the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

If you fail to plan…

with 2 comments

After the Democrats in the US House decided to ignore the will of the American people and pass what is already being revealed as a poorly conceived and expensive health control package, it was difficult to find anything to write about.  And then, just a day or two ago, I realized I’d never really started doing what I’d originally intended to do with this blog; give interested readers some general advice on how to conduct a winning campaign.  Like many during the health control debate, I got sucked in to the rallies and the discussions.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s time to buckle down and talk tactics.

Aside from taking bad or outdated counsel from the “certified smart” folks of the political realm, the greatest single mistake most candidates make is to fail to plan.  Oh, sure – they know they need to knock on doors and attend functions, but only a few – and those are almost always those for the “major” statewide and national offices – sit down and plan out their campaign every step of the way.  Most, particularly those for the non-partisan type of races such as county commissioner or school board, don’t know how many votes they’ll need to win, much less how to get them or where to find them.  Several of these folks don’t have a campaign staff, figuring it’s not really needed.  Lightning can strike and these folks can be elected but, in all honesty, that’s usually an accident.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Unless you know where you’re going, you can’t ever know if you’re on the right path or if you’re making progress.  A large enough mob can beat an organized army but, as angry protesters and rebels have discovered time after time, the battle is more likely to go to the one who’s prepared.

The first step of the planning process is to do a bit of research.  Research the rules of the election; I can’t tell you how many campaigns got off track because a deadline was missed.  Research the district – what cities or precincts are you going to have to carry in order to win?  How many votes will you need and how many households will you have to persuade to get them?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of your candidate, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of your opposition?   What groups are likely to support you and what issues are important to them – and where does your opponent get their support?  If you don’t know the answers to these an a number of other questions, you’re trying to win a race with your hands tied behind your back.  You can run, but you’re hampered and can’t run at your best.

I’ll bet in to how to use this information in other articles, but take this away for now; if you haven’t done the research, you can’t make a realistic plan.  And if you don’t have a realistic plan, you are making it all the more difficult for you to win.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

7 April 2010 at 8:47 am

Posted in Basics, Insights

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Good observations. I completely agree. While the GOP really started to develop GOTV, they have let the democrats out pace them when it comes to planning. The only way Obama won is because he had an incredible battle plan and he had the audacity to believe it might work. However, without his plan, I doubt he would have won.


    7 April 2010 at 6:56 pm

    • While poor planning does seem to have been a problem in the McCain race, it wasn’t in either of George W. Bush’s runs, so I wouldn’t say it’s a lack of understanding of the need on the part of the GOP. 2008 had other factors as well – poor messaging (Obama’s “Change we can believe in” sang against McCain’s lackluster “Country First”) and that against one of the most charismatic Democrats since JFK we ran a guy who made it look like Dole had a personality. Add to that the severe “anti-Bush” mood of the country and it would have been tough for McCain to win, no matter how much planning they did.

      But you’re right in that Obama had a marvelous machine implementing an excellent plan. He still has a lot of that machine; some 1.1 million of his “Organizing for America” folks were on the ground fighting for the health control package. McCain’s team were more active and aggressive when running against Ron Paul in the latter stages of the Primary season than they ever were during the General. I was on the inside and it felt like no one wanted to bother; they gave up shortly after the Convention.

      Jeffrey S. Smith

      8 April 2010 at 3:08 pm

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