Chapter Study Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. The basis of a good campaign strategy is, first, to recognize the reality of the campaign—or broader context in which the campaign is being run—and second, to set an appropriate goal that, if achieved, will win the election.
    2. This basis for the campaign helps dictate what the campaign will look like, how it is organized, and the role of political consultants in each campaign—the increase in popularity of which has led to a rise in more professionalized and strategic campaigns.
  2. How are Campaign Strategies Constructed?
    1. A campaign strategy is a proposed pathway to victory, driven by the understanding of who will vote for the candidate and why they will do so. Joel Bradshaw, a prominent political scientist, has posited four key propositions for developing a successful campaign strategy.
      1. The electorate can be divided into three groups: the candidate’s base, the opponent’s base, and the undecided voters.
      2. Past election results and survey research make it possible to determine which people fall into each of the above mentioned groups.
      3. It isn’t possible, nor is it necessary, to get everyone’s vote to win an election.
      4. Once a strategy has been identified, campaigns should direct resources to key groups of potential voters and nowhere else, in order not to waste time or money.
    2. In order to implement strategy, it is first important to set vote targets—or goals—for the election, based on estimates of who and how many will vote in an upcoming election. Whether an election coincides with a presidential election—which indicates higher turnouts—how many and which minority parties will play a role in the election, and the number of swing—or persuadable—votes all help to determine vote targets.
      1. Swing votes can be identified and targeted by first using surveys and focus groups. Probability samples are a type of survey in which a number of potential voters from a certain population are randomly selection and asked a set of questions. They are meant to be representative of the population as a whole. Focus groups are smaller sets of identified swing voters who are asked a number of in-depth questions to determine how to gain their votes.
      2. Voter persuadability, another important part of identifying swing votes, is expensive to analyze, and so is not usually utilized in smaller or local campaigns. Microtargeting these swing votes can only occur after individual analysis of each potential voter in an area, which will include opinions of real-life conditions, partisan make-up, and opinion of the candidate’s viability as a successful leader.
  3. Strategic Campaign Decisions
    1. There are several important factors that drive the initial decision of a candidate to run for office.
      1. Whether a candidate wants to run obviously is the initial question. The amount of time and work necessary to run a successful campaign, not to mention to hold office, requires enough motivation from the candidate at the beginning of the campaign to overcome any negative aspects of running.
      2. The access to resources, specifically money, also determines whether a candidate will run, especially in a political system like that in the states where little can be accomplished without finances.
      3. It is also an important consideration as to whether the candidate can assemble an effective campaign organization and staff—ideally at the beginning of a campaign.
      4. The opportunity to run is mostly derived from the realities of an election and campaign. The nature of the political scene and the personal and professional life of the candidate all affect whether the candidate can or cannot feasibly be successful in a race. Opportunity is also crucial in determining when a candidate will run.
    2. In most elections, candidates will choose a few issues, and make it a point to define those issues as what matters in the election, and there are various factors that go into choosing what these issues are.
      1. Candidates can choose to present issues that are traditionally strong selling points for their political party. Called issue ownership, candidates will try to emphasize these issues, though the nature of debate in politics would make is relatively impossible not to address a wider array of issues
      2. Current and contemporary events, such as economic or political occurrences, also affect what candidates choose to make an issue during an election. Many current events must be addressed by candidates in order to gain wider support from voters.
      3. Personal experiences and the candidate’s own reputation also affect the issues on the table during an election, with candidates trying to highlight their own strengths and the weaknesses of their counterparts.
    3. On most issues, candidates must also decide what position to take on issues—whether to take an issue that seems more popular with the public, or try and persuade citizens to adopt their own point of view. Of course, candidates must take into account all of their constituents who they expect to turnout in an election, including those that might not hold the mainstream opinion, and they must be careful not to change their stance on an issue in a way that would risk earning them a label like “flip-flopper.”
    4. Whether to attack the other candidate, via negative campaigning, is another important decision to be made, since it can sometimes reflect just as negatively upon the candidate themselves and it can increase the name recognition of one’s opponent just by airing. In many cases, a candidate who is ahead in the polls is less likely to attack than those who are behind, though, in particular in presidential elections, this is not the case.
    5. The decision of where to campaign is in many ways affected by the goals of mobilizing partisan voters and persuading independent, or swing, voters to vote for the candidate, two different models that are usually employed in a combination by a campaign. In larger, gubernatorial, senatorial, and presidential campaigns, close analysis of each voter usually dictates where candidates and their strategists decided to campaign.
    6. The question of how to campaign, or what tactics to use, is also usually decided by analytical and strategic calculations and available resources. The importance of the ground game, or personal campaigning by the candidate and outreach from volunteers, has increased again the past few elections after seeing a downturn in its utility after the onset of television-centric campaigning.
  4. Organizing for Strategic Success
    1. There is no such thing in American politics as a “typical” campaign. Campaigns vary in resources provided to them, in breadth, and in makeup.
    2. Although many campaigns have similar positions of authority—such as campaign strategist and campaign manager—in many cases, the positions have different job descriptions and occupy different overall positions in the hierarchy of the campaign.
  5. Who Are the Campaign Strategists?
    1. There are many and varied paths to become a campaign strategist, but much of the time, strategists have had experience in campaigning and elections or with the candidate in the past.
    2. Regardless of the path taken into professional campaigns, many strategists have attained greater visibility, to the point of celebrity, in the recent years, though it is hard to determine how much they actually impact contemporary elections.