Writing your Political Campaign Plan
19 min read
WRITING THE CAMPAIGN PLAN
One of the most difficult challenges for first-time campaign manager was writing the campaign plan and trying to envision the big picture for what has to happen in a campaign. A campaign plan is critical because it helps you to formulate a strategy, decide where you will need, key people, create a timeline and, perhaps, most importantly, create a budget so you don’t spend your money too soon. One other benefit is that you are more likely to gain a contribution from a large giver if you sit down with them and give them a campaign plan that is well thought out. As an underdog, my campaign plan helped me raise about $6,000 from large givers and political action committees by showing them that I was a legitimate candidate. One thing -that may help you in creating a campaign plan is to look at it as a series of questions. To help toward this end, I have written some questions and comments on the following pages. Even if you have already written a campaign plan, read through the questions and see if you are adequately prepared to tackle your upcoming campaign.
What are the voter registration numbers for your district?
How many Democrats, Republicans, and independents vote in a Presidential election?
What is the past voting history of your district?
You won’t be able to get a voting history for legislative races very accurately since redistricting most probably means that your current district probably was part of two or more previous districts. However, you should know how high profile races (Presidential, U.S. Senator, Governor) and low profile races (State Treasurer, State Auditor) have done in your district
- What are the age demographics in your district?
Knowing how many people are registered to vote in certain age categories will help you a great deal with strategy and issues. How many registered voters are 18-24 (environment, tuition), 25-44 (education, family issues, crime, tax increases) 45-55 (Property taxes. College tuition, retirement issues, welfare abuse), 60 + (Property taxes, property taxes property taxes and traditional values).
- What are the social demographics of the respective precincts in your district?
You should try and classify each precinct as a certain type of person. This can be a difficult thing to do with some precincts but is relatively easy with most. This, too, is very important for issue and strategy development. Think among some of these categories: rural/agricultural (property taxes, farm Issues), blue collar/working families (crime, property taxes, welfare abuse, little more pro-life, job creation), country club/business (income taxes, property taxes, economic development, little more pro-choice, education) middle class/ young families (education, crime, some environment and taxes), small town (health of small towns and its institutions, education, school consolidation)
What is the background of your opponent (education, jobs, place of birth, places lived)?
If incumbent, what are the committees served on?
If incumbent, what are the key votes cast?
The local group, how do they feel about the votes.
- What are the stands of your opponent on key issues?
This is different than key votes since we don’t have clear votes on most of the key issues
If incumbent, how high is the absentee rate for voting?
If incumbent, do they have a home in the District or a home outside of it?
- What are your political and personal strengths in light of the district and the upcoming election race?
It’s a very good idea to list these and to know them so you can emphasize them throughout your campaign.
- What are your political and personal weaknesses in light of the district and the upcoming election race?
This is sometimes an uncomfortable thing to do, but it is important, to be honest with yourself and your close advisors. I guarantee that people will probably find out your weakness anyway from your opponent. If you deal with it early, you can prepare for any attacks, or if necessary, cast a favorable light on it.
- What is your background (include political campaigns, education, jobs, awards won, other recognition, memberships, etc)?
What is your plan to raise name identification?
What mediums will you use to establish your name identification?
Some mediums may be social media, paid digital, billboards, newspaper ads, radio ads, literature, etc*
(PRESS RELEASES, ETC.)
What are the addresses, phone numbers, email and news contacts at your local newspaper, radio stations, and television stations?
What will you use each social media platform for
How is a proper press release written?
-The state party should be able to send you information on how to do this.
What are the deadlines for your newspapers radio stations and television stations?
When is a press release adequate and when is a press conference necessary?
- How many households are there in your district?
I generally figure this by taking the number of registered voters (15,000) and multiply it by .67 to get the number of actual doors that will have to be knocked to hit the home of each registered voter. Example: 15,000 x .67 = 10,000.
- How many doors can you knock in an hour?
This varies widely. Depending on what you say to people, whether you survey them, etc. will impact how many doors you can hit in an hour. In addition, the time of day also has a major impact because if people aren’t home, you can hit a great many more homes. This isn’t necessarily effective, but it will increase the number of homes you hit. You can generally figure around 15 to 25 homes per hour. If you hit less than 15, then you may be spending too much time with each household, if you are hitting more than 30 or 40, then you may not be knocking when enough people are home.
How many hours a week can you realistically spend knocking on doors?
How many weeks is it going to take to knock on all the doors in your district?
