The secret to successful campaign strategy is in learning how to think strategically .
I am trying to set out a series of basic concepts that will help the " strategically challenged " among the rest of us learn to " think strategically '.
All have to do with what i call " the dynamics of an electorate ". These are : 1- voter , 2- voter participation ,3- separation and convergence , 4- point of view , 5- the cascade effect ,6- multidimensionality , 7- indirection .
voter solidity , hard and soft voters ; voter participation , certain to vote , undecided , certain not to vote .
Common sense indicates that we would want to be certain to accomplish three things . First , count on the vote of hard voters who are sure to vote . Second , work to persuade the hard voters who have not decided to vote to turn out on election day . Third , work to persuade soft and undecided voters who have decided to vote that our party or candidate deserves their support . The two most basic concepts in strategic development ;
1- getting a voter to vote , and
2- Getting a voter to vote for our candidate .
3- Separation and Convergence , Among these highly defined elector clumps , it can be said that their internal focus or cohesion among clump members is stronger than their external attraction for non members . These are in some cases , " single issues voters " . The point of the third dimension is to demonstrate that inward looking voters ( those who hold to a voter decision based on some group characteristic ) are more difficult to move , to change , than those who are outer directed . Put in other language , voters whose decision- group is hard are more resistant to campaign persuasions, of whatever type , than those whose decision- group is not politically consistent , and those who are not group members of either type .
4- Point of view ,in politically campaigns , however , the people who decide the outcome of the election are the observers , the audience , the voters . Therefore , the notion held by many , that the campaign of candidate A is built upon " beating Candidate B " , or " defeating Candidate C " , is simply wrong . These results ( beating B or defeating C ) may occur as a natural outcome of the campaign waged by A , but they are not helpful as primary strategic goals . In fact , such opponent-based conceptualizing is a hindrance to clear strategic thought . Instead of speaking about " defeating" , " beating " , "challenging" ," crushing" , and other forms of physical confrontation with opponents , one must concentrate on " persuading " , "attracting ", "appealing to " , and other forms of opinion modification of voters .Every campaign decision must be based around voter-directed thinking. The voter -directed approach sometimes is difficult for people like public relations specialists to grasp . They frequently are trained in client-oriented thought , creating logotypes , press releases , speeches , television commercials , and other communications to their clients specifications . Success in political campaigns , however , depends upon a grasp of the communications process from precisely the reverse perspective . It is the recipient of the communication who dictates its style and content , not the sender . Political campaigns are , or should be , VOTER-DRIVEN . Failure to convince the electorate of the value of ones views produces defeat at the polls . It is common place for a campaign to become so embroiled in the notion that its role is to " defeat " the opponent that it loses all sight of voters who will make the victory or defeat decision . The desire to ' win the fight" ,to " score points in the debate " , to make the opponent look bad " , etc. , fouls clear thinking about how to win votes from voters. The focus of the candidate , or the attacker , becomes personal , and sometimes vindictive , with the result that voters , instead of moving toward the candidate , as surely they should in a successful campaign , are turn off by the candidate desire for " blood " and either move to the support of an opponent , or drop out of the process altogether .
A political campaign strategist must keep in mind that his job is to move voters , not candidates , at all times . Loss of this point of view injures strategic planning .
5- The Cascade of Voter Decision-Making . the cascade of voter decision-making through which most voters pass are as follows ;
2- Name Identification
3- Favorable /Unfavorable
4- Image Depth
5- Issue Congruity
6- Vote Intention
7- Vote Solidity
6- Multidimensionality . Unnumbered participants and observers of the process think linearly about it . Voters want an honest political leader . i will say that I am honest . They will vote for me . aside from the logical fallacy involved in this mode of thought , this simplistic view of the political communications and response process is breathtaking in its inadequacy . Tony schwartz , that one of the secrets to success lies not in the placement of new information into the minds of voters , it lies in stimulating and using information already there , in touching a voter's " responsive chord ". political consultants , and others who are devoted to the creation and application of political communications strategies , are dedicated to one task ; the mental bringing together of a candidate and a voter , the construction of what ia at least temporarily a symbiosis , the linking of two humans in common purpose .That this can be done like putting a token in a subway turnstile is simply a foolish thought .
Political campaign strategy is a combination of all of these factors aimed at a precise goal;
- Getting a voter to vote for our party or candidate , - Getting a voter to vote .
That this complex work often is summed up in some trite slogan , like " he is one of us " , or " for a better tomorrow " , is a manifestation of the low level of understanding of the multidimensional level of communication needed between candidate and voter to evoke a successful response .
7- Indirection , finally , the most sophisticated portion of political campaign communication . Voters are not pawns to be moved around the chessboard of some political consultant's conspiracy for power . They are thinking and reasoning beings who bring far more to the political communication process than may be really observable .
Most voters do bring a healthy shrewdness to political decision making that bodes well for democratic government . This is not to sat that voters cannot be fooled .The price one pays for having fooled them is a significant one , far better to persuade voters . Most are open to persuasion , most of the time . the great debate occurs , however , in the method of persuasion . Voters are skeptical creatures . they are not noted for a high propensity for indulgence in what the forces of Walt disney call " suspension of disbelief" . Indeed , once a communication , from whatever source , in whatever style of delivery , identifies itself as political in nature voters tend to move in the other direction , " imposition of disbelief ". Since the intention of a political communicator is to touch " responsive chords " he must first identify those chords in the mind of the voter , Hence the enormous investment in social science research listed earlier . the purpose of this point in a discussion of indirection is simply to note the t the political communicators often rely on subtle , non-obvious , cues hidden within the depth of the communicator sent and received , to touch the chords they hope will response . We are talking about humans reactions , and inter-reactions difficult to define , and even more difficult to control , by communicator , or communicatee . But there is a complex system of non-verbal , non-visual cueing that it is at the core of human communication . The system must be used , if most political communication is to be successful .
It will be obvious to experience candidates that this quantitative approach to strategy development is something like " painting by the numbers ". Clearly , successful strategies are not so easily created .
The objective of this paper is to organiza and objectify , at least to some degree , the sometimes ad hoc approach to strategy development that is entirely intuitive .
In addition , although mention has been made in several occasions of attack and defense strategies , because of the polar nature of their form , the are many more basic strategies open to planners , including , but not limited to one or some combination of the following ;
- increasing name ID
- lowering negatives
- increasing positives
- deepening image
- creating increasing issue congruity
- increasing vote intention
- increasing vote solidity .
None of this strategies would like to be carried on singly . an attempt to raise name Id , for instance , surely would be accompanied by some attempt t increase positives , or to create greater image depth , for instance . The combinations and permutations of these basic concepts is substantial , and should be guided , of course , by the voter data on hand .
When more sophisticated strategies including attack , defense , shifting the ground of the campaign , changing the dynamic , and more , are added to the list of strategic options , an infinity of possibilities is opened . The basic point is to note that all of these strategic options are , and should be , subject to quantification using standard social and political science research techniques ,
The secret to successful campaign strategy is in learning how to think strategically .