What Does A Political Candidate Do?
Explore the role of the political candidate
By the title, this could be the shortest post in the history of our blog. The typical answer to this question, and the way I teach candidates about political campaigns, is that a political candidate has two jobs: to raise money and meet voters. But these tasks are easier said than done.
A political candidate’s perspective is that message, fundraising, and strategy come from her or him, so not involving the political candidate in those decisions could be disastrous. Anyone who has been involved in a political campaign knows there are many levels of involvement. So let's dig into it. I’ll chat about the candidates role in each element of a campaign and some of the pressure points in between.
Assessment of viability/ deciding to run:
As a political candidate, you need to spend a ton of time setting up your run. Many folks don't think enough about running. Others obsess over so many unknowns that they may kill their chances. So, the goal is to be somewhere in the middle. You can check out a lot more info on deciding to run here. The bottom line is that running for office is not for everyone. The candidate needs to decide to run. Not a party or interest group. You need to make sure you have the fire in the belly and drive to do it. The candidate needs to have a full understanding of the financial and emotional toll a run will take.
Every campaign needs to have a written plan. A candidate will not be the one to write it.
A candidate needs to have buy-in, to what the winning strategy is. They cannot be passive about this. They must be bought in.
The candidate must approve the overall message of the campaign and what the contrast is.
Approval of advertising:
A political candidate needs to have system set so that they can approve materials quickly and efficiently. Unless it is a rare circumstance they should only get one bite at the apple to look at materials. If they look at materials multiple times they will wind up editing their own edits.
Spend a very limited amount of time on this. Do not add animals, stars or the American flag. Make the campaign logo as simple and easy to use as possible.
This is usually the first piece of written material a campaign produces and it can be a tough process for a first-time political candidate. So, limit the time you have on it and realize that your walk card is not a mail plan. It is a small piece of lit that introduces you to voters if you were creating a flyer for a business. Would it be nine point type and 300 words? Well, your walk card should not be either.
Signs and chum:
Focus on your budget. How much money do you have for your campaign? What is the real cost of a sign program? Calculate that first before you spend money on signs, bumper stickers and other materials.
You need to discuss early on in your campaign how deep your contrast will be. It is not a discussion to have every day. Have a plan and stick with it. There will be tweaks, but this should be rare.
The candidate needs to agree on an overall scheduling strategy. How much time for family, fundraising door knock etc...
Especially in local races, a candidate will split his or her time between door knocking and fundraising. Staying on the doors is critical to success.
The candidate is the fundraiser. Don't let anyone tell you differently. They need help and need someone to work with to organize their call time, call sheets, events and everything else fundraising related. The candidate can't do it alone, and they can't delegate it to someone either.
The candidate needs to approve the budget. They need to know and agree where the money is going.
Money in and money out is critical to the campaign. The candidate needs to know where the campaign is as far as cash flow.
How do you keep the candidate informed without killing their schedule? Consider the following:
Have a weekly meeting.
Review a short written briefing with every meeting.
Have a daily run-down of fundraising and canvass goals vs. actual results.
Be prepared to adjust your plan, but don't do it every day.
Door knock every day.
Fundraise every day.
Make time for family.
Have questions on the role of a political candidate? Ask them here or check out our ebook on running for office.