Monday, February 13, 2012

Political Strengths

Political Strengths

Identifying the Political Strengths of Your Candidate and Your Opponent

Identifying the political strengths of your candidate is the first step in defining your candidate and developing a communication message around that identity.  These strengths may be obvious, such as a candidate's professional successes.  Or, the strengths of your candidate may be less apparent at first.  I've found that it helps to create a chart identifying both your candidate's strengths and her weaknesses. 

By pointing out your candidate's shortcomings or weaknesses, you might find yourself countering with a previously unnoticed strength.  For example, by listing her shortcomings, you may say, "My candidate has only worked in the private sector and has zero experience in governing."  While that may turn off some voters, you could parlay this "weakness" into an advantage by characterizing that lack of experience in elected office as giving your candidate a unique perspective on today's problems that those who have spent years working as a public servant may not have. 

As you create your political strengths and weaknesses chart you will often find that a strength or weakness can easily be transformed into the opposite.  So, one campaign will say of an opposing candidate with primarily private sector experience "My opponent does not know how legislation works and will not be able to make good on his promises to the voters."  (You might recall that this is the argument that Michelle Bachman made for why she should be the GOP candidate--the other candidates were simply saying they would repeal "Obamacare," while she detailed the challenges to such an action and explained that it would require wider Republican control of Congress as well as the presidency.) On the other hand, as explained earlier in this post, you can use that lack of legislative experience as a positive (much as Oregon gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley did in 2010's contest, arguing that his experience--as a retired professional basketball player...--is more in line with the lives of ordinary Oregonians).

Similarly, identifying the strengths of your opponent will help you predict how his or her campaign strategy.  If your opponent was a conservative Republican lawmaker in the 2010 primary and was challenging your moderate Republican candidate's seat in Congress, it's safe to assume that he or she would try to stake out a position farther to the right of your candidate and use his or her moderate record to create the perception that the candidate is a RINO or even progressive.  Fortunately, you will not be surprised by this strategy as you have carefully "gamed" your opponent's strategy by identifying his strengths and your own candidate's weaknesses.   

I hope that this overview of how identifying the political strengths of your candidate and your opponent will help you craft a clearer message in your campaign.  Next, I will explain how to identify weaknesses in your candidate and your opponent.    

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