Category Archives: Dan Centinello’s Quick Guides

4 Concerns that Every Aspiring Candidate Must Overcome

We all aspire to change our communities for the better; to right the wrongs we perceive in the places we call home. On the local level, perhaps we want to push for better schools. On the national, a better tax system. Regardless of the specifics, every candidate enters into the political ring with the determination to enact a specific change for the better. In our current gossip-laden political culture, it’s often all too easy to forget the determination and bravery pushing an agenda to a skeptical public requires; the task can seem more than a little daunting to those with minimal political experience. That said, running for office is nevertheless a productive step for those who have ideas and passion enough to see them implemented. Below, I’ve listed four concerns that every aspiring candidate will need to overcome in order to succeed in their political endeavors.

 

Inexperience in Politics

A successful career in politics doesn’t need to begin with a degree in government from an Ivy League school or an internship with a high-flying Senator. While connections and packed resumes certainly help establish authority, candidacies are built on ideas. Moreover, the stereotype of the common “lawyer-politician” is becoming increasingly hollow; according to research from Harvard Law School, the number of lawyers in politics has dropped from 60% in 1960 to under 40% in 2016. While those without backgrounds in law or government are fewer than those who do in the Senate and House, it is possible for those from other fields to achieve high political office. Now more than ever, message and personality takes precedence over resume on the campaign trail.

 

That said, those interested in running for public office should consider volunteering and networking with campaign veterans to get a better understanding of what running a successful campaign entails before launching themselves into a race.

 

Cultivating a Message

Candidates need a strong message that appeals to voters. Relatively brief, this platform should highlight a candidate’s strengths and preferability without seeming boastful or critical of an opponent. Most importantly, it must be consistent; a recent Stanford University study found that voters tend to punish candidates who “flip-flop” on issues, and that they often refuse to acknowledge a candidate’s new position even after politicians disavow their previous ideas. Candidates need to seem stalwart and trustworthy if they want to succeed!

 

Launching a Fundraising Campaign

No candidate enjoys spending hours upon hours fundraising, but the efforts are necessary. Campaigns need money to run; according to Campaign Finance Institute’s analysis of Federal Election Commission, an average senatorial race cost over $10 million in 2016. The expense, of course, will vary depending on the office, but the need for fundraising skills will always remain.

 

Steering Clear of Negative Politics

Sometimes television has it wrong. The day-to-day workings of a political office are far less Machiavellian than some films might suggest; however, some aspiring politics still fear being drawn into the so-called “dark” side of politics. However, that distaste for corruption and machination is exactly what voters want in an honest candidate. No candidate needs to sink into dirty politics in order to get ahead!

 

Launching a campaign demands effort, determination, and passion from political newcomers and veterans alike. Those who have ideas to better their communities and the drive to see them implemented should make their voices heard by throwing their proverbial hat into the ring. Obstacles abound on the campaign trail – but successful politicians have the tenacity to overcome any barriers in their path to leadership.

 

Age Restrictions & Requirements in Politics (A Global Look)

How old does a leader need to be to have our trust? The answer varies across nations; some say the voting age of 18 is old enough even for a president. Others urge caution and set the age bar  as high as forty. Oftentimes, elected offices in regional and local offices also have determinations for how old a candidate must be before presenting themselves as a candidate. Differences aside, all nations lay out specific requirements for their leaders. I outline just a few of the nation-specific guidelines that aspiring leaders must adhere to in the post below.

 

Canada:

All candidates who seek public office must be at least 18 to run in an election. The exception to this is for senators, who must be at least 30 and own a minimum of $4,000 worth of land in their appointed province. Candidates must additionally possess property or assets valued at $4,000 more than their totaled debts and liabilities.

 

Current President: Justin Trudeau, age 45. Trudeau is the second-youngest president in Canada’s history behind Joe Clark, who was sworn into office on the eve of his 40th birthday.

 

France

In France, presidential candidates must be at least 18 years old. Interestingly, this is below the 24 years required of a senatorial candidate.

Current President: Emmanuel Macron, age 39. Macron is the youngest president in France’s history.

 

Germany

Candidates for the German presidency must be at least 40 years old at the time of their candidacy. All other local, regional, and national elected positions require their candidates to be 18 and over.