Figure this by dividing the number of households in your district by the product of the number of doors knocked in an hour multiplied by the number of hours you can knock in a week. Example: 10,000 households divided by (20 homes/hr. x 12 hrs/week) - 42 weeks to knock every registered household in the district. Now, if you don’t have 42 weeks, then you will have to increase the number of homes per hour, the number of hours per week or both.
- What are you going to do with each household that you knock so that they will remember you after you leave?
Doorknocking is the most important aspect of campaigning, but it helps most if they remember what your name is after you’ve left. Frequently people don’t. Literature is fine to leave at each household, but it is generally thrown away within 24 hours of your visit. One very effective way to extend your name identification is to follow up your visit with an email/postcard thanking them for the visit. This requires keeping close track of the names you actually visit and constantly updating your voter walking list.
Do you intend to use a registered voter-walking list -and-knock on only those homes with registered voters or forego a list and hit every home registering those people who are not currently registered?
When the voter answers the door, do you plan to simply give your literature with a quick spiel about yourself or your issues, or do you plan to administer a survey when they answer the door?
What order are you going to door knock your district?
you should doorknock your precincts in a systematic, planned way meant to maximize voter impact. These decisions should be made through the use of voter information that can be provided to you. by the State Party or you can simply rank your precincts yourself through a prioritization system. If you would like to see the system that I used, please feel free to call me or write me. Generally, I believe that you should knock your most important precincts between September 15th and October 31st.
If you need to petition on. When are petitions available to get signatures for your candidacy?
When are signature petitions due for your candidacy?
When do you need to file a formation of candidacy form with the Campaign finance disclosure commission?
When are the primary and general elections?
When can yard signs go up for the primary and general?
When do yard signs have to be down after the primary and general?
When is your precinct caucus, county convention, district convention and the Republican State convention?
When are the parades and fairs in or near your district?
- How do you plan to recruit volunteers?
Trying starting an Internship program at your local college and high school, and try to reach out to both political an civil group to speak at a meeting 2. What areas of the campaign do you need specific volunteers to fill?
You should consider having people help with these positions: overall coordinator or manager, fundraising, Get-out-The-Vote, events coordinator, yard signs, mailing coordinator, absentee ballot coordinator, media (press release, conference) coordinator, etc.
- What type of people do you need at the top of your campaign as chairs?
You should try to find people who appeal to different constituencies, in my campaign, I have a leader from the only small town in the district, a leading ag person and a well respected elected official known countywide. For my fundraising chairs, I have the best-known doctor in -the county and a leading lawyer who represents any big business clients.
- Will you have one person organize each precinct?
- Fundraising Plan
This guide doesn’t go into fundraising extensively because it is best to have a campaign strategy before making a fundraising plan.
Here is an example of a budget that used all basic elements of a campaign
Description– Number Cost:
Direct Mail Campaign- 6 $44,100
Campaign Palm Cards- 30,000 $3,200
4x8 & 4x4 Signs- 100 $2,360
T-Posts————- 300 $1,300
Yard Signs———- 600 $1,800
Campaign Banner—– 1 $100
GOTV Robocalls—— N/A $2,000
Phone Banking——- N/A $500
Facebook Ads——– $2,000
Digital Ads (Google, etc.) $2,000
Event Expenses—– $3,000
Campaign Manager— $14,000
Canvassing Software- $5,000
Dues/Sponsorships - $2,000
TOTAL : $83,810
GET OUT THE VOTE PROGRAM (GOTV)
- Who do intend to turn out on election day to vote for you.?
It is my opinion that too many legislative campaigns turn out voters that are already intending to vote. Let me explain. We know that certain voters vote in every election. Come rain or shine, they never miss. So why use your phone bank or postcard to remind these people to vote? Clearly, these regular voters need a contact before the election explaining why they should support you and not a GOTV contact. Take this for what it’s worth, but I would only concentrate on turning out those Republican voters, or identified supporters among independents, that have a history of missing elections. All states keep records of who votes in what elections so it is easy to determine which voters are regular voters and which need a little reminder.
- What methods do you intend to use to turn out your target groups?
Consider using a first-class postcard, mailed on Saturday so that it arrives Monday. Also, see that you have turnout phoning organized for Monday night before the election and that the local party has phone banks for election day. Another idea that we have used in Galveston is to rise early on election day and place a large “VOTE TODAY” sign on every 4x4 yard sign before people leave for work. Other mediums such as digital, radio, newspaper or T.V. work fine for part of your GOTV program.
