Saturdays are a big day for political campaigns. If the candidate has a full time job, it’s often the only day he can focus exclusively on campaigning. I managed a campaign for mayor with an aggressive grassroots campaign plan a few years back, and Saturday was our doorbelling day. We went about three times a week, but Saturday was the day we could knock out 2 precincts in a good morning with Dave, our candidate.
We had a regular volunteer named Dorothy who wanted to have Dave do an event at her house. It wasn't a fundraiser, just a coffee meet and greet type thing. We'd always prefer that we raise money at those events, but if they can get enough people to show up, we would occasionally agree to do a meet and greet.
I was suspicious about how many people Dorothy could get to an event. So we turned her down a few times. But Dorothy was persistent - she really wanted Dave to attend a coffee at her house so he could meet all her neighbors.
Finally Dorothy promised she could get 50 people to the event. That was enough. I'd rather be doorbelling most of the time, but she was a good volunteer and Dave spending more quality time with fifty voters wasn’t a bad trade off.
We showed up to the event 15-20 minutes after it was scheduled to start, and Dave was the first person there. That is never a good thing - you don’t want a candidate to be the only person at an event, which is why you get the candidate there a few minutes after it begins.
We knew immediately that fifty people weren't going to show. But we were hopeful that 20-30 would attend, and it wouldn't be a complete waste of time.
After a few minutes, the first car pulls up. It’s Rob, who is running for city council in Dorothy’s city. Not exactly a vote we need to work hard to get. Then another car pulls up - John, running for Mayor in Dorothy’s city. Another car - Steven, the county councilman for that district. Eventually we had eight people at the event - seven candidates or elected officials, and one neighbor.
The neighbor was a 'friend' of Dorothy's. As it turned out, Dorothy didn’t particularly care for her neighbor, and wanted to show her up by proving that she knew lots of important political people.
The lesson I learned quickly that morning: set a minimum number of people you need to have for a candidate to attend an event. Ask your host how many people will show up, then ask her WHO will be showing up. If she can’t rattle off 10-15 names off the top of her head, you’re probably going to end up in a living room with 7 other candidates wondering what the hell went wrong.
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