Let's get into that "campaign
" thing a bit, since, as the gentleman from Massachusetts has pointed out, it merits a writeup of its own. Here's how to run a campaign for office. Do all of these simultaneously:
1. Find People To Help You
At the very least, you should have a campaign manager. If your constituency is larger than a small town, you should also have people in charge of fundraising, field work, scheduling, and research, as well as a press secretary. For major campaigns, these people should all have their own staff under them. Get a skeleton crew as you're starting out, and bring more people on board as their load increases.
You will need a lawyer. They must know election law inside and out. The worst thing in the world is to win an election and then get thrown out for voter fraud when you didn't even intend it. So find a good lawyer and consult them regularly.
2. Figure Out Who's Voting For Whom
Think about your area. Where are the conservatives? The liberals? What are the major religious groups and where do you find them? Who are the biggest employers?
Now, sit down, look at what you've got, and think about it. Will your platform captivate many of these people? Some of these groups are probably naturally disposed to vote for you. Others might take persuading. Others might try to lynch you. If you don't see too many of the first kind, then you need to expand your platform.
Here's what you're going to do next:
- Find the people who would obviously support you, and register them to vote. Bug the hell out of them around Election Day so they don't forget to go to the polls. Don't worry about giving them too much propaganda: that's a waste of your time, since you can be fairly sure they'll vote for you anyway.
- Find the swing votes, and start sending them literature. Get them interested in you. Visit them in their natural habitats and squeeze some flesh. Win them over.
- Ignore the people who would rather see you dead. The only thing you can do with them is try to keep them away from the polls, which can work in some cases, but happens to be very unethical and very risky.
Know how many votes you need. The easiest way to do this is to find the population of your district, subtract the population under 18, and then multiply that by thirty percent (if it's a presidential election year) or fifteen percent (if it isn't). This will tell you how many votes will secure a winning coalition.
3. Get Your Media On
Exposure, exposure, exposure. Dealing with the media is a tricky game that's best left to a public relations professional if you can afford it.
If you want to do it yourself, then you'll need to define your message. Think about your personal history, and try to find as many comparisons with your constituents as you can. (Of course, if your resume screams Ivy League and you're running among farmers, you need to put on some overalls, get in a tractor, and have your picture taken.) If you know people within the political establishment, shake hands with them and get pictures of it.
Above all, try to be as natural as possible. You don't want to be the next Michael Dukakis looking like an idiot in a tank.
4. Send In The Infantry
There are always people willing to do grunt work for a campaign, especially if you're running for a big-name political party. Get your friends and family in, and then have them get their friends and family in, and so on. Once you've assembled a volunteer army in your front yard, you can do all sorts of fun stuff with them:
- Canvassing, where you send people door to door with leaflets and a smile. If you have friendly people doing it, and if the neighborhood isn't obviously hostile, canvassing will do wonders for the campaign. Make sure your troops look presentable, and make sure to equip them with response forms and pens so that the neighbors can offer you money and time. (You might expect that people would get beaten or shot for canvassing, but you'd be wrong: the worst thing that ever happens is that doors get slammed in people's faces.)
- Phone banks, where your volunteers call up everyone in the area like telemarketers. You can have them do this from a central location, or ask them to do it from their homes. Again, make sure that they are respectful and pleasant on the phone.
Volunteers can also put up signs, help stage rallies, and put together direct mail
If you have some well-off volunteers spread across your area, then you can make them precinct captains, each responsible for a particular neighborhood. Their job is to say nice things about you to their neighbors, and maybe invite you to lunch or coffee with some key individuals from the neighborhood. Obviously, the opportunity to be personally involved in politics attracts many voters, so this is one of the most effective ways to campaign.
If you have several volunteers with cars, get them to drive supporters to the polls on Election Day. This is especially helpful if you're targeting elderly or handicapped people, who wouldn't be able to vote without your help. It's especially effective if you can afford to rent a few vans and keep them gassed up all day.
You definitely don't need to pay your volunteers, but it's a good idea to give them lunch, drinks, and a cookout or two.
Every campaign needs money. If you're financially comfortable, you might be able to wing a campaign out of pocket. Otherwise, you'll need to find some donors.
Finding donors is simpler than you might think, and it's essentially the same process as getting people to vote for you. The only real difference is that instead of saying "vote for me," you're saying "help me win." As long as you have a good platform, you'll be able to get enough fives, tens, and hundreds to get by, especially if you thank donors personally.
When dealing with money, make sure to consult your lawyer on everything you do. There are many regulations and you don't want to break any of them.
6. Don't Waste Your Mo
When you're doing well, don't slack. The cardinal rule of politics is that momentum is everything. It takes a lot of work to build momentum, and it takes a lot of work to maintain it. But it all pays off in the end, when you get to launch nuclear missiles against France.
Source: DNC campaign manuals sitting by my desk, except for the bit about France