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Saxman’s 11 Rules for a Winning Campaign

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By this point – EVERY YEAR – in Virginia, the electorate decides.

Whether the electorate shows up or not determines the outcome. But the decisions have been made.

We’re on final approach. Please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their locked and upright positions. This one could get bumpy.

Post-Mortems will come in two weeks, but until then – let’s run down Eleven Campaign Rules for every political campaign. Please note life lessons where applicable.

In no particular order –
1. Campaigns are won in the beginning – not the end. The first decisions and directions a campaign makes determine its outcome. Lao Tzu – “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” And if that first step is in the wrong direction, you lose. In politics, geometry determines geography. Obtuse = lose. Acute = a win.
2. Campaigns are 24/7/365 – narratives and brands are built every day. You can be Blackberry or Apple – everyday. When you are losing, it’s because your brand is losing. You are off message. The TEA Party was about the moral hazards of fiscal/economic policies at the federal level. They got pulled into other issues and lost their brand. Reagan owned his brand and controlled the narrative. Heck, he’s dead and people are still selling it.
3. Know your brand. See Rule #2. Ask everyday what is your brand. Commit to it. Stay in your lane. Senator Mark Warner knows his brand as well as anyone in politics and he stays there. Bob McDonnell was for jobs. Bob’s for Jobs. That was a very good brand.
4. If your brand does not sell. Dump it quickly. Early 80s Madonna was very different than late 90s Madonna. Same thing for 80s Democrats and Republicans. Innovate or evaporate. The market decides with eye popping speed.
5. Listen FIVE times as much as you talk. Consciously listen. People – a.k.a. VOTERS just want to be heard. They want to FEEL like they matter – because they do.
6. If you truly listen, you can truly RESPECT anyone’s life experiences. It shapes their view of the world. Did you ever notice how brothers and sisters within the same family have very different views of the same world? Yesterday, I spoke at a conference with 90% female attendance, average age? 40. In order to connect, did I choose the football analogy or the day spa with wine analogy? #duh. The Navy SEAL line fell flat though. #DoubleDUH.
7. Relationships matter. Build them. Start with being nice. One of the candidates for Governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe called me on my birthday (October 18th – stores are still open) this year and LAST year. Last year, he called from Spain. It was the first time I had ever spoken to the man. That speaks volumes about the campaign. He was just being nice and being nice goes along way in this world.
8. It’s selfish not to ask for help. I fail at this everyday. I try to do way too much myself. People honestly want to help. They WANT to be WANTED. It’s selfish not to ask them to help. Read that again. Always ask for the vote, the contribution (not a donation – a contribution), or their thoughts about an issue. Don’t be selfish. People want to help you! Let them. It makes them happy.
9. Money matters. Without the money to pay staff well, buy the ads, buy the signs etc….your message will never get out. There is no shame in asking people to help fund what you/they want to do – if what you/they want to do matters. Hence – money matters.
10. Elections are about the future, not the past. Campaigns are won by being present in the moment about the future. Senator Tim Kaine is the master of being present in the moment.
11. Be thankful – for everything. Why is Thanksgiving a more relaxing, enjoyable holiday than Christmas? Because we have but two basic things to do – eat and give thanks. Pretty low bar there. The four day weekend helps, but constantly expressing gratitude is an endearing act of humility. Be humble or be humbled.

Why eleven? Why not…had to stop somewhere.

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