So you lost the election and you will not be running as the Republican nominee for state legislator or Congressman or Senator. God bless you for trying but, all is not lost now that you have this handy dandy “Conservative Losers Checklist.”
Whether you supported a losing conservative candidate or you were the loser in today’s primary I have here the checklist you should save so you can start anew – right now – to plan to do better next time.
1. First, make your own copy of this and add to it or subtract from it as you wish.
2. My first suggestion is to cross out the headline I used today and rename this “Next Campaign Checklist” or better yet, “Building on Success for the Future.”
3. Start now. Get it out of your head that you have a lot of time. You do not. That may very well be the reason you lost this time around – you thought you had more time to organize your campaign.
4. Learn the phrase “business plan” right now. You can google that. You can buy books about this. You will need a business plan because a campaign is not any different than a successful business plan where you are hoping to attract investors and purchasers.
5. Work for victory right now. There must be somebody running for office right now where you can help. Get an official campaign position if you can – even if it is just as a volunteer, and even if it is unofficial. You have a mailing list, and some credibility as a recent candidate so, your putting out news releases and campaigning and asking people to support what you are doing should not be a surprise. Build your lists.
6. Pick a cause and preferably a group and become very expert at that. Narrow your focus. It is way too broad to say you are the expert on the conservative cause. An example is Pat Henry, who focuses on issues from a Christian conservative focus and on Pennsylvania. Build your lists of supporters who will support you on this focused topic.
7. Learn the technology of campaigns. Most never do. Study other campaigns by donating to them and making notes and keeping a file. Learn the social media tools that the left is doing better than us conservatives on, such as Facebook, twitter, email, texting, blogs as well as the reliable and time tested direct mail, newsletters, phone.
8. To have future support, GIVE present support to the candidates, causes and groups that appeal to you the most. Become an invaluable part of several of these causes, be consistent, be valuable.
9. Use all of the technology – especially the free technology – to keep up your communications with your list of supporters and build your list larger.
10. Either create a not-for-profit or a non-profit group to push your public policy positions or became a leader of one where you will be able to use the list of people you recruit if you run for office again in the future, or if you support a candidate. Note that Ronald Reagan – an example I have cited before – lost twice running for President but built a list and then used it to help other candidates and causes – often signing the fund appeals for those groups and candidates.
11. Create a confidential business plan for your future campaign that combines the elements I am describing here.
12. Learn a lot more right away, than you know right now, by attending seminar of groups like the Leadership Institute and American Majority, which teach the technology that you need to help others’ groups and campaigns win, and practice ON THEM what you are learning and hope to use yourself in the future.
13. Keep a copy of every direct mail and internet campaign piece or ad that you see, noting what you like or do not like.
14. Send many $15 donations to many different campaigns and save the fund appeals – especially doing this by internet but don’t neglect some by mail. Use a different address or suite number or apartment number to differentiate which group or candidate you donated to so that you can see who they let use their mailing list. Study and save everything. Learn.
15. Stop thinking about what YOU like and START thinking like a businessman instead of a narcissist. It isn’t about YOU. It is about your potential supporters of the future. What do THEY like, what do THEY support, how do you speak to them in mail, email, facebook? Learn from what others are doing especially when you see that the same fund appeal hits you on several different lists you are now on (after you donate $15 to 10 different groups) and especially if the same fund appeal keeps hitting you a month later… I do not care if you do not like that appeal – if you are seeing it a lot then you know that is likely the winning appeal that is being used again and again.
17. Become an expert on how to be an internet activist and share what you learn with others so that they emulate you and stay in contact with you.
18. Build your lists. And did I mention, build them larger, and larger?
19. Have a fan or group page on facebook. The way to build it is to put good material on your page that makes people want to “like” your page. See points above – it isn’t about YOU it is about what THEY are interested in.
20. Don’t be confused about lists. All lists are not equal. A list of people who “like” your facebook page is nowhere near as valuable as a list of people who donated to your campaign or donated to your cause. A list that is a year old and hasn’t donated to anything is nowhere near as valuable as a list of people who just donated to something because YOU asked them to, in the last 3 months. Recency is key. A year old list is trash.