 

Current President: Frank-Walter Steinmeier, age 61

Current Prime Minister: Angela Merkel, age 63

 

United States

Presidential and vice-presidential candidates must be at least 35 to run for office. The requirement stands at 30 for senators and 25 for representatives. On the regional level, states set their own rules regarding age specifications for positions such as the governorship. Usually, though, these candidates are required to be 18 or 21 in order to run.

 

Current President: Donald Trump, age 71

 

United Kingdom

Excepting Scotland (whose age limit is set at 16), candidates must be at least 18 years of age to run for all parliamentary, assembly, and council positions. This rule applies not only to national-level UK positions, but also to those at European, devolved, or local level. The age for candidacy was 21 until 2006, when it was officially lowered by the Electoral Administration Act.

 

Current Prime Minister: Theresa May, age 61

 

Political Fundraising 101

Elections are a multi-billion dollar business. In fact, in 2016, candidates for all federal offices spent more than $6.8 billion in the hopes of getting elected. Before candidates could rack up campaign expenses of that size, however, they had to raise all the money. As a veteran of countless campaigns, I know just how challenging fundraising can be for any candidate, from presidential hopefuls to small-town mayors. If you’re trying to improve fundraising for your campaign but don’t know where to start, take a look at this list of potential strategies.

Minimize Costs

Ironically, fundraising costs money; as a result, you’ll need to dedicate a portion of the money that you bring in to pay for the costs of your fundraising efforts. With that in mind, try to reduce the amount that you spend on fundraising in order to increase the amount of money that you have to spend on the actual campaign. Perhaps instead of having your next rally or reception catered, you can have a cookout or even a potluck with your supporters in order to shrink the bill.

Set Various Tiers for Events

Try as you might, you won’t be able to finance your campaign solely by hosting $500-per-head dinners. Instead, you’ll need to diversify your fundraising efforts, which you can do by creating different categories of events that target different classes of donors. For example, you can design a suite of VIP events—like formal dinners or cocktail receptions—that target high-value donors, and at the same time, you can develop initiatives that engage a broader audience but generate smaller contributions, like social media or direct-mail campaigns. This way, you’ll be able to run fundraising efforts simultaneously by targeting multiple groups, and you’ll prevent yourself from tapping out a certain donor base by putting all of your fundraising eggs in one basket.

Leverage Relationships

People don’t like to be cold called, let alone cold called and asked for money. It’s far more effective to reach out to a potential donor with whom you have an existing relationship or connection. When you begin your fundraising efforts, make a list of all the potential high-value donors that you have a relationship with and ask your staff to do the same. Reach out to these individuals first: You can use your relationship or connection with them to ask for a contribution or to ask if they can put you in touch with their friends or colleagues who might be interested in supporting your campaign. In doing so, you can cultivate an entire network of engaged donors who feel personally connected—and, with any luck, invested—to your campaign.

Political Polling: An Introduction

When you watch or read the news, you often encounter a myriad of statistics describing the public’s attitude on any number of issues or events: 56% of the country supports a bill currently before Congress. 48% of Americans want reform on a given issue. 61% of voters approve of a speech given by a major candidate. You may be wondering where all of these statistics come from, and the answer is simple: polling.

Public opinion polls have been staples of political campaigns for decades. The first opinion poll was conducted in 1824 by a Pennsylvania newspaper and showed Andrew Jackson ahead of John Quincy Adams in that year’s race for the White House; Jackson went on to win the popular vote but lose the election. Unlike the straw polls that predicted a win for Jackson, today’s polls are highly sophisticated and can forecast electoral victories, describe public opinion, and more while controlling for various factors, including age, gender, education, race, socioeconomic status, and so much more.

The complexity of modern polling requires thorough planning before a poll is even put into the field. This begins with the question of the poll’s purpose: What information do you want to learn, or what attitude do you want to measure? Will the poll guide your campaign’s strategy or is it simply intended to take the public’s temperature? Furthermore, it’s vital to consider the poll’s audience—will it be for the candidate’s eyes only or for public consumption? And, of course, you’ll need to develop the language for the questions you’ll be asking, which can be a difficult task.

