So, you want to run for office. What now?
It doesn’t matter if you’re running for your local school board or President of the United States; there are three things you, along with every other political candidate, have to do before anything else.
First, clearly lay out why you are running.
This might seem a little remedial, but you’d be surprised at the number of political candidates who can’t answer the question: Why are you running for this office?
Ted Kennedy famously whiffed on this question during his 1980 primary loss to Jimmy Carter.
If you can’t answer this question in a simple 30-second statement, then don’t run. You aren’t ready.
Second, recruit your “kitchen cabinet.”
Political candidates tend to fall into one of two camps. They either refuse to listen to anybody or they listen to everybody.
The first type of candidate tends to fail in spectacular fashion, because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t have anyone to temper their bad ideas or to provide genuine innovation.
The second type of political candidate tends to fall into the trap of paralysis by analysis. They get conflicting opinions from scores of “advisors” and can’t figure out which is the correct answer.
To combat both of these problems, candidates should recruit a small, tight-knit group of supporters they will turn to for advice. Individuals in the group should be confident enough in their opinions that they can challenge the candidate.
Finally, raise money.
The fact is that overwhelmingly the candidate who raises the most money wins.
This is partially because modern campaigns are expensive. It takes a lot of resources to reach voters.
However, it’s bigger than just that.
Donations are a sign of support. A candidate who gets a lot of donations (even small donations) from the relevant constituency is going to attract bigger potential donors because of the perception that they have strong community/public support.
It’s easy to get intimidated by the complication and sophistication of modern campaigns. However, these three basic steps have been followed by successful candidates as long as there have been elections.
Follow these first three steps, and your candidacy will be off to a great start.