John Tsarpalas: It’s exactly four weeks before the 2016 Presidential election. Wahoo! Super Bowl is coming! So today on Commonwealthy we are going to talk about what you should be doing during the last month before the election. Commonwealthy #67. And by you I mean a candidate or your campaign.
Okay, thirty days to go. You have to got to be hitting on all cylinders right now. Number one, you are probably in the early voting period if your area has early voting and absentee balloting. Your number one priority at the moment is to be getting a hold of those people that you have identified in your voter ID process (that was going door to door and making phone calls).
If you don’t know how to do that, then you need to learn it for the future. You’ll find information on that in Door to Door, Commonwealthy #10, and you’ll find it in Commonwealthy #14, Voter ID scripts. And it ties into #15, Using Volunteers in a Political Campaign. And of course the mother ship of podcasts #42, Get Out the Vote in a Political Campaign. So if you need more information, go back and take a listen to those or read the transcripts at Commonwealthy.com.
Back to you are in the beginning of, or somewhere it has already started, early voting. What does that mean? That means you are getting people to the polls who you have identified as supporting you. You are doing that every day. You are getting a download from the Board of Elections if they have it. If they still have it on paper, you are getting it on paper.
And you are removing those people that showed up to vote that are in your voter ID list. You are getting that list from the Board of Elections. You are taking that out of your voter database. There is no need to ID those people. There is no need to call those people for voter turnout since they have already voted in early voting.
You are going to do this every day through the early voting period and keep cleaning up your list and shrinking your list. In the meantime, you should have volunteers and people door knocking. They should be voter IDing. They should be calling and asking if people are supporting you.
Please go back to that podcast on scripts. It is important how you ask. Just go back to Commonwealthy #14, Voter ID Scripts. It will explain how it works there. We have a very thorough explanation. Kristina Keats is the best at writing scripts.
Okay, so you are still IDing and you are starting to turn out the vote. You are trying to remind people to go to early voting. You are pushing them. And you are pushing urgency. It is urgent for them to go vote. “It is going to be a very close election. It would really be helpful if you voted before the election because it might be crowded at the polls or might be bad weather on Election Day. We are really going to need your vote because it is going to be close.”
Now no matter what you know about how close your campaign is based on polls, based on feedback, or based on your count of how many people are voting for you versus how many are not voting for you in your voter ID (and you can track where you are at on your own. Every day you are doing a poll by making those phone calls. You are deciding if it is close or not), you are never, ever going to tell the outside public is it not close.
You are going to say that is urgent, it is important, that it can be, it might be, it is going to be, or it looks like it is going to be a close race. You don’t really know. Polling never is that accurate. And in lower races, you aren’t going to have any feedback or polls. So just stress urgency in getting people there.
You’ve probably been mailing. You should have started mailing months ago. Perhaps you mailed in the primary and now you are mailing a couple of pieces just before early voting started so those early voters can start to see something about you. You are continuing to mail at least one piece a week up until Election Day if you can afford it. You are figuring all of that out and you are targeting that based on your plan, which you should have made months and months ago.
But somewhere right about now comes the October surprise. Has someone gone on a major attack on you or pulled out some nasty information about you? Some kind of garbage about some previous ticket you might have or something you said or something about your relationships. Garbage always comes up. Desperate people and nasty people bring out the garbage.
So be prepared for it. It is going to happen right now if it is going to happen. And if it is a smaller race (you are running for a local township board or something), probably nothing is going to happen. So you just stay on message.
But if something does come along, you are ready to respond. You can get a mailer out quickly. You can get an automated call out quickly because you have talked to people like Extended Data so you can do a quick turn around on an automated call that is personalized. There are ways to respond that are inexpensive and fast. Be prepared for that. Have it in your bag of tricks ready to go.
Be mindful that you don’t necessarily have to respond to the dirty trick because sometimes the response points it out more than if it just happened and it went away. If it was one little editorial in a newspaper and people are not talking about it, not many people read that town people, so what? Keep going.
However if you are feeling like it has some traction, then you’ve got to respond. You’ve got to figure that out. And maybe you are going to have a press release or you are going to have some kind of a press event and invite the press, although they probably won’t show up if it is a local election. But you never know. Town papers are looking for things to write about, but there is a shortage of journalists and they are expensive so they don’t have many of them.
So you are going to think about those kinds of things in this last thirty days. You are also going to think about some follow up phone calls to your donors telling them how you spent your money and thanking them and this is what is happening. “That mailing went out last week that you helped pay for, Mr. Donor.” “Ms. Donor, thank you so much. The yard signs are up and you helped pay for those.”
You could also do a further ask if they haven’t maxed out based on your campaign finance laws. You could say, “An extra hundred dollars right now would be fabulous so in the last week I can get this last mailing out,” or something like that. So think about how you can make some final donor calls and donor thank you’s. You want them to know that you are thankful.
