Pollsters works through newspapers, Internet, telephone surveys, person-to-person surveys, mailed questionnaire to selected voters. They provide voters' behavior research and analyze past election data. They tell to you how well-known you are, how well you perform, what are the voters’ preferences. You should poll voters in each state in proportion to that state’s share of the national vote. (You must have at least one polling company on payroll.) Polling is of extreme importance in presidential campaign because it’s the tool to correct your strategy, determine “positive” local areas and supportive voters and work with them, it tests the nation’s attitude to your personality and your issues and that means you can calibrate your message and calculate your success. The most important thing about polls is that they play indicator and identify support or hostility. And the golden rule here is: you have to ask the right question if you want to get a useful answer.
At the same time polling is one of the most expensive elements of a modern campaign because now you have to receive information on too many groups and issues, including groups with specific economic, ethnic, religious, geographic, educational, occupational and residential characteristics and how those characteristics affect attitudes about a wide range of policy issues.
Polls also help you:
- to decide whether to run or not
- improve your recognition and image
- target opposition’s weakness
- formulate media ads
Your pollster has to pinpoint blocks of voters (swing districts) who are undecided and who might be persuaded to vote for you. Experience shows that 40% of public attention go to social problems, 40% — to economy and 20% — to international matters, but if the United States is at war, the situation is different and national security turns into a top priority for everyone. And watch out for campaign spies — keep polls analysis and media plan secret.
“Benchmark” - surveys of the whole nation which provide basic information about your chances and the nation’s political preferences (it’s your “presidential decision maker”).
“Follow-up” - surveys are used to gather more data about particular concerns raised in initial benchmark surveys. They are conducted state by state and are used in planning campaign strategy.
“Panel” - surveys are used to refine strategy further by re-interviewing previous respondents to determine opinion shifts on specific issues within various demographic categories. They are supplemented by continuous “tracking polls” that measure fluctuations in general voter support for the candidate across time.
“Special group” - used to poll the debate results. Selected groups of voters watch candidate debates and register their “positive “ or “negative” feelings toward the candidate’s specific statements or actions. After that analysts tabulate and analyze the reactions of the whole groups.
Other Critical Personnel
“Image makers” - political consultants who sell your public image as a clear, simple, portrait-like characterization, acceptable to all groups.
“Hit men” - campaign consultants who are experts on negative advertising, designed to “kill” your opponents.
“Field staff” (in target cities mostly). The most important person at any local office is the coordinator — he establishes organization and contacts influential people and political activists. Coordinators must be appointed to each special interests group (women, minorities, unions, college students, public interest activists, the professionals)
“Local volunteers” are needed to work in the offices and the streets. Your family has to take an active part in your campaign, too. Your wife and kids are your visual image makers
“Running Mate.” Your running mate belongs to your staff too — it has to be your best choice. This person should be compatible with you in age, intellect, political views, and be of approximately the same height. He is selected to balance the national ticket in terms of geography, religion, ideology, government experience and political style. You have to appeal to the broad electorate, while your running mate appeals to specific groups. He serves to reinforce — or break down — the electorate’s attitudes toward you. If you have little domestic or foreign policy, or Washington experience, a running mate with that experience can reassure voters. And he has to give voters the impression your policy will be continued unchanged in case you die during your presidency or in case he is elected the US President himself after your two terms in the Office.
Never behave as if you think you are God’s gift to the nation.
Be presidential - look calm, sincere, knowledgeable, fatherly and open.
Be electable - prove to the nation that you are the best choice.
No one has ever been elected the US President without winning the New Hampshire primary.
Primaries direct financial backers to a promising candidate.
Voters judge you by your friends — appear with popular politicians, big business, labor and interest groups leaders, and show business celebrities. Advertize your meetings with Congress members and world leaders (go abroad if you have a chance to meet a world leader).
The most important event in the election process is the National Convention, not only because the eventual finalist candidate is actually nominated but because after that the campaign’s audience increases (more than twice as many people vote in general elections as participate in the nomination process). You have to decide how to win the support of these new voters as well as to appeal to people who identify with the other party and partisans who backed losing candidates for the nomination.
