Ten Lessons from Midterms

Lessons from the midterm elections

Lessons from the midterm elections

It took me a few days to compile this, but here are the top lessons I've found from the midterms. Campaign technology - and sometimes even the basics of campaigning - often evolve a bit from election to election, so it's worth staying on top of what you need to know. 

And sometimes it's not about what's evolving, but how a particular election confirms what we already thought about campaigning. 

How is social media affecting campaigns? What's going on with the R vs. D technology race, and how can it affect my race? What are people doing to increase GOTV and how can I adopt those methods? These are all good questions to ponder as you gear up for a 2015 run. 

Here are the top 10 articles I found analyzing what happened in the midterms for those who want to run for office.

1. GOP Pierces Democratic Monopoly on Technology, Targeting and Mobilization via @ron_fournier
Are you running in a partisan race in 2015, and can you expect to get some help from the party? Ron Fournier at National Journal put together some thoughts on how the GOP improved in tech, targeting voters and mobilizing for GOTV. You may want to make sure your campaign or your local party chair is aware of what help you can get from the big campaigns or the national groups in these areas. 

2. Why Polls Underestimated the GOP via @huffingtonpost
If you can afford to do polling for your race, it helps to understand the limits of polling. If you can't afford a poll, it's still helpful to follow the "top of the ticket" races to gauge the attitudes of voters. Huffington Post examines a few ideas for why the polls were so far off in a number of races. 

3. What First-Time Candidates Did to Win in 2014 via @campaignsinabox
This is more of a confirmation of what everyone should already believe - if you want to win the first time you run, you had better work harder than your opponent. I like to some examples in this post. 

4. How to Survive a Wave Election via @politico
While waves don't happen every year - and one probably won't happen next year - it's still good to be aware of how to swim against the tide in a wave election. If you're running for city council on the same ticket as an unpopular mayor, or for state legislature on the same ticket as an unpopular governor, the same principles apply. Though she lost, Kay Hagan ran a good campaign fighting off the wave election. Here's a little on how she did it

5. Messaging Mistakes Made by the Dems in 2014 via @epolitics
Colin Delaney at epolitics gives some of his thoughts on mistakes democrats made - from not appealing to those now insured by Obamacare to avoiding the President rather than using him to turn out his base. The democrats may or may not have performed better with this strategy, but what you can take away from Colin's article is this: don't take the media narrative for gospel. The "War on Women" argument didn't hurt Republicans, though it scared them. And running from Obama didn't help the Dems, though most said they needed to distance themselves.

6. How to Win an Establishment vs. Tea-Party Matchup via @politico
The focus here is on Congressional and Senate races, but these match ups occur all the time in state legislative primaries. Maggie Haberman at politico talks about what the Chamber of Commerce did to tilt the advantage to the establishment candidates, and if you're a tea-party type running against a Chamber backed candidate, take the lessons in reverse. 

7. Attending a Campaign Training Improves Your Chances via @am_national
This isn't a "how-to" as much as it is a recap of candidates who were successful, but it does point to the fact that candidates who are trained in political campaigning have more success on Election Day. For R's, American Majority and Leadership Institute are great places to learn how to run a political campaign. For D's, Wellstone.org and DownTicketDems are a few spots I know of that can point you in the right direction. Local county party chapters also offer candidate training. 

8. "I'll Win Because I'm Right" Doesn't Work via @leadershipinst
Candidates often look at their opponent and think "I'd be a better public official than him, and the voters will recognize that." It's not true - you have to understand how to run a political campaign to win. Voters won't recognize that you're the better candidate unless you show them, and campaigning isn't all that intuitive

9. Ridiculous Fundraising Emails via @nationaljournal
Emma Roller talks about campaign fundraising emails from the DCCC, which became a minor story for political journalists down the stretch of the campaign. The article pans the emails, but also noted that they worked to a degree. Roller screenshots a few of the emails she received (with subjects you may want to consider using or avoid). 

10. The Effectiveness of Ballot Measures on Turnout [study] via @civicyouth
You always want to be aware of what else is on the ballot when creating your campaign plan - it affects turnout numbers and the type of turnout. CIRCLE studied how ballot measure affected youth turnout in 2014. 

So, there you have it. Ten lessons about campaigning that we learned or re-affirmed from 2014. If there's one common thread here, it's that learning how to campaign will help you run a better campaign. Follow a few of the blogs I linked, go to a campaign school or send me an email if you have questions about your race in 2015. 

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