You might be back for more money after the election. You might be back for more money the next election cycle. You do not want to burn bridges. You never know what is going to happen. I’ve had many a candidate who lost an election, went home and licked their wounds, thought about it, and came to the realization that it is going to take two times to win.
And they come back the next time and they do win the second time out. Why? Because they’ve already got their name out there a bit. They know who some of their donors are. They know where their yard signs go. They know what people supported them in the past. They’ve kept all of that data and information.
And they build on it just like you grow a business. It is hard to grow a campaign in six months or one year, but if you do it over three years (say you run again two years later), that makes sense. That’s how long it takes business to get off the ground. So think about that, how you are going to keep a positive image for your next run because your next run can be key and important.
And if you win, you want to get reelected. You want to have a little time there to implement and make sure the things you are changing and doing are going to stick. So these things are huge. This is really important.
This last month is a real big moment for your social media. If you have a Facebook for yourself, you should be showing up there regularly. If you’ve got somebody you’ve recruited to do that for you, that’s great. If you are a tweeter, tweet. It is a really big month to get your message out through social media.
Hopefully you’ve recruited somebody to help you with this, but be working it. Let them know that you are out. Let the people know that you are enthusiastic, that you are at this event, that you are doing that. You want your name out as much as possible.
And you are reminding them through social media that early voting is open and you can go up to the local county courthouse to vote. Name those local polling places so people know where the early voting is at.
And remind them if they are going to be out of town to vote absentee now, to take care of that. You’ve got to let them think about that in advance. People don’t necessarily think about voting when they are going to be out of town on Election Day. You need to remind them to think about it. And the best place and the cheapest place to do that is through social media and your email plan.
Do you have an email campaign? Have you been collecting email lists? Are you reminding people in your email plan to vote early and to absentee vote if they are going to be out of town. So let’s think about those last emails for the last thirty days or couple of weeks here.
Let people know you are active and tell them to talk you up. Tell them remind their neighbors. And if you are going to be at some kind of an event, ask them to bring a friend to that event so that you can meet and greet them.
Of course you’ve been asking for volunteers and you are still asking for volunteers. You are asking for volunteers on Election Day. These last thirty days is the prime moment to recruit people who can then be in the polling place for you as poll watchers or be in your office making phone calls to those people that need to be reminded to show up to vote.
At this moment, I am going to refer you back to Commonwealthy #48, Election Judges and Poll Watchers. You want people who are going to be in poll checking off who came in to vote. And then at some point, they are going to get that information to you. If you are using Voter Gravity or a system like that, you can do it through the smart phones.
However, if you’ve got a lower tech system, you are going to have people go around and pick up lists of who comes in to vote or they are going to drop it off to you on their way home if they are leaving at eleven o’clock or noon or they are going to work, but they were there from six to nine. They are going to work a little late, but they will drop the list off to you.
These are people you can take off the list of people you are calling because they’ve already voted. And it is a way to track how your vote is doing. If they said they were voting for you and they showed up to vote, they probably voted for you. You can sit there and have a pretty accurate count of how many people have voted for you. You can also see the ones who said they weren’t voting for you. You can have an accurate count of how it is going against you as well.
You can, by tracking this, predict where you are at by noon or at three o’clock- if you are going to win or if you are going to lose. What do you think is happening? If you have done enough voter ID in advance and you know who is voting for you and who is not.
And of course, you’ve given some thought to election night. But you might be in those final stages of putting that together. You need to get those volunteers double checked on a couple of times here as it gets closer. How is it going? It is going to be at your house or somebody’s house and you’ve got some catering trays ordered. Or someone is going to pick something up at Cosco (it seems like Cosco is where people go around here, but that is because they are liberal Democrats) or Sam’s Club or some place like that. Or the local restaurant it hosting the event and they volunteered to donate it.
Have you made some calls looking for somewhere to have the party? If you’ve got one month to go, you can make those calls. If it is past that, then you are running out of time. But see where that party is going to be and plan on thanking on your volunteers and inviting every volunteer, poll watcher, election judge, and supporters if you can afford to feed them all.
It helps to build espirit de corps for the future. It helps to build the team. You need to build a team going forward. This is hopefully not the end of your political career.
Also, do you have phone numbers for your opponent? Who is going to make that call on election night? Are they calling you? Are you calling them? Are you going to concede? If it is a bigger race with different slates or multiple seats or something like a park board and it is vote for three out of five, do you know all of the other candidates and their phone numbers? Can you call people to congratulate them? Can you call people to thank them?
You need to be in touch. You need to be gracious on election night. Have you thought about what you are going to say to the press on election night? Have you thought about what you are going to say to the press on Election Day? Because they will be calling for quotes and interviews if you are in that kind of a situation. In a small town, heck yes they are going to call you. They are looking for something to write about.
Does the press know how to get a hold of you? That is probably something you should have thought about a while back and probably were. So be prepared with those numbers and those kind of things.