There are also various mediums of polling, so political operatives and pollsters must consider the most effective medium to structure and conduct polls. While telephone-based polls were the standard method of polling for much of the twentieth century, they’re much less of an viable option today since fewer and fewer people actually answer their phones. Instead, many of today’s polls take place online, which are radically less expensive and faster. Online polls can offer campaigns a wide range of additional options, but they do present their own challenges, including issues with surveying representative samples of the population in order to achieve the most accurate results.

Despite the challenges and investment of effort required to conduct polling, however, most candidates and strategists agree that polling is an invaluable asset for any campaign. If you don’t believe that, we’d be happy to put a poll together to prove it.

How to Make Your Voice Heard

Contacting U.S. elected officials to ask questions and share your opinions is an important element of democracy, but it can often feel like your voice isn’t heard or valued. Representatives are hard to get a hold of during their busy schedules, and a form-letter response you may receive after sending a letter or phone call to their office can make it seem like you aren’t getting your point across. Here’s a list of tips you can use to help make your voice heard by your elected officials.

Visit their Office

It can be hard for your representatives or members of their staff to read and respond to every letter or telephone; after all, since the size of the average congressional district is more than 710,000 people, your letter or call will be one of thousands—perhaps millions—in a year. But while a call or letter can be overlooked, it’s impossible for your representative or their staff to ignore an actual human being in their office. Learn the location of your representatives’ offices and make a point to visit regularly so that you can ensure your voice gets heard and isn’t lost in the shuffle of a busy office.

Join a Group

If there’s an issue that you’re passionate about, do some research and see what groups in your area are working to bend the ear of your representative on that topic. These groups have more of a chance to make contact with representatives or catch their attention since they can leverage the work—and potential votes—of large numbers of people towards a common cause; this makes it easier to broadcast a message since it’s carried by many voices. Your group can visit your representative’s office, attend their town halls, or even invite them to one of your own meetings. Or, if you can’t find a group that’s right for you, go ahead and start one yourself!

Write Letters to the Editor

If you’ve made several attempts to contact your representative but haven’t made any progress, you can consider writing a letter to the editor in a newspaper explaining your view and asking your representative to respond. While you can shoot for a national newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, you have a greater probability of being published in the local paper—plus, since your representative will be concerned with the press coverage they receive within their own district, they’ll also be more inclined to respond to you, either directly or in a follow-up letter of their own.

How to Discuss Politics on Social Media

It’s often said that there are two topics you should never discuss at the dinner table–religion and politics–in order to keep conversations civil and polite. Social media users never got that memo, however: According to a study published by the Pew Research Center, more than 30% of social media users feel “worn out” by politically-oriented posts, and over half of them characterize digital interactions with people of opposing political viewpoints as “stressful and frustrating.”

Political conversations on social media become even more likely for people like me who have made careers out of politics and campaigning, so you quickly learn how to turn these moments from stressful and frustrating to rewarding and informative. Take a look at some ways that you can responsibly and politely discuss politics on social media!

Consider Your Purpose

Whenever you post on social media, whether it’s about politics or not, there’s a reason behind each post. You might share a photo from your vacation to let everyone know you had a great time on the beach, for example, or you might want to post a status inviting people to an event you’re hosting. When you post about politics, keep your goal in mind. Are you trying to raise awareness of a particular issue? Are you trying to declare your support for a candidate or a policy? Are you trying to change people’s minds or to see what they have to say? So, before you post, think about the purpose of the post and how you can best communicate it.

Stick to the Facts

The best political arguments–as in arguments that are well-constructed and well-phrased–rely on evidence to support their claims. If you refer to the dangers of a certain proposed bill, for example, make sure that you have the most up-to-date information about it and that you’re laying out that information for your digital audience. One of the best ways to do this is by including links to articles, videos, statistics, and other sources in your post so that people can educate themselves on the issues.

Never Make it Personal

If people are already going to be agitated when they encounter political posts on social media, you don’t want to fan that fire by insulting them. Don’t fall into the trap of calling someone stupid just because they don’t understand or agree with you and avoid blanket statements like “Anyone who supports Senator Smith is an idiot.” While these comments might momentarily inflate your ego, talking down to someone who disagrees with your point of view doesn’t help spread your message or convince people to change their minds. Instead, being insulted will only make people dig in their heels and turn what could have been a positive discussion into a screaming match about politics.

