the whitestick papers

looking at politics from a different perspective

Posts Tagged ‘planning

Occupy GOP

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During most even-numbered years, the summer Central Committee meeting of the Oregon Republican Party is dedicated to plans and preparations for the coming General Election. Usually, they’ve been working together since the reorganization meetings 18 months earlier and come together to share ideas and insights, coordinate strategies, discuss and often vote to support or oppose ballot measures and just generally unify for the final push coming in a few short months.

But, for the August 2014 edition, certain folks believe something else is more important than working together to win elections.

Just after the official call for the meeting was sent out, a flurry of proposed changes to the state Party Rules and Bylaws were sprung on the Central Committee members through a clearly orchestrated series of emails.   Per standard operating procedure, all of these would normally have been presented to their respective review committees for consistency with the current documents, RNC Rules, Roberts Rules of Order and plain old grammar and word usage well before the Official Call was issued so, in accordance with the Bylaws, they could be issued with that Call. Instead, due to a loophole in precedence previously used by one of those dropping these amendments, these will go directly to the Central Committee as they are, warts and all.

The purpose of this article is not to discuss the merits of the plethora of proposed amendments and deletions, but to point out the poor timing. When the State Central Committee reorganizes early next year – interestingly, the next regular meeting – the Bylaws are automatically under review. It and the election of Officers are the only business at that meeting.

So, rather than waiting for the meeting dedicated to the process of considering amendments, these folks decided a better use of time that could have gone into plans and preparation for getting Republicans elected this year would be to occupy ORP leadership with minutia surrounding altering Rules and Bylaws most members of the state Central Committee never considered problematic.

There’s one other element of this situation that bears reporting. Although not among those submitting amendments for consideration, one of the cabal behind the bombardment and, like them, a freshmen member of the Central Committee, took it upon himself to tell the state GOP Chairman how the agenda should be set up. As you might imagine, the Chair didn’t take it too well. Art Robinson, himself a practiced campaigner and seasoned political veteran, responded by telling the Central Committee, in effect, he and not this newbie is in charge. That bodes well for the resolution of this issue.

It’s just sad the Central Committee will have to waste time on this during a key stage in this year’s election cycle. But some folks seem determined to make sure Republicans lose.


Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

6 August 2014 at 4:56 pm

Making your message matter

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Having worked with political campaigns since I was in high school – a period of time measured in decades – I have yet to meet a candidate who didn’t think they knew what was important to the people they wanted to represent, whether they were running for School Board or US Senate.  However, when they’ve taken the time to actually ask those constituents what issues are important to them, they’re always surprised.

If you stop and think about it, that makes sense.  The average person spends almost no time thinking about politics unless and until an election is forced on them.  Meanwhile, the candidate has been immersed in the issues or is inspired to run because of a personal experience or having been directly involved with an issue or, maybe, two.  The natural tendency is for people to think everyone knows what they know and, more or less, thinks like they think.  Anyone who’s had a political discussion with a spouse, child, parent or neighbor knows that simply isn’t true.  So there’s often a disconnect between what a candidate thinks are important issues and what’s really on the top of the voters’ minds.

Combine this with the research you need to do to find those precincts you need to make sure are in your column on Election Day (see my post, “Drilling for voters”), and you’re at the beginning of the process of crafting an effective message.  You need to know what’s important to the voters in those key precincts and how to persuade them you have the right answer.   Now, you must be honest with them and with yourself – people don’t respond well to candidates who change their position based on who they’re talking to – but you do want to focus on where your perspectives match up with theirs.

The easiest way to find out what’s important in those swing precincts is to ask them.  You can hire a professional pollster and work with them to find out the key issues in those targeted precincts, but that’s often expensive and, if you’re running for a local non-partisan office, probably beyond your budget.  You can also get the information by going door to door or calling into the precincts, but that takes time and people.  The good news is that, during the time between the Primary and General Elections, there’s usually several months when nothing much else is going on politically.  That gives you time to check things out, even if it’s just you, your family and your dog walking or calling.