Choosing a Strategy
Any strategy is good if it helps you to win support of a majority of people chosen by the state parties to be delegates to the national convention. Your choice of a strategy depends on your current position:
A. If you are an incumbent, you have to stress that the American people’s life improved a lot during your first term. You can count on successful start because you are guaranteed to be known actually to every American, and the Oval Office lends you credibility and respect. It’s of vital importance to have economic accomplishments — in such a case well-timed announcements of government statistics on the economy or of plans for domestic initiatives can also help you. Listen, I didn’t tell you this, but you have to manipulate (stimulate) the economy during the election year with tax cuts that can help reduce unemployment, and with social programs financing.
Of course, you’ll have to pay for it, but that will happen after you are re-elected. And a good thing is — an improved economy erases voters’ bad memories of past years. Then, try to avoid too aggressive campaigning — it’s a sign of weakness. Make official appearances in carefully controlled settings. Influence media coverage with official presidential actions and use “pork barrel” politics to appeal to specific constituents. You can also benefit from the nation’s reluctance to reject a tested national leader for an unknown newcomer. And if you start important foreign policy initiatives, it will guarantee you continued media coverage.
If you have poor chances to be re-elected, you can play the “national security” card:
- find a US “enemy”
- start a media psychosis (see propaganda tricks and brainwashing )
- concentrate power (special services) to establish a total legal control on the nation
- provoke an international conflict, restricted or full-scale war
- send a message: “If you are against the President, you are against America!”
B. If you are a challenger you have to convince the public they don’t live better than they did 4 years ago, or, if the economy is OK, point out mistakes that were made in the foreign policy. Or make up some social issue that will get passions inflamed and hijack the headlines.
The job is tough if you challenge a President who is popular — first, you have to break down his positive image; second, you have to portray yourself as a much better replacement. You have no choice but to start with the “outsider” strategy — you present a “fresh face” to voters weary of the current political situation (in such a case you have to attack administration in a very aggressive manner). Plus, you must give quick response to your opponent’s charges (get advance copies of his speeches through friends in the media).
Then, show yourself as a smart and diplomatic person using a special “triangular” strategy, when you, like majority of the voters, place yourself between liberal and conservative positions. Evaluate situation — you may need “early knockout,” when front-runners hope to use their early strength in polls, fundraising and endorsements into decisive primary victories at the beginning of the primary season. The hope is that the candidate will build such an impressive early lead that the competition quickly drops out. And a “shift” is the most popular thing with challengers — if the President is good in national security, they point out to the problems in economy, if he’s good on the economy, they point out to the problems in national security — very simple. (Watch his mistakes anyway — you can benefit from them. Bill Clinton would never have run for President in 1992 if someone from the Bush White House hadn’t called him in 1990 and asked him not to run. That phone call was one of the dummest political moves of the 20th century, because it convinced Clinton that they thought he had a good chance if he did run for Office.)
Be simple, identify with “ordinary people” and no matter what tell the voters your parents or your grandparents “were like them — regular people, not millionaires.” You can even say “Feb-uary” and “nuc-ular,” and see if they forget you were educated at Yale.
Finally, you must know some very popular and efficient dirty tricks, like “negative campaigning” or “black PR.” To make a long story short: no matter what your opponent says or what decent people think about negative campaigning — “black PR” works! Use it to turn a rumor or a fact into a serious political scandal; respond to and neutralize the opponent’s attacks (using “black PR”) fast, before they are broadcasted or published.
It works best through intermediates (persons and organizations not connected directly to your campaign). You must have a very detailed file on your opponent (negative research) and then start spreading negative and all kinds of compromising data from his personal and political life. If he is or was elected official (Senator, Governor, Mayor), you can point out his mistakes and actions which were not popular. People must know in detail (get your staff to read a few books) the negative sides of his life, program and terrible consequences of his election. Remember also that a rumor repeated twice turns into a fact, especially if you start a “whispering campaign” in Congress.
A “negative ID” trick is my favorite: you identify your opponent with a totally unacceptable (for the voters) viewpoint, like: “There are those who want to stop the war on international terror and you know who they are!”