Of course, it’s OK to disagree with someone’s opinion and to tell them so, but don’t do it by insulting them. Always keep your focus on what they have to say about the facts, and avoid typing out of anger.

Join Private or Closed Groups

One way to ensure political conversations never get out of hand is to keep these discussions to small circles of informed, respectful individuals. Consider creating a private group and inviting people you trust to ensure that people will remain cordial even when opposing viewpoints are being discussed. You can add more people to the group as time goes on, but starting off with a select few will give you an opportunity to share ideas in a respectful space while also developing your skills discussing politics on social media.

Elections Around the World

While America doesn’t need to worry about electing a new chief executive for another four years, in the rest of the world, election season is just getting started. Take a look at what’s happening on the campaign trail in France, South Korea, and Germany!

France

Under the French presidential election system, candidates must secure an absolute majority of the popular vote, but if no candidate does so, then a runoff election occurs two weeks following the first round of voting between the two candidates who garnered the most votes. This year, the first round of voting is scheduled for April 23 with a second round planned for May 7, as needed.

Although the full field consists of 11 candidates, three have emerged as frontrunners: Marine Le Pen of the Nationalist Front, who has drawn attention for her fiery populism and her disparaging remarks about immigrants as well as France’s religious and ethnic minorities; Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche! (Forward!); and the center-right Francois Fillon of the Republicans.

Fillon was an early favorite to win, but his campaign suffered a nearly-fatal blow when the press revealed he had paid his wife a salary from public funds for a job she never had. Current polls now predict that Le Pen and Macron will make it to the runoff election, with Macron winning the final contest.

South Korea

Originally, the elections were scheduled for December 20, but after the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye on corruption charges in March, the election was pushed up to May 9. In South Korea, presidents are elected by popular vote.

Although the race is only just beginning after the unexpected removal of President Park, the current favorite to win is Moon Jae-in, a former head of the leftist opposition party Minju, who has promised to rebuild the country after a decade of conservative leadership. His closest opponent, Ahn Hee-jung, trails him by 15 points.

Germany

Germany has a parliamentary system of representation where the members of the legislature, known as the Bundestag, elect a chief executive from amongst themselves; this often requires the formation of political coalitions. The voting mechanisms, however, are more complex. Each voter has two votes–one for a specific candidate for legislature and a second vote for a certain political party–which is designed to ensure that each party’s representation in the legislature is proportional to the amount of votes it received. The Bundestag elections are set for September 24, although it may take several days to form a coalition government after the polls close.

Angela Merkel, the incumbent chancellor, is up for re-election to a fourth term. She is favored to win as her party, the Christian Democrats, still lead in the polls, although it has been declining in popularity exactly as the Social Democratic Party under Martin Schulz has surged forward. At the same time, the fringe party Alternative for Germany (AfD) that is reminiscent of the alt-right in the United States has been hovering at about 10% support among voters. Key issues in the election are the economy, the future of the European Union, and the mass migration of Syrian refugees into Germany.

How to Craft a Campaign Message

If you’re getting into politics as a candidate for office, there’s probably a particular issue that you’re passionate about or that inspires you. This passion is a powerful asset, but it’s not necessarily enough to propel you to a victory on election day: You also need a campaign message that communicates that passion to voters as well as your plans on how to move forward or craft a solution. While crafting a campaign message can be one of the most challenging elements of your campaign process, in my experience, it’s also one of the most important. Take a look at what you can do to craft a strong campaign message!

Identify Your Issue

Before you can develop a message, you need to figure out what your campaign will focus on. This might seem straightforward, but if there are multiple issues at stake in the race or if there is more than one topic you want to discuss, you’ll need to figure out which one is most central to your campaign. While it’s not necessarily a problem if your issue is open-ended or broad, it helps if your issue is specific and clearly defined.

Consider Demographics

Your next step will be to determine the demographics of your community so that you can begin thinking about how to make sure that your message appeals to the voters. For example, if your issue is educational reform and you live in a district where 20 percent of residents are teachers, then that will influence how you frame your campaign message. Understanding demographics helps you understand what issues matter to the voters, how you can persuade voters to support your campaign, and much more.

