(Providence, Rhode Island) -- With roughly ten days to go before Election Day, campaign 2014 is in the final stretch. Many races are close, and I thought I’d publish a little list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for the final days of the campaign. Candidates and volunteers are tired and beat up at this point, which often makes them vulnerable to crucial last-minute mistakes. Here are some timely tips:
“Don’t Be Camera Shy” – Former U.S. Rep. Bill Baker (R-CA) is an old political interviewee and friend, so I can tell this story. In 1996, the Congressman got mad at my former employer, KTVU-TV2, because of the way he was interviewed by one of my colleagues. So, he refused to do any more interviews on the #1 TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite my persistence, Congressman Baker said, “Mark, you’ve always been fair to me. This is not about you - but I have to boycott your station on principle. I’m sorry!” In short, he removed his name and face from the most-watched news venue in his district. He gave up all that free TV time. He was the only Republican in Congress defeated that year in the entire country! If you don’t like a media outlet, go on there anyway and be combative – if you have to – but go on and get your name out!
“No Such Thing as Bad Publicity” – There’s an old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity. It’s mostly true, but not always. The most powerful tools in politics, though, are name recognition and incumbency, which go hand-in-hand. Not everyone is a political junkie like me and many of my readers. Most people are consumed with their own lives and watch politics from afar. So, building name recognition is gold. If undecided or uninformed voters go into the polling place and see the name “Bill Baker” on the ballot, they might just say: “Well, I see him on the TV news all the time or his name in the papers, so he must be doing a good job if he’s still there!” Name recognition is king, so don’t pass up free press – unless, of course, you’re accused of a crime!
“Location; Location; Location!” – Speaking of name recognition, all candidates should be maximizing their yard signs and bumper stickers by now; they should be everywhere. Look, they won’t win you an election, but they do build and reinforce name recognition, and those reps pay off. By the way, I always advise candidates I’ve trained (outside this market) to speak as if they already have the job. For example, “Bob Smith – U.S. Senate” makes it sound like you already have the gig even if you are the challenger. Certainly you can’t say “Vote Senator Bob Smith” if you aren’t the officeholder, but my first example holds! Also, “location” means being all over social media, in every venue!
“Run Like You're Six Points Behind” – Candidates need to be aggressive in the final days, not complacent. That’s easy for me to say; but a campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. I realize people are tired as they near the finish line, but they have to press on. As late as October 24, 1980, many polls were showing President Jimmy Carter would be reelected. But Ronald Reagan – at age 69 – pressed on. He was tough and aggressive, especially in the final debate; and he won in a last-minute landslide so big that his coattails carried GOP control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in decades. Be a pit bull! Act like an underdog!
“Don’t Fall in Love with Your Pollster” – If I hear one more politician say, “Well our internal polls shows us with a five-point lead,” I think I will scream. The problem with many internal polls is that you are paying a pollster to deliver good news. So, there is pressure to pick a sample and to skew the results to put a smile on the candidate’s face (and to keep the paychecks coming to the pollster). Polls independent of the campaigns are more trustworthy (for the most part), simply because they don’t have the vested interest of trying to please the candidates. Media and academic polls can be conducted in an objective manner, unless the poll developers and sample selectors make the conscious choice to introduce their own biases in an effort to affect the results. Buyer beware!
“Gas Up the Campaign Vans!” – Any person can answer the phone and tell a pollster whom he or she will vote for, but unless they actually cast their ballots, their opinions mean nothing. Campaigns need to have “get out the vote” troops and vehicles lined up to drive people – especially seniors – to the polls. I’ve seen candidates up by over 10 percentage points in pre-election polls, only to lose by 10 points. How does that happen? It’s the lack of “boots on the ground” to get voters into the booth to cast their ballots. Campaigns also need monitors at the polls to see who has yet to vote, and send someone to find that missing voter. This is tedious and labor intensive, but that’s how you win!
“Meet and Greet” – Be highly visible in the public. Shake hands outside of a shopping mall, at a parade, baseball game, or factory gate. Be direct and say, “I would be honored to have your vote on Election Day!” The downside of personal campaigning is that it is very inefficient. You can shake only so many hands in one hour, versus the number of people who see you in a 30-second TV ad. But, the upside of personal campaigning is that it is very powerful. Looking a voter straight in the eye and shaking his or her hand can be incredibly persuasive. If people feel like they “know” you, they are more likely to feel a personal kinship and to vote for you. Let them take photos with you to post on their own social media. Viral campaigning is hot!
Are you an undecided voter this year? If so, what are the things that sway you at the eleventh hour of a campaign? Post your comments by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.
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