There is a lot to think about. Of course what is more important than anything is continuing to do your voter IDing that last month. You are still calling people. You are still calling and knocking on doors. And you are asking people to vote for you. And you having volunteers ask people to vote for you.
And then Election Day comes and it is the big crunch day. You start early. You’ve got people that are going to go out to put signs up at the polls and put signs in different places. Just clean out your signs. They are not going to do you any good keeping them. Just use them up. Get them out. If you’ve got nowhere to go, have them throw them on some busy corners.
And make sure you’ve got a crew to do that so it is not you because you don’t want to be up at four a.m. You want to get up at six and you want to stand in front of your first poll. You stand outside far enough away so it is not considered electioneering. You want to shake hands. “Hi, I am John Doe and I am running for school board. I’d really appreciate your vote.”
People might talk to you a little bit about an issue before they go in. That’s great. They get an idea about you. It is your last chance to meet some people to get their vote and get their support. And I would do that.
I would pick the precinct that has the most population and it is the most independent voters, precincts where they split the ticket or they swing. One time they voted for Obama. The next time they voted for the Republican. Or they voted for Obama, but they voted for a Republican Senator or the congressman they voted Republican.
You want to find places like that so that you can affect as many independents with that last minute handshake and that last minute meet and greet outside the polling place. And I’d work it heavily until nine o’clock in the morning. You want to be where there is people. And usually people are in from six to nine, then it drops off.
At nine o’clock, you can run around a little bit. You can go from poll to poll, thank your poll watchers, check in with headquarters, and check in and see what is happening. Hopefully you’ve got somebody kind of managing things even if they are a volunteer. But they’ve got people making phone calls for Get Out the Vote.
And your Get Out the Vote phone call should start at nine a.m.. You should be calling and calling and calling until they’ve shown up to vote. You don’t take them off the list until you know they’ve voted. Now if you don’t have poll watchers everywhere, you aren’t going to know they’ve voted. So you are probably going to make multiple calls to people that you know are supporting you.
And if people start complaining, you know what, so what? Say, “I am sorry. I didn’t realize it. It is just so important that we wanted to make sure you turned out to vote.” And then keep calling.
Leaving messages on answering machines, “It is Election Day. Polls close at seven. Please get there. This is going to be very close. We know that you are supporting John Doe and it is a close election. You know how important that is going to be. If you believe in good government, please show up and vote for John Doe.”
You are leaving that message and you might be leaving it repeatedly. I have had people say to me, “I knew it was a close race because you called many times and you sounded so desperate.” Guess what? Anytime that it was a close race and we sounded desperate and people showed up, we won. It is important to impart how important it is to show up.
And this year with certain people sort of holding their nose and not showing up for candidates, it is important to impart, “We need you to go. It is okay to skip people on the ballot, but I need your vote. Please go down ballot and vote for me even though you don’t want to vote for President or whatever other candidate or office it is.”
I understand that. I know that this is going to tick off some people that are Trump supporters or Hillary supporters. If you are a Hillary supporter, I wish you weren’t listening here. Go find your own people to teach you.
It is the reality. There are Never Trumpers out there. It is their choice, but it is also their mistake. Please we need to win at every level. Please remind people to go vote for the down ticket, down ballot. Vote for you. Ask them to go vote for you. Tell them they can go in and just vote for you and turn around and walk out. And when they say there is an undercount on the ballot, say, “Yeah, I know. It is fine.” And it is your right. You do not have to vote for the entire ticket.
I know I have kind of flown through things this morning. I don’t want to take too much of your time. If you are running for office, you need your time. I just wanted to give you some last minute, quickie reminders.
And if you are thinking about running for office or you are political and you are not running for office but you are listening to this podcast, why aren’t you out volunteering on a campaign? Go find some local office, someone running for office that you can support, and go volunteer for a couple of days here. You’ve got one month left. You can go there once or twice a week for the next two or three weeks and be a hero for that campaign. They really need you.
And if there are things here you have no idea what we are talking about, the best place for you to go is to Commonwealthy.com and go to our Resource page. Sign up and download our free campaign planner. It explains everything in a campaign. It lists it all in an electronic spreadsheet that you can use that is going to put together your campaign. And if you want to learn more about that plan, you can go to Commonwealthy #64, Campaign Planner. It explains how it works.
If you are thinking about running for office or you are in a last minute panic, feel free to get a hold of me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to give you a free first consultation for a half hour to an hour. I can help you straighten things out and get you on track in that free consultation. And I can point out some things I can do for you in the future if you need it.
I coach candidates. I help them to be public speakers, raise money, and put together their organizational campaign plan. I am an expert in Get Out the Vote. So please feel free to reach out to me. I am happy to give you some time. And then if I can help you, I charge by the hour. I can explain how many hours it will take and how much that will cost.
We love to talk about politics. We love to complain. But talk is cheap. We’ve got to win some elections. Let’s win some elections.