21. If you ran for office and are disappointed I don’t blame you but if you are now going dormant then you aren’t the one I wrote this for. The people I want to motivate and provide a little bit of guidance to are the ones who supported a good conservative in this GOP primary, but lost, and are going to stick around and continue because you know this is but one battle in the war, and we need you.
22. If you ran a campaign based on issues this is for you. You didn’t really lose. You just raised our issues, had a chance to explain them, and can now go forward with your issues by supporting those candidates and those causes and groups which support your issue. If you ran a negative campaign that just bellyached about “the establishment” and whined about the “powers that be” and what you don’t like about somebody, then excuse me. You read this far in error. This isn’t for you. Hit delete or exit or eject. Goodbye.
23. If you ran a campaign based on the issues congratulations, it was a great first step to increasing your influence in the public policy process. Now become more expert on several issues that will enable you to speak out. Praise the conservative groups you like, naming them and helping them. Build your IOU’s. Be generous in your praise.
24. Be certain that you are a subscriber to Human Events, RED STATE online, The Washington Times National Weekly Edition and have “liked” a whole bunch of conservative cause pages/groups on Facebook. Spend a little time every day learning, and commenting on what comes your way – which will be plenty if you do what I am suggesting. There are other publications, both “print” and online but those are the minimums I suggest to you.
25. Attend local and national events to support your favorite causes, especially the ones that have multiple co-sponsors such as Pennsylvania Leadership Conference and the Conservative Political Action Conference, to name two examples. The literature booths alone are worth the price of admission. Plan to spend a lot of time at those literature booths.
26. Always remember that ISSUES are the mothers milk of politics, not money. You will have money and volunteers if people perceive that you are speaking for them on some issues they care about, are expert on those issues, are active and a leader who they can help to influence public policy. There was one candidate for U.S. Senator on the ballot today who I heard was at CPAC. The report I got was that he was in the literature booth area, just intercepting people that went walking by. One of my sources specifically suggested to him that he should visit some of the tables to learn better the issues that conservatives care about. His ads were bland and general, just like his speeches and conversation with him. To learn more about our issues go to the organizations which are speaking out on those issues. This is pretty basic but most candidates don’t seem able to understand this. Become an expert on what people are concerned about so that they perceive you are part of the solution, not just someone trying to grab their volunteer time, their donation, their vote. Become an instrument for people who are concerned.
27. Stay active. Instead of just complaining – as some self-appointed conservative leaders often do – be a force out there regularly aiming to influence legislators and building public support for our causes.
Add to this list of course but I hope this is a good start for those who lost today, or supported someone who lost today, primary day in Pennsylvania.
Before I wrap this up I will tell you about someone who has done little or none of the above. Her name is Christine O’Donnell.
Christine ran a couple times for U.S. Senator in Delaware. In her last go-round she had strong supportive comments made about her by some of the major conservative talk show hosts (Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to name two), which boosted her underdog candidacy and helped her win the GOP nomination.
Alas, the State GOP had already filed a lawsuit against her complaining that TEA party groups had supported her (if you are not a PAC you are vulnerable to such a charge if you do “express advocacy,” ie. such as York 912 Patriots repeatedly saying that Todd Platts should be defeated, for example.).
I have no comment on the merits of the case against Christine but I can tell you this. She was the official nominee of the GOP in Delaware while the State GOP was suing her, in a 7 weeks campaign following the primary.
Christine O’Donnell had already been the underdog when she defeated the more liberal Republican. Strike One. Then, strike 2, she had the lawsuit headlined during her brief campaign. Strike 3, a number of Republicans, including Karl Rove, said he thought she was a weak candidate. Fourth, she made a few novice mistakes which the media and the anti-family values crowd within the GOP made a big deal out of during her 7 weeks long campaign.
In other words, she turned her underdog candidacy into a route.
But the golden lining in that cloud is that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were so upset with what was being done to her – a champion of conservative issues – that they issued a loud and clear call to their own fans to help her. The day after her upset victory over the establishment favored Republican Congressman she had a half million in donations – in one day. She brought in millions of dollars in a short time.
Although she lost, as did Ronald Reagan in 1976 and as did Rick Santorum this year, she had a list, just as they did. Oh it is true she’d done little to nothing to build the list – it came to her as a result of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity’s call to help her. But she had a mailing list.
