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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.

 

Who Now? The Importance of Name Recognition

 

Over the course of a campaign, volunteers and staffers alike spend hundreds of working hours pounding the pavement. They knock on doors, talk over voter outreach tables, and even make cold calls to people who are more likely to hang up than listen beyond that first hopeful greeting. It’s exhausting, stressful, and difficult work – and for many volunteers, utterly worth the trouble.

 

Most campaign workers don’t take up their roles for the pay and an extra line on their resumes; they sign on because they truly believe in a candidate’s values and leadership potential. With such a focus on reaching potential voters, the last thing that an exhausted, optimistic campaign worker wants to hear after floating their candidate’s name to a voter is: Who? Never heard of them.

 

Name recognition matters, and any candidate worth their campaign pin knows that they can’t afford to dismiss it. It sounds intuitive: voters trust those they find familiar. According to a 2011 study conducted by researchers at Princeton University, voters who enter the voting booth without a significant understanding of how candidates’ positions align with their own are more likely to opt for the most familiar name. Think about that for a moment – in a community of less- or moderately-involved voters, a greater awareness of a name could actually define the outcome of an election.   

 

That said, this finding hinges on the assumption that voters won’t do their research before heading to the ballot box. Let’s consider the issue optimistically, and ask – does the value of name recognition still hold true if voters are engaged?

 

The short answer is yes – but not in the same way. The ideal voter does their homework, and moves towards the candidate whose positions align well with their own; but at the end of the day, they choose a person, not a laundry list of political issues. Generally, people tend to vote for people they feel they know – and for some, “knowing” a candidate can be as simple as exchanging a smile or handshake after a speech. Name recognition goes beyond simply recognizing the name, and becomes a recognition of the person and personality behind the name. It’s difficult to put faith in a distant persona; voters gravitate to those they feel they have connected with. Thus, name recognition opens the door to voter trust.

 

With this in mind, it’s easy to see that the work those tireless campaign staffers do is vital to creating a healthy campaign. At its core, political elections are human efforts – it isn’t enough to just push an agenda or position. Campaigns also need to focus on helping voters connect to the person behind the name; to trust that the candidate they vote for will represent them well.