Picture yourself playing chess , trying to check-mate your opponent . Only in this scenario, you are not at a chessboard but in a political campaign .Like the chess master , you need a plan , a path to ultimate victory that anticipates the moves of your opposition . In politics , as in warfare of any kind , " the masters strategist is a realist who find the pass of least resistance to the ultimate goal of winning ".

A couple of years ago , one of all -time greats of the political consulting business , Matt Reese , convened a crew of campaign afficionados at his beach side home in Delaware . The purpose of the two-day poker-playing , gumbo-eating,cigar-chomping confab was to define political strategy ./Reese wanted a way to explain this amorphous term - a term that means so much but is so poorly understood .

If you do not know what strategy is , he asked , how can you make it ? How can you consider your full range of tactical operations ? How can you test your instincts and judgments against a standard success ?.

In answer to Reese's queries , one was tempted to respond that strategy is like pornography : you can not define it , but you know it when you see it .

But that wasn't good enough for Reese, who has learned a thing or two about winning elections during his four decades in the campaign arena . He wanted more .Tell me what is a strategy , he pressed , and tell me how it is different from a tactical and a message ? .

The best answer , I concluded , is that STRATEGY is how you position yourself and allocate your resources to maximize  your strengths and minimize your weaknesses . It is a concept . It is a way to win . A TACTIC , on the other hand , is a tool to implement strategy . It is a conduct .

A MESSAGE  is the reason you give voters to select you over the opposition . How and when you communicate that message ( sequence , timing , intensity , persuasion )and when and how you mobilize your resources are the strategic components of every campaign , large or small.

For example Bill Clinton's strategy in his 96 re-election campaign was to enhance the differences between himself and his Republican opposition on issues that benefitted Democrats ( Medicare , Medicaid , education , environment ) and to blur differences that benefitted Republicans (crime , taxes ,balanced budget , welfare reform , family values ). By enhancing differences on favorable issues , he was playing to his natural strengths .He was , in effect , mobilizing his base . By blurring differences on less favorable issues , and co-opting elements of Republican rhetoric , he was able to take many of these issues to the table and , in so doing , opened the door to persuade swing voters that he was a reasonable , moderate , caring alternative  to an intensive , extreme , overly partisan opposition .

The Tactics Clinton used to implement this strategy included early " Positioning " TV spots targeted markets ( Gingrich and Dole on Medicare ) and a series of speeches ( the era of big government is over ) legislative proposal ( school uniforms , opposition to teenage smoking ) and bill signings ( wellfare reforms ) .



The essence of political strategy is to press your greatest strength against the point of your opponent's greatest weakness . This is done through the development and delivery of messages that present the voters with a choice based on candidate differences that are clear , believable and connected to reality . Messages may be based on , (1) Personal virtues/flaws of the candidates (experience, competence , independence , integrity , compassion , stability , preparation, etc.) , or  ,(2) ideological/partisan differences (liberal , conservative , moderate , radical , extreme , wishy-washy , inconsistent , pragmatic , etc. ), or , (3) A combination of both .

Messages may be used to d e-emphasize candidate qualities and to de-emphasize issues or ,inversely , to de-emphasize issues and to highlight candidate qualities .

If your strength is ideological and your opponent's strength is personal , you may want to position your candidacy as a vehicle for policy objectives that overpower in importance candidate's virtues and flaws . The choice presented to the voters would then pivot on policy diffErences rather than on personality, characters or credentials .

Another way to de-emphasize personality is to turn the election into a referendum "for" or "against "either (a) an over-riding issue or (b) someone other than the candidates themselves .


How and when a campaign message is communicated to voters , as well as how and when coalitions are built and supporters are mobilized , depends upon the strategic formulation most appropriate to your circumstances . You the use the tactical tool of targeted direct contact ( mail , phones , canvassing ,) and mass media ( TV , Radio ,newspapers ) to implement your game plan .

SELECTING THE RIGHT ISSUE IS BOTH AN ART ( A GUT INSTINCT FOR PEOPLE AND THEIR OPINIONS ) AND A SCIENCE (POLLING , FOCUS GROUPS). It is also like music . You can either play big and loud over large themes like change vs continuity , war vs peace , the future vs the past , or you can stress small , specific , concrete things like school uniforms , anti-tobacco initiatives , computers in classrooms , elimination of the car tax . The former is James Carville "tuba " approach that was used successfully in Clinton;s 92 win . The latter is the Dick Morris "clarinet " approach that was used successfully in Clinton;s re-election .


A political campaign should not be merely a series of events and activities haphazardly sequenced and arbitrarily timed . It should be rolled-out with clear purpose as part of a logical plan .

Most candidates know that they must have a coherent message , take polls , use modern database software , distribute literature ,produce advertising , send out mail , make phone calls identify and persuade swing voters , turn out supporters on election day - but figuring out when to do what , and to what degree and in what order , is something that often mystifies. Solving the strategy puzzle requires the ability to think strategically . AND THAT IS THE KEY TO VICTORY .

The first step in strategic thinking is understanding that every campaign needs a MESSAGES SEQUENCE STRATEGY ( the order you present your arguments ) a TIMING AND INTENSITY STRATEGY (when you act and a what pace ) and a MOBILIZING AND PERSUASION STRATEGY (targeting voter propensities and allocating resources to reach "persuadables " vs the reinforcement and turning out "favorables ") . To fully exploit situational advantages , or to overcome existing or anticipated obstacles , you may also need to pursue a range of OPPORTUNITY STRATEGIES ..

