(Chuck Muth) – I attended a neighborhood meeting of the Summerlin Patriots yesterday afternoon. It was a wonderful potluck with some wonderful people who are doing some wonderful things trying to make a difference in politics.
Many of those in attendance had once been actively involved in GOP party politics, but either got tired of wasting their time on BS arguments over bylaws and resolutions or got run off by party “leaders” whose skin is too thin to take constructive criticism.
Anyway, four candidates running for various offices stopped by to make their pitch for their candidacies yesterday. All four preached to the choir. They articulated positions on issues of universal agreement with those in attendance.
Everyone’s head was nodding in agreement.
Like other candidates at other meetings, they voiced support for a variety of issues. One said the most important issue this cycle was national security. Others said illegal immigration. Or inflation. Or education. Or health care. Or whatever.
They’re all wrong.
The single most important issue next year is…GETTING ELECTED.
You see, it doesn’t matter if the candidate agrees with you 100% on every issue of every concern you have if they have no path to victory. They can make great speeches ‘til the cows come home, but if they can’t get elected, it’s all for naught.
To change public policy, you need to change public officials.
So if you run into a candidate this election cycle – or get a chance to ask a candidate questions at an event – forget about asking them about issues. Instead, ask them these Three Questions so you can find out if they have a credible path to victory…
- Why are you running?
- How many votes do you need to win and where will they come from?
- How much will your campaign cost and how are you going to pay for it?
Print these out and take them wherever you go.
Now, I won’t get too far into the details of how these questions should be answered – that’s what I teach candidates in my training programs – but here are a few things for you to look for…
When asked “Why are you running?”, the candidate should be able to answer that in 30 seconds or less. And it should be about what they want to DO if elected, not what they want to be.
If they give you a “Marco Polo” answer – all over the map – then they’re not ready for prime time and haven’t spent the time necessary to develop a persuasive messaging strategy.
When you ask, “How many votes do you need to win?”, the answer should be an EXACT number.
Not “more than the other guy” or “50 percent plus one” or “around 15,000 votes.” It should be EXACT.
There’s a well-established formula for coming up with this number based on vote history and data. So they should be able to explain how they came up with the number, as well.
If they don’t have that number memorized and spit it out immediately upon being asked this question – and explain to you where those votes are and HOW they’re going to get them – they’re not ready for prime time.
Ditto how much their campaign is going to cost and how they’re going to pay for it. If they can’t tell you that, then they probably don’t have a WRITTEN campaign plan which should include both.
Ask them to show it to you, or at least a summary of it.
And if they say they’re just going to walk door-to-door and not raise money to communicate with the large portion of non-ideological voters who don’t even start to tune in until four weeks before Election Day, don’t just walk away…RUN.
They don’t have to raise the MOST money to win. But they DO need to raise enough money to execute their campaign plan. And if they don’t have a WRITTEN campaign plan, then they don’t have a plan at all.
Think of it this way: If you wanted to take a road trip from Las Vegas to Orlando, would you just hop in the car and start driving? No.
You’d budget for the trip and map everything out – taking into consideration which roads to take, where to lay up overnight, where to get gas, where to eat, where to pull off and spank the kids in the back seat, etc.
And you’d have contingency plans for when things inevitably go wrong…because no matter how much you plan, things inevitably ALWAYS go wrong (watch “Vacation” starring Chevy Chase).
Same with taking a trip as a candidate to the Winner’s Circle. If they haven’t mapped out a credible plan for how to get there, they’re likely gonna be crying in their beer on Election Night.
Because YOU have a skin in this game. A big one.
Which candidate gets elected is the most important issue. Because the winner is going to be the one actually casting the votes on the issues most important to you on your behalf.
And if your candidate – the one who agrees with you on all the issues and is articulate, smart, attractive, knowledgeable, and experienced – loses to the guy or gal who opposes everything you stand for, YOU lose.
It’s not the best candidate who wins, it’s the best CAMPAIGN.
So my challenge to you is this…
When a candidate comes to you asking for your support, GRILL them. Not on issues. On their “path to victory” plan.
Ask them the Three Questions I noted above. See what they say. See if they REALLY know what they’re doing or if they’re just great at telling people what they want to hear.
Don’t be buffaloed, baffled, or fooled. Many of these folks are GREAT at painting rosy scenarios based on “feelings,” but not backed up by data and a strategic plan.
As the saying goes, they could sell ice to Eskimos.
And since Hermione Granger (see: “Harry Potter”) won’t let me borrow her “time-turner,” I can’t be at two places at once. Which means you’ll be running into candidates that I don’t see.
And you can help me get their heads in the game by insisting they take off the rose-colored glasses, drop the platitudes, stop selling snake-oil, and provide credible answers to the Three Questions.
And if they’re not able to answer those questions – or worse, the campaign manager/consultant they’re paying hasn’t answered them for them – there’s one place they can go to learn all this basic information…and it’ll only cost them $1.
Don’t be intimidated. These people want your vote. But they have to EARN it.
As such, they have a DUTY to explain to you how they’re going to win. If they can’t, look for a candidate who can. Because if they screw it up, YOU lose.
Never forget this, or let the candidates forget it: Campaigns aren’t about them. They’re about YOU.
7 Worst Habits of Highly Unelectable People
- Picking the wrong race
- Picking the wrong district
- Picking the wrong issues
- Picking the wrong time
- Picking the wrong consultants
- Picking unnecessary fights with the media
- Picking door-knocking over fundraising
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“You can’t beat a plan with no plan.” – Morton Blackwell, president of the conservative Leadership Institute
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.