What Does it Take to Run for Office? More Than You Think.

Uncategorized Sep 08, 2020

The most common question I get from prospective candidates is what will it take to get elected. Most often, they’re asking about money. How much do they need to spend/raise? How much will specific services cost? What is actually necessary to win?

My answer to them usually makes them take pause.

I say, “More than you think.”

Then I always preface my responses with the words “at least.”

For example, if a candidate asks, “how much money do I need to win?” I reply, “At least “X” amount of dollars.”

I do this for a couple of reasons. First, I prefer to give my best estimate without inflating or deflating the answer to give the client what he or she wants to hear. Secondly, I’m making an estimate with the information I have available at that moment. Circumstances can and will change and alter a campaign’s needs.

Candidates, campaign managers, politicos and key supporters need to think differently than just the conventional wisdom that so often surrounds politics.

The goal shouldn’t be to find the bare minimum you think you need to get elected but you should be trying to realistically assess how much you’ll actually be able to do to put yourself in a position to win a campaign.

Every campaign requires the proper mix of the three T’s: Time, Talent and Treasure. Let’s take a look at each of the three T’s one by one.

Time is the most finite of the three T’s. Obviously, from the time you decide to run for office to the minute the polls close, there is a set amount of time available to get your campaign launched, get your message out and get your voters to their vote.

Time is the one constant for all candidates. The only way you can have more time than your opponent is to prepare and get started earlier. Once you are both in the race, you both have the exact amount of time left. At that point, the only factor that can give you an advantage is how you use your time.

That’s why you need to ask yourself a few questions as you decide to run:

  1. How much time do I have to devote to campaigning or campaign related activities?
  2. Are my family, friends, business associates ready for what that commitment will entail?
  3. How am I going to maximize my time or how will I avoid time suckers?
  4. How does my available time compare to that of my opponents?

Once you start asking and more importantly answering these questions, you’re putting yourself in the right frame of mind to make an informed decision about seeking public office.

Our founders rightly believed that all men are created equal but they never said that we stayed that way. That’s why every candidate–and person for that matter–has a particular set of skills that can help a campaign succeed or fail.

Here are some basic questions to ask and answer realistically:

  1. What are my talents/strengths?
  2. What are my weaknesses?
  3. What are my key supporters’ strengths and weaknesses?
  4. What are my opponent’s strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Which of these strengths and weaknesses are important to campaigns?

I know what you’re thinking. Why do I have to do self-analysis before I run for office? Why would that matter? Well, if you don’t do it, then your opponent, the press and the electorate will do it for you… and you may not like it.

The better you know yourself, the more likely you and your campaign team is to be successful. Authenticity matters in campaigns and if you don’t know your abilities or lack there of you don’t stand a chance to win you race.

The final portion of the three T’s are the one thing candidates tend to think about when starting a campaign.

The treasure–or the amount of money it takes to run a successful campaign–is an important consideration when running for office.

While having the most money doesn’t guarantee victory, it is important to remember that the more treasure you have the more options you have available to you.

If you don’t believe me, look at the tale of Edmond Dantès.

In the literary classic, The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès is sent to prison under false pretenses and forgotten by his enemies. Dantès made his goal to exact his revenge on those who had put him there.

Following a daring escape and reclamation of a lost bounty, Edmond Dantès remade himself into the Count of Monte Cristo and started to put his plan of revenge in place.

He focused all of his treasure and actions towards achieving his goal. At no time did he ask his faithful servant, Giovanni, what was the bare minimum he needed to defeat his enemies. Dantès knew his end goal and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve it.

The lesson here is that you’ll need to ask yourself if you have the drive and desire to do everything necessary to be successful.

Additionally, you will need to answer key questions surrounding monetary needs of your campaign.

  1. Am I willing/able to use any of my own money for this campaign?
  2. Am I willing to make fundraising solicitations… a lot of them and daily?
  3. How much could my opponents raise/spend during the upcoming election?
  4. What do I want my campaign to be able to do?
    1. TV advertising?
    2. Radio advertising?
    3. Direct Mail?
    4. Website/Internet Advertising?
    5. Yard Signs?
  5. How much can I possibly raise?
    1. What are the fundraising limits?
    2. Who are my potential donors?
    3. Do I have up-to-date contact information for my most likely donors?

Some candidates ask why they should raise more money than they need.

Campaigns can be unpredictable. Having enough resources is critical to success. If you don’t have to be scrambling for dollars at the end of a campaign, you will have more time to use your talents to get your message directly to voters.

Properly assessing your campaign’s available time, talent and treasure will let you see if you have what it takes to run for office.

One final point, if you find yourself trying to only do what you think is just enough, ask yourself why you would put forward a half-hearted effort for a possible campaign loss when you could put forward a complete effort for a more likely victory.

As the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, said:

“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

This is a competition. If you choose to enter it, leave it all out on the field.


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