This process is not unlike confronting a war among nations .

Political consultant Thomas "Doc" Sweitzer , in The Road to Victory 2000 compilation of articles that have been published in this magazine , explained how the basic principles of military strategy apply to the political battlefield as well . They include : amazing strength against weakness ; keeping focused on primary objectives ; seizing the offensive and avoiding being placed on the defensive ; simplicity of action ; economizing use of force ; maneuvering your way out of problems and over obstacle ; unity of command and central decision - making ; using surprise ; and maintaining planning secrecy .

" The political world speaks in military tongues because war provides a useful model for political activity ,", elaborates Claremont McKenna College professor John J. Pitney , Jr , who cites one of history greatest military strategic wizards Carl von Clausewitz ( War is a clash between major interest which is resolved by bloodshed-that is the only way in which it differs from other conflicts ) as evidence for his thesis .

"Politics and war are remarkably similar systems " echoed Newt Gingrich as he commanded GOP batallions toward their great victory of 94 . War is politics with blood ; politics is war without blood ".

No one can determine the right strategy for any campaign-political or military - without knowing the political context , the players , the issues , the terrain and the resources available . These factors make each campaign unique . One size does not fit all . Unfortunately, there are no magic wands and no certain results in this business .

Nonetheless , the strategy-making process in politics can be made less mystifying and more rational if you understand the elements of what strategic battle plan should be .

The following is presented as a menu of options that is , in effect , a checklist of strategic formulations that can be used - and have often been used - in real life campaign situations . It is intended as a way to organize your strategic thinking that can be applied to your next campaign whether it's for a seat on your local water commission or for the presidency of the United Sates .


Menu de Opciones de Formulaciones Estrategicas que Pueden ser usadas en la Campaña .


1- Ignore a la Oposicion: Comience Positivo- Mantengase Positivo hasta el Final

2- Clasico :Comience Positivo y no Inicie Ataque - Responda a los Ataques del Oponente _Termine Positivo .

3- Agresivo : Comience Positivo - Ataque Antes a la Oposicion - Responda a los Ataques de la Oposicion de ser Necesario - Termine en una Pista Positiva , o en Doble Pista Positiva y Negativa /Comparativa .

4 Ataque Frontal : Comience Negativo/Comparativo - Vaya Positivo y Responda en Doble Pista Positivo y Negativo /Comparativo

5- Ataque Total : Comience y Mantenga el Negativo /Comparativo - Introduzca la Doble Pista , con Positivos en Algunos momentos - Termine Doble Pista Positivo y Negativo/Comparativo



1- La Tortuga : Comience Lento - Mantengase Lento toda lam Campaña

2- Bookend : Comience Grande y con Bulla - Reduzca y Mantengase Estable - Termine Grande y con Bulla 

3-Pearl Harbor :Comience Callado haciendo que la Oposicion Menosprecie su Fuerza Y Confunda sus Intenciones - Termine Grande y con Bulla 

4-Aguante el Fuego : Despacio, Crecimiento a Traves de la Campaña - Termine Grande y con Bulla .



1- Formulacion Clasica :Cree y Refuerce su Base - Identifique Indecisos y Debiles Oponentes - Persuada a Indecisos y Debiles - Sacar a Votar a los Aliados

2- Estrategia Base : Refuerce la Base -saque a votar a los Aliados 

3- Marion Barry : Refuerce Base - Agrande su Base _ Saque a Votar a su Base



1- Prepare la Trampa : Ataque al Oponente mientras prepara un Ataque Mayor escondiendo Informacion - el Oponente responde - Responda descargando la Informacion adicional en un Ataque 

2- Carnada con Veneno : Provoque al Oponente a hacer algo que le Causaria un Daño Inadvertido

3- VacunaIdentifique su mas Grande Debilidad Potencial antes de que la Oposicion la posicione en la Mente de los Electores - Tome acciones para convertir estas Acciones en su Fortaleza .

4- Pararayos : Individuo o Grupo Controversial Respalda a un Candidato que No puede Ganar pero que Atrae todo lo Controversial , Protegiendo alCandidato que Puede Ganar de los ataquespor el Respaldo de este Grupo o Individuo - al Final , el Individuo o Grupo Respalda al Candidato ganador , retirando al candidato "Pararayos "

5- Ventaja Tecnologica :Use una herramienta efectiva tactica que la Oposicion No este Usando y no Usara .

6- Ataque de Ametralladora : Ataque al Oponente en el Tema 1 -  Cuando el Oponente comience a Responder sobre el Ataque al Tema 1  - Ataque al Oponente sobre el Tema 2 - Cuando comience a Responder sobre el Ataque al Tema 2 , Ataque al Oponente sobre el Tema 3 

7- Masa Critica : Apabulle a su Oponente con Respaldos , recaudacion , Presencia Fisica y Actividad en un Momento Critico .

8- Pinzas : Ponga al Oponente en una posicion que no pueda escaparse .

9- Pared de fuego ; Construya grupos solidos de Respaldos Politicos que no puedan ser Penetrados por la Oposicion 

10- Tres es una Multitud : Agrande la fuerza de un Tercer Candidato Menor como una manera de quitarle votos al Competidor Mayor .