We lost the first election I ever helped in because we didn’t give it everything. I can’t remember what the financial balance was when the polls closed, but I know we metaphorically had “something left in the tank” individually. We could have touched a few more voters. And because we didn’t leave everything on the field, we lost by 12 votes.
Whether it’s financial or individual energy, anything left in the tank when the polls close is wasted.
Now, I’m not advocating fiscal irresponsibility. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ve got this wrapped up, I can understand holding back some funds and not just blowing it on another mailer. These are exceptions to the rule and outside what most people will face.
My point is that you shouldn’t be afraid to spend what you’ve got and give every ounce of effort, right up until the last votes are cast. Win or lose, you want to KNOW that you did everything. Any effort not used will be repurposed to self-flagellation if you lose. And all the money remaining will just get reimbursed to donors.
If victory is at all in doubt, never leave an ounce in the tank.
Throughout the campaign, you’ll be working non-stop to identify, persuade and turn out voters. Every minute counts but some minutes are off limits for certain types of contact. I recommend keeping you set 9am and 9pm as the outer bounds of your phone banking. The last thing you want to do is wake them up or interrupt someone at the beginning or end of their day. That’s when people are most perturbed by an unwanted call.
For canvassing, 9:30am is about as early as I ever recommend starting and you shouldn’t go later than 30 minutes before dark. If the street lights are coming on or there are dark shadows on the porch where you’re standing, it’s time to stop. Knocking later is likely to have people more concerned about threats, so you are more likely to spook them.
Work within these time parameters to touch as many voters as possible. It’s going to be your key to victory!
This quote comes from Winston Churchill, one of the 20th Century’s greatest statesmen and a personal hero of mine. He made an art of turning phrases and this is among my favorites.
In describing one of his contemporaries, Churchill made a caricature of him. A combination of absurdity, violence and discomfort that comes to mind. It’s an apt representation of what happens to a person when they allow these facets of themselves to lose harmony.
Examine yourself regularly to see whether your conscience and career motives are working together or if you’re nearing squirrel fight territory. You should subordinate your political and career motivations to your conscience. Do what you know is right, even when you may not see how it can help your career.
Never allow yourself to embody this caricature. Only you can ensure that you don’t.
I love this quote from James Freeman Clarke. Whether you are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Alien, I imagine that you are nodding your head in agreement with Mr. Clarke. Too many politicians of all stripes fall into this trap.
There may be times when you have to take hard votes, but when you find yourself justifying a vote against principle by saying, “Well, I’ve got to get re-elected if I’m going to really change things…” then you’re doing something wrong. A strong accountability system is key to staying on the right side of this line.
As an elected official, you have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to your constituents. You need to be examining the long and short game in government. This frequently means looking beyond the immediate passions of voters, to what is going to serve them best down the line. When voters are nearsighted, you need to focus further out.
This is the purpose of a representative democracy like ours. We elect people who are supposed to give the decisions they make more thought than we can and consider them carefully.