You’re Targeting The Wrong Voter Bloc
This is the most common mistake candidates make when trying to run for public office. The reality of politics is you won’t win the support of every voter–nor should you try. Voter segmentation is the most important aspect of winning a majority of support from registered voters. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, there are certain voters that will NEVER vote for you. You could be running against Jeffrey Dahlmer (the famed cannibalistic serial killer) and some voters would vote for the serial killer before they’d vote for you.
Politics is sales. In order to make the sale, you must target two groups of people: those who always buy from you and those who are open to buy from you. Ignore everyone else.
You’re Energy Sucks
Does your natural energy tend to pull people towards you or push people away? Candidates who have personalities that tend to repel those around them or place them in a position to be easily overlooked always have a very difficult time finding traction in elections. Case in point, Jeb Bush. While Jeb Bush found favor among Florida voters as Governor, his personality didn’t excite the Republican base nationally. In fact, this situation was so bad that he actually asked a group of his own supporters to “please clap” after delivering some of his key points. That is an energy problem and one of the reasons why his Presidential bid never took off.
If you struggle to pull people towards you I suggest you read and apply the principles found in the classic book by Dale Carnegie, “How Win Friends And Influence People.” This book will transform how you behave and how others react to you. You can get the book here.
You Haven’t Picked A Side
Every candidate needs to pick a hill to die on. If you claim to be a conservative Republican, run a conservative race. If you want to run an independent race, run as an independent. If you claim to be a Republican but hold liberal positions on key issues, switch parties and run as a Democrat. What you want to avoid is trying to be all things to all people. Again, as mentioned above, you’re not going to win every vote–nor should you try.
Voters are looking for options. What good is it to run a race where you hold identical or similar positions as your opponent? What value do you deliver to the voters if your solutions are very similar to theirs? You must pick a side and present yourself in a way that distinguishes the differences between your solutions and your opponent’s solutions while communicating how the voters will better benefit from your solutions.
You’re Running The Wrong Race
The fundamental factor in deciding which office to run for is NOT your opinion on the issues. There are two factors that dictate whether you’re in the right race: Rational and Story. When reviewing your resume (both professional and civic) is there any experience that qualifies you to hold the office you seek? This is especially important in difficult races or races where you will experience a voter registration disadvantage. Anyone (almost) can win an election where the voter registration favors them heavily. This is why you see candidates not qualified to hold office get elected by wide margins. However, if that same candidate were in a race that was hotly contested by a credible candidate or their race was in a district where they had a voter disadvantage, they’d lose by equally large margins.
You don’t have to run for Congress to make a difference in your community. In fact, I would argue, you can make a larger difference in your community by running for a local or state position. Who effects state and local taxes–your state legislatures or your Congressional representative? Who effects ordinances and fees? Who effects gun laws? Who makes decisions regarding abortion? Who makes decisions regarding business regulations? If you truly want to make a difference in your community, run for state office. Serve your fellow citizens and then, if the opportunity arises, run for a national position.
Voter’s Don’t Trust You
Trust and likability are two of the leading factors in whether you will receive support in both the Primary and General Election. You want to avoid presenting yourself in a way that causes voters to mistrust you. For example, overstating your resume is a common mistake many candidates make when running for office. If you overstate your resume, you will get caught and subsequently embarrassed. Do not (ever) lie about your military service or claim to have military service if you did not serve. Again, you will get caught. There can be no
Another mistake candidates make is their brand is not authentic. Do not (ever) try to rip off or plagiarize the campaign slogan or imagery of another candidate–especially one as highly visible as President Trump. Do not (ever) use “Make <fill in the blank> Great Again.> Doing so communicates to voters that you’re insecure about who you are and that you are trying to hide behind the success of President Trump. Voters will sense that you are trying to manipulate them into supporting you simply because you support the President. Voters typically aren’t that shallow.
Using other aspects of the overall Republican brand in support of your campaign is fine. For example, stating that you’re an America First Republican (or a Nebraska First, Texas First, etc.) communicates that you believe in small government focused on the needs of the voters in your state. Regardless, the main branding and slogan you choose for your campaign must be native to your district and a natural extension of who you are as a candidate.