!)