Two years later, unlike the Reagan of 1976, Christine has had no success in raising money for a new group – which I believe she didn’t even start until the list was already half a year or more old (which is TOO OLD to be called an active supporter list at that point). She has not raised a lot of money with her big list, for any candidate for office, any cause, any group, nor built her own group.
And worse, she is now locked in a lawsuit brought against her by one of her strongest supporters, a former campaign manager from a previous campaign who had done legal work for her.
Christine O’Donnell was a loser who could have been a winner, could have been a major influence for our cause. But instead she never put together a game plan for the future, never asked for support for her game plan, never created any business plan (or if she did it is certainly a closely guarded secret) and is now largely irrelevant.
I know of nobody who has purchased her book, let alone read it, published over a year after her losing race. I am very sad about all of this because like many Christian-conservative activists, I was strongly rooting for her to win and when she lost, was hoping she would use her newfound fame to emerge as a major leader for our cause. She didn’t, she hasn’t and it appears her opportunity is totally lost now – her mailing list is well over 18 months old.
My friend, if you ran and lost, or supported someone who ran and lost, please, don’t be a Christine O’Donnell. Make your plans now to continue helping our cause – knowing that this was but one battle in a long war, and knowing that we need you.
Many of those active in the political process have never run for office but can nevertheless, by learning more about the process, help someone who is running now or will run later. Others who run and lose, may end up running and winning in the future.
If you are a conservative a sure hope that you won’t take your loss personally. Your lack of money and experience are problems that you can resolve by learning more, instead of by complaining. Those who complain never win votes and never get donations by their complaints.
Complaints by Newt Gingrich didn’t help him overcome Mitt Romney’s money advantage going into the Florida primary election.
I will appreciate any comments that will add to your “ideas file” but the single most important thing you can do is start thinking of a “business plan” you can create right now – for yourself most of all but as you refine it, edit it, add details to flesh it out, you will also need to show it to those you hope will make a significant investment in your campaign by donating and by spending time on your campaign.
The core of your campaign are your supporters built by your stance on issues.
They are of two types – the donor and the activist. Rarely is the same person, both of these. You need to learn how to stay in touch with them, so that if you have the opportunity to run for office or to help someone run, you have a list to bring with you.
I know some of what I have written here may be abhorrent to you and that I will be attacked by those who think of “the cause” as something totally unrelated to a business. But they are wrong.
A campaign like a non-profit group can and should be run in a businesslike way if you want to win, or if you want to influence public policy. And your “business plan” is a series of lists – this checklist, lists of supporters, lists of donors, lists of friends.
And did I mention the list? The List. The checklist. The list of supporters. The “to do” list. Dream, think and believe: lists. And keep your lists current by using them regularly – lists go stale, lists don’t work any more a half year later and most especially a year later.
Don’t be a Christine.
Don’t waste the enormous asset you have right now – your credibility from having run the race and built a list and some credibility, even in defeat. Harness your recourse for our cause, for a favored candidate or group, NOW while your list is hot, while the new campaign is getting ready to go into gear.
Today is primary day in Pennsylvania, a day that some will win and some will lose. I pray that those who are my conservative friends will not lose but will begin anew the work where we never have enough leaders who do the essentials.
Learn the issues and support the groups and show leadership with issues groups. Learn the technology, the “how to” of campaigns and technology. Build your lists.
While my favorite training source is The Leadership Institute, I also very much like the offerings of American Majority. Learning from one or both of them, a business plan, and steady effort to provide leadership for our cause and building your own list, is work that you should begin now, today.
So do not rest too long if today is the day you lost – you have supporters who are watching you, and your bouncing right back from your loss today is the single greatest first step you can undertake to show them you are the leader they are glad they have supported and will go on supporting in the future. Or else you will be forgotten, irrelevant, another Christine, in just a few more months.
HanoverHenry of RED STATE is Pat Henry on Facebook, and I’m on the lookout for new friends there. You can also communicate via private mail at Facebook, and I welcome new sources for my articles focusing on the conservative-Christian viewpoint in Pennsylvania. I appreciate your sharing this article elsewhere and only ask that you include this “disclaimer” in any reprints or sharing you do. And I thank those whose information have helped me with some of my reports, including those who do not wish to be quoted by name.
Links to articles I wrote at RED STATE at my Facebook Notes section.