7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

Welcome back!
It's been a crazily busy week but it's happening at a great time of year - the Fall. Golden leaves, crisp air, Major League Baseball Championships, and the sine qua non of life.....elections! I just came back from a trip to a truly hidden gem in America....Michigan!! Specifically, a town called Traverse City. Small, liveable, quintessential American Main Street, great restaurants, an opera house and a totally renovated movie house - paid for by one Michael Moore. [Regardless of what one thinks of his films, he knows how to recapture the glory years of cinemas from the looks of it.]

Give Cousin Eddie a Permanent Canadian Christmas!

Canada is a much sought-after haven for refugee claimants and the Harper government introduced this week its planned fix for dealing with the scourge of human smuggling. Too late, it seems, to deal with Hollywood refugees Randy and Evi Quaid who arrived in Vancouver on the run from California police and - after being arrested by police in Canada - promptly appeared before an IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) judge claiming refugee status. So as an act of gratitude for his iconic role as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, I suggest we give Randy and Evi complimentary refugee status. Heck, it's just as credible as some of the stories the IRB hears:)

BP still doesn't get it.
New CEO Bob Dudley, by all accounts a very sensible man, appears not to get the power of communications in the handling of a crisis. He still believes that the media and rivals did BP in on the Gulf Oil spill! the simple response to that is that BP wounded itself with its mishandling of the spill response, public expectations, contradictory messages, poor Congressional testimony etc. The media and rivals, smelling blood, moved in for the kill. One would hope that the new CEO would have learned this. Check this item out.

Change is in the Air - in Ontario and across the United States
With voters trooping to the polls across Ontario today, politicians are going all out to get their voters to the polls. With low voter turnout, many races will depend on the GOTV [Get-Out-The-Vote]apparatus. Robo-calls over the weekend inundated voters from Mayors to Councillors to School Board Trustees.

All polling indicates that maverick Councillor Rob Ford over former Ontario Cabinet Minister George Smitherman - in a shocking upset - will win the Toronto Mayor's race and that veteran politician Jim Watson will win the Ottawa Mayor's race over incumbent Mayor Larry O'Brien. We'll save post-debate analysis for the next blog posting but see below for 7 Rules for Winning Campaigns.

All the media coverage would have one convinced that the Democrats are going to have their heads handed to them on Election Day. No doubt that is true. Anger, resentment, frustration and fear are all potent mixes for big change. Not all Democrats are in trouble - look at what's happening in California, with Jerry Brown surging ahead of Meg Whitman. Incumbents are particularly vulnerable and any candidate who smacks of accepting the status quo is in big trouble. When 'change' is on the menu, the status quo is toast.

For many voters the ballot question in times like this is often, 'who speaks for me'?  The Tea Party activists are roiling the waters very effectively, but have they peaked too soon? They were surging in the primary campaigns in states like Delaware, but when it comes to the main race, every day is the dawn of a new error. Delaware Republican Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell's I am not a witch. I'm you commercial being Exhibit A of political incompetence.

The problem with disdaining professionalism in political campaigns is that every little thread of an error is pulled by the organization that is professionally run. No one said life is unfair, but the earlier that candidates realize that the better. Professional doesn't mean selling out, it means doing it right. If it means distorting your positions to satisfy focus groups and pollsters, then it has crossed a line. However, if a candidate is well trained and ready to undergo lightning-fast aerial bombardments and below the water-line torpedo attacks [to my sensitive readers, pardon the war-like imagery, but when you are in the middle of such a campaign, that is exactly what it feels like].

All of this to say, here are...

7 Rules for Winning Campaigns

1. Understand your voter universe - who are potentially reachable by you and your campaign? Can they be motivated to move to you and based on what issues and messages? Being ignorant about that is unforgiveable and will be punished on election day.
2. Motivate your base, but don't be a slave to them. Your base is critical to your momentum. Sometimes, however, your base may be poisonous in your ability to grow beyond them. Understand them and respect them, and if you must take positions which are different from them, then explain yourself clearly and directly to them.
3. Reach your voters numerous times through traditional and social media. The recent victor in the Calgary mayor's race - who made national news as the first Muslim mayor of a big city - was able to mix the two brilliantly.
4. Never interrupt a hanging. [Notice the different imagery?] When your opponent is busy with self-inflicted damage, step back and don't create other news.
5. Have a clear message and drive it relentlessly. In the twittered, information-overloaded universe, it is extremely difficult to drive one message home so don't scatter your messages. Make sure the message is understood, succinct and matters deeply to your voter universe. Frame the message effectively - don't message on the defense [see Christine O'Donnell video above].
6. Manage perceptions well. The voters rarely get to actually know a candidate. They form their impressions through the media - traditional and social media. So what is the perception you want them to have of you? Down to earth...HOAG (helluva guy/gal)...straight-shooter....on my side. Lecturing people about what's good for them never has worked and never will. The voter has to relate to the candidate but doesn't want to be told what to do.
7. Be extremely well prepared. Know the issues. Get training in media, speeches, door-to-door, debates. A candidate will be tested every hour of every day. Trying to learn all that in the middle of a campaign is very difficult [although not impossible :)] You are asking the voters to put trust in you, so you have to define yourself before your opponents do. This dual definition has to start early and then continually throughout the campaign. Remember you must define yourself and your opponent.

So those are just some thoughts that one may ponder as we get ready for Election Night coverage.

Until next time.....

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