10 Signs You’re in a Losing Political Campaign

Campaign Mistakes: Is Your Political Campaign Going In The Wrong Direction?

Can you find a losing political campaign? People plan and launch political campaigns with the best of intentions, but sometimes they get off track. Can you spot mistakes in your campaign? As a coach and consultant for over 20 years – here are some warning signs that will help you spot a losing political campaign and make amends:

24. “It doesn’t matter how districts have performed in the past – I’m a transformative candidate.”– You may be a great candidate with high name recognition but party performance affects election results. There is a big difference between a campaign that is within reach and one that is pulled for a team Know the difference before you run.

23. “I’m not sure who’s in charge.” – Clear lines of communication and a clear decision-making process make for a winning campaign. Campaigning is difficult without them. The candidate has the final say but there are many decisions that must be delegated to the candidate. Make it clear from the start.

22. “I know we don’t have a budget, but we need to buy yard signs first.”– Everything you do in a campaign has to be budgeted and tactical decisions, including yard marks, have to be part of the strategy. Make sure you prioritize your most important purchases and tactics in your campaign budget

21. “We don’t need to raise money… people know me.”- Even small campaigns need money. Plan for your required budget and raise money accordingly. Do not underestimate your requirements. Do a personal assessment before deciding to run.

20. “No one watches TV or reads direct mail. We don’t need to spend money on it.”– Make sure your strategy is based on fact and strategy, not opinion.

19. “We’re going to talk to everybody.” – Over-targeting and under-targeting are both big problems in the advertising world. Make sure your targeting is based on a voting goal.

18. “Candidates have completed almost all the questionnaires, preferring to work alone.” – Yes, approval is important and candidates should sign the questionnaire and act on the answers, but the candidate should not supervise all the questionnaires.

17. “We Can’t Knock on the Door” – You can’t? Shouldn’t it? Or not? Short races mean knocking on doors. Large races make knocking on doors difficult – but good for targeting areas.

16. “I don’t like to ask my friends for money, I prefer to call strangers.”– Good luck with that. In short runs, people give money to people they know. Even in larger races (Congress or at large), starting with people you know will save you a lot of time and help raise more funds for your campaign.

15. “My alliance will always be as it was.” – Assuming alliance members will always be with you, without outreach, will be a problem. Your alliance needs to grow and evolve and that means consistent promotion.

14. “We’ve repeated our message so often, people are fed up with it.” – You may be bored with your message, but it is very likely that people have not heard from you yet. Do not change your message because you are bored.

13. “The base voters are with us; We don’t need to spend any time talking to them.”– It’s a bad look and a bad strategy. You can’t ignore the voting audience, especially voters who need encouragement to turn out and lapsed voters, who may avoid you in the race.

12. “We have to talk about everything.”– No you don’t. Make strategic decisions about what your message really is. It is not wise to take a position on everything politically.

11. “We can’t take a stand on that.”– Don’t run to lose. Sometimes people spend most of their time worrying if they are doing something wrong. Take some bold stances and calculated risks. If you spend all your time worrying about saying the right thing, you’re not being brave enough.

10. “I don’t need to dial for a dollar.”– Not enough call time to lose a political campaign. The candidate avoids this, so staff spend countless hours creating fundraising strategies without the candidate. If you’re trying to figure out how to collect money without calling time, you’re on a losing campaign.

9. “I just bought some awesome drink coasters and fortune cookies that have my name on them!”- The best political campaigns are the most disciplined. They have focus and understand that they can only spend money on a few things. Defining why voters should vote for them and not their opponents is crucial. The worst candidate campaigns waste money on things that don’t communicate a counter-message.

8. “I don’t trust my political campaign team and think they make bad decisions.”– Politics is a team game. You can’t win without the right players, so think long and hard about who is on your political campaign team and whether they can help you. Also, think about whether you have a good team structure and the right roles within it.

7. “What is a voting target and how can I buy one?”– How many votes does it take to win and where will those votes come from? A poll goal will tell you that. You should be able to answer these questions. If you can’t, your political campaign is in big trouble.

6. “Someone made my voting targets, but I don’t know who those voters really are.”– You must know the voters who make up your voting targets and who make up your winning coalition. Find out.

5. “What should we talk about today?”– What you talk about in the campaign must connect you with the audience you need to move. You just can’t make it up on the fly. Be thoughtful and consider how your message connects to your strategy. Plan a campaign and make sure your content calendar reflects your strategy. A lack of disciples is a clear sign of a losing campaign.

4. “I don’t want to mention my opponent’s name—sssh! Don’t tell anyone he’s running.”– People need to know the difference between you and your opponent. If you can’t express that difference in six words, keep working until you can.

3. I’ll be the first Democrat to win a 70 percent Republican district, please give me the money.”– Make sure you win before taking everyone through the political campaign. If you can’t win the race, don’t run.

2. “We can’t go negative”– Make sure your decisions are based on strategy and the campaign you’re in, not guesswork. Have a thoughtful message about what you can’t do. Remember, there is a big difference between a personal attack and a contrast based on the issue and approach.

1. “My mom wouldn’t return my calls and my wife begged me not to run.” In addition to paid staff and mentors, make sure your friends, family, issue groups, business leaders, unions, etc. are on your team and fully support you. To win a political campaign you must build a true coalition of the right people.

If you hear these things in your preaching, don’t just ignore them. Sit down with your team and have the tough and direct conversations necessary for a winning campaign. Address things that are going wrong and fix them.

Have you heard the warning of losing political campaigns? Add them here. Have additional questions? Feel free to drop us a line.