Last time, I wrote about the four mistakes beginning (and even veteran) political candidates make.
Reading through those common missteps, I was reminded of an old saying: Perfect Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
It’s more than a tongue twister, it’s sound political campaign advice. Almost all of the major pitfalls political candidates stumble into can be avoided by asking yourself some honest questions…before you even file for office.
Here they are.
1) Can You Do The Job?
This is a deeper consideration than just whether or not you have the professional/educational prerequisites for the job. Obviously, some positions (e.g. Attorney General, State Auditor, etc.) have specific training and licensing requirements that candidates must meet.
Political candidates must also consider whether they have the time and financial resources to devote themselves to public service. For many, serving in elected positions comes with a pay cut from what they would normally receive in their private sector job.
On top of that, public service often requires a physical relocation to the state or national capital. This can cause a major upheaval in your family and personal life.
Don’t file for office unless you are 100% sure you have the skill and the will to fulfill the duties of the position you’d be seeking.
2) Is Your Family Supportive?
Nothing destroys a political campaign quicker than strife on the home front.
Running for office, and engaging in public service, comes with a cost that your family will feel most of all.
You will almost definitely face financial constraints as you spend time campaigning instead of working.
You’ll miss out on a lot of family time as campaign events and official duties pull you away from home.
Your family will be exposed to the same public scrutiny you receive, even though their name isn’t on the ballot.
It’s a lot to ask those sacrifices of yourself, let alone your family. If they are not on board, it will sink your campaign before it even begins.
3) Do You Have A Base To Run From?
Most successful political candidates start out from a position of strength. They have some type of comparative advantage over their competitors before the election season even begins.
Do you come from the most populous area of the district? Do you have enough money to self-fund? Do you come in with pre-existing name ID among voters? Do you have a ready-made army of volunteers ready to rumble?
Take a second to make an honest assessment of what you’re bringing into the campaign (before you’ve made one donor call or signed up a single volunteer) that gives you a good shot of winning.
If you can’t find an area of comparative advantage for your campaign, then you need to come up with a plan to find one quick…or reconsider your entry into this particular race.
4) Will You Do What It Takes To Win?
Now, hold on. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not asking you to go all “Sean-Connery-In-The-Untouchables” here.
But the fact remains that successful political candidates often have to do things that are tedious, uncomfortable or embarrassing.
Are you prepared to walk in all the big parades? Are you comfortable with public speaking? Are you OK asking people for their support…including their money?
These are real hurdles for many candidates. Before you ever file, be sure you identify those aspects of campaigning likely to give you the most consternation.
Then ask yourself: Is it worth it?
5) What Happens If You Win?
Maybe the best single moment in political cinema history is at the end of “The Candidate” when Robert Redford’s character realizes he has won and asks: “What Do We Do Now?”
Your career in public service doesn’t end on Election Day…it’s just beginning. If you thought that the campaign’s end would bring you more time to spend with your family, friends or hobbies you are dead wrong.
Many political careers are cut short (and families ruined) when a candidate is unprepared for success.
It’s not enough to have a plan to win the campaign war. Be sure you have a plan to win the relative “peace” of success.