You will need to set up a Website and will have to deiced between a static or CMS
Do you intend to use excel or a more advanced system, and is the system going to be all in one or pieced together?
If you are working with the less then 75,000-voter universe you can get away with using excel and programs like MailChimp. If you are trying to manage a bigger universe then you will need a more advanced system like i360, rVote, and NationBuilder. While they all do similar things i360 and rVote are more targeted to just doing canvassing and voter modeling because it doesn’t have any digital tools, while Nationbuilder is more about managing a digital presence, due to being able to host a website and digital media tools, and can be expanded to do canvassing but no modeling. I prefer to use one that can do more voter out-reach and modeling because of the ease of finding consultants to do a better job at the other tasks
- Should you spend your money on digital, radio, T.V., direct mail, door-to-door, newspaper ads, etc.?
I believe that candidates should use a mix of audio and visual mediums to establish name identification and to penetrate with a message. This is because some people have better memory recall from audio than visual and vice-versa. Visual would include digital, direct mail, literature, newspaper ads, yard signs, billboards, and television. Audio would include radio, television, speeches, phone banking and door-to-door. I personally believe (and this view isn’t shared by everyone) that too many Legislative candidates concentrate on visual education and ignore audio education. Behavioral learning abilities dictate that they both be used if you actually want to penetrate to the voter. The combination that you use depends on the mediums in your district, while digital will work in both rural and urban districts. Radio, newspaper and direct mail will probably be the best choices in a rural district. In an urban district cable television, local television news commercials, and local newspapers can also be added to the list to be bought for radio or television to penetrate,
- When will you run your ads, mail your literature and start your digital ad buys?
Clearly, you will want to be out with your name on yard signs and parades, etc., as early and as often as you can, however, when should you spend your money on paid mediums? Well, consider some polling research? Nonparty line voters can’t begin making up their minds who they are going to vote for until about ten to fourteen days out from the election. Breaking this out into age groups, many senior citizens make their mind up seven to ten days out while 18-24-year-olds decide the day before the election or at the polls. All other are somewhere in between. Therefore, if you are mailing your “lower the property tax” message to seniors, start about two weeks out, while you may want to save your pro-environment mailings to 18-24-year-olds until three to five days out. No matter what else, you will want to spend the great preponderance of your money when people are making up their minds, and that is close to the election. Think of it as holding your fire until you see the whites of their eyes. If you fire too early you’re wasting your ammunition.
- How do you, intend to design your media and your literature?
This takes a special talent to create great literature or commercials, but let me make a couple of suggestions that might help you. First, collect examples from other successful candidates and try to emulate those. Second, Don’t overburden your reader with too much information in literature or commercials. Keep it simple and repeat your main point over and over. Third, make sure you have your name in the literature or commercial repeatedly. Fourth, use visuals and pictures liberally. Fifth, don’t be afraid to be different.
- How do you plan to target your message through your media?
Keep in mind that it requires six contacts with a voter to penetrate with a message. That’s why you hear the suggestion to use three or four issues and keep pounding away at them. With that in mind, there are some very easy ways to target your voter with your message. Using voter information from state voter registration files, you can target in three ways: party, precinct, age. Clearly, you can tell a lot by whether a person is a Republican, Democrat or Independent. I also know that the people in rural precincts are concerned about different things than those in my blue collar precincts. Other targeting information that might be helpful is demographic information available from radio stations about their target markets. The same information is available with television. Example: What if I wanted to target a message to Republicans, in precinct DV12 over the age of 60 with a message about property taxes. Well, I would do three things. First I would pull the names off of my computer of everybody in my district that fits those three criteria. I would use this list for a mailing to these people. Second, I would buy time on the local radio station whose demographics most target that group of people. Finally, I might put an ad on the digital (cost at most $5 CPM) that best targets this group like CNN or the financial news station.
In writing your campaign plan, your strategy will depend heavily on the type of race you have If you are the only Republican in a heavily Republican open district, then your race is going to be significantly different than most challengers. Please keep in mind that 95% of incumbents get re-elected. Therefore, if you are a challenger that intends to be a part of the 5%, you must 1) be aggressive, 2) door knock every door (at least once), 3) start early, 4) raise a lot of money, 5) use “voting” issues to take voters away from your opponent, and 6) take some risks. Too many challengers are afraid to take risks. Challengers are frequently so afraid of offending anyone that they run bland campaigns that don’t make a case for kicking the incumbent out of office.