When you’re done doing this research, you should have what you need to craft your message.  We’ll focus more on that process in a later post but, for now, there’s still one more piece of information you need to know; where do these folks get their information?  Is there a popular local radio and, in particular, talk show that covers some or all of your district?  Is the local newspaper respected, reviled or just ignored?  Is this a computer-friendly area where everyone’s on Facebook and Twitter or would they’d need  their grandkid come in to program the clock on the DVR?  So, when you do your survey, it should include questions that will help you figure that out.   And you’ll want to get a phone number if you don’t have it, either by using online resources or by simply asking them, as that’s critical information for inexpensively getting your message to them later as well as for get out the vote efforts.

The key to making your message resonate with the people you’re trying to persuade is to know what’s important to them and how to get that message to them.  That takes more than a little time and effort but will pay off on Election Day.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

8 May 2010 at 11:25 am

Posted in Insights

Tagged with , , ,

The key to a successful campaign

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Obviously, developing and executing a plan is the real key to a successful campaign, but there are many elements to it.  We’ll look at  those in this and future articles, hopefully in a way that makes sense to the reader.  Going in what, to me anyway, seems like a logical order, let’s look at what you need to do to develop a plan – research.

Most politicians and even most candidates will tell you they already know what they need to do to win.  However, with some 40 years of campaign experience, I can tell you that most don’t and, unless they’ve done the research, they’re not among the few who do.  What they actually know is the input they get from the people they’ve encountered and, while those folks are helpful, they cannot and will not give the candidate or campaign for the full picture.  Truth be told, no one can really get every nuance and detail, and it’s a waste of time to try, every campaign needs to get more information before developing a plan.

The first thing to research are the election rules – that is. the specific elements in play in this election.  This probably seems obvious but, every year, dozens of campaigns get sidelined because of a missed deadline  or a form wasn’t completed.  When is the election day?  Is a person elected by simple majority or a plurality?  It is a partisan or non-partisan race?  Is a run-off involved?  When are the deadlines and requirements for filing, for a PAC, for a voter’s pamphlet statement, etc?  Don’t guess and never assume you know – check, confirm and have someone else verify.

Then there’s the district – what’s the geography?  The population mix and density?   What are the industries and transportation?  Where do people live and work?  With smaller district, such as for school board or city council, detail is more important than it is for statewide or US Congress races, but there is a lot a campaign can learn about the people from the specifics of the district.

You also want to know the voters, both who they are and how many need to vote for you.  The question of “how many” is simplest to figure our, but it’s the one many campaigns don’t take the time to figure out and, as a result, waste time and resources.  A candidate doesn’t need every vote in the district; he or she just needs enough to win.  In most cases, this is about half of the voters in the given election.  So, you need to find out from researching previous similar elections.  More people tend to vote in a Presidential election or when there’s a controversial issue on the ballot than when things are less heated, and the number of votes you need to win will depend on the expected voter turnout.  Then, because the average number of people in a household and households tend to vote alike, you can figure out the total number of households your candidate needs to persuade.  Be careful, though, and don’t assume there are two people per household – places such as apartment buildings or retirement centers can affect that.

The “who they are” part of what you need to know about your voters is what issues are important to them and where do they get their information.  A professional polling organization is often the quickest way to get that information, but it’s often beyond the budget of most non-partisan races.  However, you may be able to coordinate with other campaigns to share the expense and/or the results, or you can use volunteers to do surveys by phone or door to door to identify both what’s important and potential supporters.   You see, most people don’t pay much attention to issues until just before the campaign and, in order to win, you need to know what’s important to them before it becomes a campaign issue.   This is where most candidates make their biggest mistake of their campaign – they assume they know what issues are important to their constituency only to discover they were wrong.   Knowing what’s important to your voters rather than telling them what you think is important is how to connect with them and, ultimately, win their votes.

Finally, research your viable opponents and yourself.  You’re not looking for skeletons in the closet but to figure out where and with whom you connect and where and with whom your opponent connects.   You’re doing a blunt and honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and of your opposition.  Check out voting records, public statements, visibility on the internet (Facebook can bury you), connections in the community and the like.  You can’t afford for anything your opponent does or says to surprise you and you should know everything the voters, your opposition and the media will find out about you.

It’s easy to dismiss or minimize research, but it’s the foundation for everything else in a campaign plan.  You can’t know what you don’t know and, if you don’t go looking for it, there’s no way to find it until it shows up.  Unfortunately, when it does show up – and rest assured it will – it can capsize even the best campaign.

Written by Jeffrey S. Smith

10 April 2010 at 11:53 am

Posted in Basics, Insights

Tagged with , , ,

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