1. Field, field, and field.
2. You’ll never have enough volunteers for your field operation. The early heavy lifting on doors and phones will be done by the same small handful of people who volunteer for elections every cycle who haven’t burned out yet.
3. Chances are you’re not going to be the next James Carville (look him up). That being said, an individual volunteer working for a down ticket candidate rather than a presidential race will have a greater impact, gain more experience, and may possibly move up the campaign hierarchy. That last one is mostly because no one else is around to take the job. The further down the ticket the greater the possibilities.
4. Individuals who spend all of their “really, it counts as volunteering” time on-line picking fights over election strategery with other individuals of similar disposition early in the cycle may or may not show up to actually volunteer three days before the election. If they do show up they won’t work the phones or go door to door, but will consider their most important contribution to the effort is pointing out that the campaign will only be successful if there are more yard signs and campaign swag.
5. Individuals (especially on-line) who are self described supporters for any candidate are not necessarily representatives of the campaign nor the candidate. You might want to remember that after the primary.
6. Weep for candidates who truly believe that the mythical activist college students in a college town in their district will mobilize all of the college students attending said college to overwhelmingly support said candidate on election day thereby providing the candidate with the winning margin to offset their opponent’s successes elsewhere.
7. No real numbers end in zero. If you actually knocked on 100 doors in an afternoon, add or subtract 1. If you made 200 phone calls, add or subtract 1.
8. Have you ever read a newspaper ad that convinced you to support a candidate? I rest my case.
9. Empty lots don’t vote. Anyone who freaks out over an opponent’s yard signs in every empty lot in town needs to be smacked upside the head. And, a smart campaign manager will make sure that the only placement of signs for their candidate is on the route they travel to and from work. That way the candidate thinks their signs are everywhere. Children do not vote. Buying candy for a parade is a waste of money. Then, consider what the probability of your campaign continuing is if your parade vehicle runs over a kid on the parade route who was trying to grab some candy your volunteers accidentally threw underneath the vehicle.
10. A candidate can always raise more money. They can always (try to) get more volunteers. They can print more literature. They can send more mail. What they can’t get is more time. Any armchair expert who authoritatively states, “You don’t want to start so soon and peak too early” has never been a candidate nor worked in a campaign.
11. There is no formula, there is no political party machine. There are things you can do that work most of the time. There are a lot of things that have never worked which people who have never participated in a political campaign think you should do. Smile, nod your head, and politely ignore those people.
12. After a candidate has visited the local monthly party meeting once there’s really no need to do so again. Candidates don’t have the time (see above) to keep meeting the same people.
13. Campaign swag vendor volume discounts don’t mean a thing. If you double the number of nail files with your campaign logo printed on them for 50% more all you really get is a supply of nail files to meet all the needs of your friends and family for the next ten years. Do you ever see very many local candidate bumper stickers on vehicles? A discount for 500 additional bumper stickers is a waste of money when only twenty of the candidate’s family members and close personal friends slap that sucker on their cars. Leftover bumper stickers don’t even make a decent substitute for duct tape.
14. It’s actually quite easy to ask people to contribute money to a candidate’s campaign if you’re not the candidate. There are only two possible answers – neither one should have any effect on your self esteem.
15. Non-scientific “polls” are a waste of time and never accurate. An actual opinion survey is really, really, really, really expensive. Understand what “margin of error” and “sample size” mean before you breathlessly jump on some numbers somewhere. No campaign in their right mind would publicly release their internal polling results. Polls are expensive – why would you save your opponent the cost of their own polling? Poll cross tabulations contain really valuable targeting information. Think about the competence of a campaign stupid enough to hand any part of their polling data to the opposition.
16. Uh, candidates need to remember to ask people for their vote. It’s that simple.
17. There’s a reason it’s called “spin.”
18. If you don’t try you can’t win.
19. If you don’t vote we all lose.
20. If your opponent is drowning throw the bastard an anvil.