There are people will vote for you no matter what. They don’t care what your positions are on any issue, nor do they care about your ability to perform, the content of your latest speech or how effective your campaign is. While campaign professionals like to refer to this group as “committed supports,” they are more commonly referred to in layman’s terms as “your parents.”
By contrast, some people will never vote for you no matter what you do and in spite of your positions on vital issues or your qualifications. Some would cynically say that those are called “in-laws”, but in truth, they’re just your opponent’s parents. All other voters are up for grabs.
Most will ask how this can be the case. Does no one care about ideology or about voting the party line?
Indeed, many voters do find ideology and/or party affiliation central to their voting decisions. But this does not make them impossible to win over. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m voting straight (Republican) or (Democrat) except for Candidate X”? Candidate X won their vote because candidates who offer voters a compelling reason to cross party lines will do well across the board.
To be sure, any candidate running in a partisan race must first and foremost work to solidify their base. They must then spend the majority of their time on winning over independents or at least lukewarm members of the other party. But that does not preclude gaining a share of bipartisan support, and in some cases, a major share of that vote.
We most readily see how this can play out on a state level. In recent years, the Democrat stronghold of California elected Arnold Schwarzenegger in two statewide landslides. A similar margin of victory was enjoyed by Democrat Brian Schweitzer, Governor of the heavily Republican State of Montana. Yet conventional wisdom has consistently failed to recognize how this can play out in local races.
Very simply put, if a local candidate offers innovative and refreshing ideas that make sense, and can deliver that message to the public, such a candidate will be well received. This is true of House races, state level, county and municipal contests across the board. Solutions sell, as do competence and experience. In the end, voters will vote for the candidate who can do the best job, if they’ve been given a chance to hear that candidate’s message.
Here are some ways of getting a credible message out to the public:
Live contacts – Anyone who you are able to reach personally and in a credible way is likely to vote for you. Chambers of commerce, civic organizations, houses of worship and public forums all present excellent opportunities to introduce your campaign directly to the voting public. Being informative in your message and truthful in your responses are important to building broad support within the audience that you are addressing.
Sleeper issues – There are issues that go unnoticed and unreported, but that have serious consequences for your district (or for society in general) nonetheless. Identifying these issues and proposing sound, common sense solutions, not only makes your campaign look good. It shows leadership and is the very definition of true public service. Such advocacy will make your campaign a cause of actual improvements in people’s lives and will rightly earn you their support.
Neighborhood outreach – Dividing your district by precinct and having volunteers talk directly with their neighbors is an unparalleled strategy to maximizing contact with voters. Future articles will discuss how to obtain a core group of volunteers, as well as best strategies for motivating them to consistently perform.
Town hall meetings and phone conferences – Inviting voters to ask questions in a live forum or directly over the phone presents an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with them, while also directly addressing their most pressing concerns.
All of the above is in addition to email blasts, press releases to all local media, robocalls and general phone banking, all of which will be discussed in future columns. The above pointers ensure maximized direct contact with voters, either directly with the candidate or through passionate campaign volunteers.
Direct contact with voters is not only the first part of a winning strategy. Making contact is key to having constituents look beyond party affiliation. If they know you, you’ll win their support because you will do the best job for the district, if you have a platform that merits their vote.