Richard Nixon knew how to position himself for the the 1968 GOP nomination. He understood that the '66 midterm elections were going to be good one for Republicans. And so he made sure he was out stumping for GOP candidates, like he had done nearly every year since he was first elected to Congress.
But Nixon didn't choose the candidates he would help at random. He did his research and figured out which Republican-leaning districts had flipped to Democrats in the landslide 1964 election. Like everyone, he knew having Barry Goldwater at the top of the ticket in 1964 was a drag on a lot of down ballot race.
He also knew that in 1966, without Goldwater on the ballot, the Republicans in those congressional districts had a great chance at winning back their seats. So those were the candidates he chose to support. If they won, he was sure to get credit for putting them over the top, making Nixon look like a winner. And the candidate who looked like a winner in 1966 was sure to have a good shot at the GOP nomination in 1968.
Certainly it was a cynical ploy and one that illustrates self-serving politics. But it also makes for a good example about positioning.
If you've got a few years before you plan to run, think about how you will position yourself. Which candidates can you help that are on the rise? Which issues might be important in two years?
John Moorlach is a County Supervisor and former County Treasurer in Orange County, California. In 1994, he was a private citizen and an accountant who warned taxpayers that Orange County's finances were a mess and the county was headed for bankruptcy. A few months later, his prediction looked prescient when the county did indeed run out of money. In 1996 he was elected as the OC County Treasurer.
He positioned himself as the guy who knew about the county's finances. And when the county was in dire straights, the voters turned to him for help.
How can you position yourself?
Spend some time writing out ideas. Think through where your city and state are headed, and position yourself to benefit from it.
For example, is your city getting increasingly younger because you have a local university that's growing? Maybe you should be the first to come out in support of Uber.
Is the debt your city is carrying going to hurt the city in the near future? Maybe you should be the first person to warn of the debt burden.
Are rising home prices driving the middle class out of your city? Maybe you should be the guy advocating for affordable housing.
If your run for public office is a few years out, you can't start knocking on doors yet. You can't start asking for money either. But if you know you're running, why not start thinking through the issues and make yourself the candidate your city will turn to in a time of crisis?
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