Write a Draft

Now that you’ve chosen your primary issue and learned about local demographics, it’s time for you to start developing drafts of your campaign message! Ideally, your message will discuss your issue, why it matters or what is at stake by failing to address it, what solutions you propose, and how you will mobilize the voters around the issue.

Test and Revise the Draft

Once you’ve drafted a message, feel free to test it out! If you have the resources, you can hire a pollster to work with voters and see how well they react to the message, or you can simply ask members of your staff who weren’t involved with crafting it to offer their feedback. You shouldn’t feel compelled to change your core beliefs or ideas in response to their answers, but definitely consider rephrasing in order to make your message clearer and more appealing.

Campaign Game Changers: Four Winning Components of a Successful Campaign Plan

If you want to succeed in your political campaign, you need to have a solid plan that will help you win. Candidates who head into campaigning without a concrete strategy and hope to figure things out as they go along do not have a good understanding of how to run a successful campaign. There are various strategies people use while campaigning, but some are more successful than others. Here’s an overview of four strategies that can really help out your campaign plan.

Define your goals

Before you begin writing out your campaign plan, it’s vital that you and your team have a concrete idea of your ultimate goals for your campaign. Obviously you want to win your election, but what do you think needs to be improved in your district? What would you want to change? Where do you stand on hot-button issues? By creating a clear outline of what you want to accomplish and making sure your entire team is on the same page, you’re pushing yourself even closer to success.

Map out your campaign

Once you define your goals, you can map out your campaign plan. Identify major milestones that you’ll need to hit and when you expect to accomplish those. Knowing when you should achieve each step allows you to work toward your goals and break them down in a manageable way that doesn’t seem overwhelming.

Identify your vital supporters

If you learn who your strongest supporters are, you’ll be able to focus on them and find the ones who can influence other voters the most. Spend time growing your voter base and learn how you can use your strong supporters to appeal to other voters. Learn what kind of person you’re aiming to gain support from and use your best supporters to further your campaign.

How to finance

An incredibly important aspect of your campaign is financing it. You can have the best campaign plan in the world, but without enough funds, it’ll be difficult to achieve your goals and succeed in your campaign. Find donors and host fundraising events to raise funds for your campaign, so you can run a successful campaign and not worry about how much it’ll cost.

Breaking Down the Tactics: Three Ways Technology has Affected Campaigns

We now live in a world where people can connect with one another in an instant and search for any information, using a device that fit in their pockets. Technology has drastically changed presidential campaigns, especially in the last few years. Since the first televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon, technology and politics have been entwined. Today, politicians use the same social media platforms and types of technology as their constituents and connections are made like never before. Technology has also made campaigns of any type much more publicized and interactive when promoted online.

Easier communication about politics

With the advancement of technology, it’s now easier for voters and politicians to communicate with one another, as well as voters from completely different parts of the country who have different life experiences and views. Politicians remain active in current events through utilizing Twitter and their Facebook pages, disseminating campaign messages and videos that people can view in order to learn about the candidate’s stances on various issues.

Social media and technology particularly becomes prominent during presidential campaigns. With candidates frequently sending out messages about any major issues or events that may affect voter perceptions.

For example, President Trump used his Twitter account to clearly state his viewpoints about political issues and changes that he would like to make in the coming months, which also provided to work throughout his campaign.

Data can be analyzed

Technology has made it much easier for presidential candidates to identify patterns in voting data. Analytics allow candidates to examine data and determine what’s best to do for their campaign and what has been positively influencing voters.

For example, many presidential candidates look at what demographics and areas they need to focus on while creating a campaign and what sections of the country have the most undecided voters in order to predict which demographics they will focus on the most.

Everything is recorded

For the last few decades, film and audio allowed candidates to record their speeches and debates, so they can later process these recordings and find areas for improvement. Presidential candidates study their opponents speaking style and work on ways to successfully challenge them during debates.
With recordings so readily available, it also allows voters to stay up to date with debates or speeches that they otherwise couldn’t watch live. Voters can instantly share recordings and review speeches to understand what the candidate’s goals and ideas are.

In essence, social media and the advancements of technology can be used throughout any type of campaign to promote success, not just political. By using a few of these examples listed above, you can implement a winning social media strategy within your campaign to see the best results.