The Most Important Part of the Campaign (How Can Ron Paul Close the Deal?)
The most important part of the campaign is coming up in just a few weeks. It's the last three to four weeks before the vote is taken. Here is a little secret about campaigning, which isn't really a secret.
A very large number of voters, often a plurality, do not truly decide their vote until the final days or week of the campaign.
Although this is fairly well known, it is rarely properly seized upon by political campaigns, which all too often flame out months before the actual vote takes place. Many of the most successful political campaigns do not ramp up until near the end; the very best combine a strong early-recognition strategy with an outreach effort that builds towards the end of the campaign that ultimately has the goal of "peaking" on election day.
The best example of a campaign that executed this strategy 100% perfectly is Scott Brown's victory over Martha Coakley in Massachusetts early last year. Brown's campaign hit on all the right fundamentals early on, built strong name ID, and closed the deal down the stretch. A campaign that was (rightly) given no chance of winning Ted Kennedy's seat found itself within ten points with a few weeks to go, and several points up on election night.
Ron Paul is polling in the low double digits in Iowa and New Hampshire, each a week apart from the other, and Iowa setting a lot of the "tone" for the New Hampshire contest. If the cards are played correctly, Ron Paul could almost certainly turn that support into a caucus win – and, very possibly, a strong New Hampshire finish (i.e., in the 20s, perhaps no more than 10-15 points behind Romney, which would be essentially a win). Doing these two things would build the momentum for the rest of the campaign.
I am going to make a post before long analyzing the Iowa caucus threshold to victory, but for now, what political considerations must be employed to ensure that we finish strong?
How Can Ron Paul Close the Deal?
The official campaign almost certainly has a good strategy in place for how to do this, I can only assume. However, we as a grassroots owe it to ourselves to keep our efforts in line with theirs and to similarly work with them on "closing the deal" in the final weeks of the campaign. Here are a few things to keep in mind as that period rapidly approaches, a few things that we and the campaign both will need to focus on in order to win in Iowa.
- Early money is much better than late money. Media buys for the final week or so of the campaign need to be in at least two to three weeks before that, and therefore fundraising must be strong before the Dec. 16 moneybomb.
- Door knocking is invaluable. Especially late in a campaign, a good one-on-one personal impression with a candidate or a friendly campaign volunteer is truly the most effective thing that anyone can do in order to boost their chances of victory. Ron Paul's campaign and our grassroots need to coordinate an awesome door-to-door effort that focuses on voters who are likely caucus attendees, especially likely-to-caucus independent voters, with whom we have strong support.
- Educational efforts are worthless at some point. As the days tick down towards the caucus, the effort to "inform" and "convert" voters has to stop. I would say that after the first week of December, the entire focus must be on turning out identified voters, and finding un-ID'd voters. Not a one of us cannot afford to waste time trying to show people how Ron Paul is right on Iran, or something similar. If they haven't learned it by then, they won't in time, and your efforts are better spent figuring out how to get-out-the-vote.
- Phone call efforts are extremely important, and timeliness of the efforts even moreso. Right now, the phone efforts are targeted at Voter ID. The campaign is trying to figure out "who are our supporters?" Those efforts are exceptionally important but really cannot go much beyond the middle of December. At that point, it becomes more worth the campaign's while to maintain contact with already ID'd voters and ensure turnout via the phone effort. You still have many voters deciding at that point, but it is impossible to ID and then reach out to a huge new subset of voters within a few weeks' time.
- Paid media must crest in the final week. The campaign certainly knows this, but all paid media (including grassroots efforts) should really build up to crest during that final week before the caucus.
- Focus on effective methods of outreach, as opposed to ineffective ones. Sign-waving is fun, but hardly effective. Same goes with other kinds of efforts which seek to somehow stick "Ron Paul" out in front of someone. For all the time you could be spending in the final weeks of the campaign spray painting something or floating a colored balloon, you could be shaking hands with prospective voters at a local event, knocking doors, or making calls.
- STAY ON MESSAGE. This is so important it deserves a little extra attention. So many campaigns, including the 2007-2008 Ron Paul campaign, get sidetracked as the last days of the campaign tick away. For Ron Paul in 2007, it was a disastrous Meet the Press interview and the old newsletter controversy that had the campaign answering allegations of racism, irrelevant issues like the Civil Rights bill, and other things. For our campaign to win, no matter what happens, both the campaign and WE especially have to STAY ON MESSAGE. Stick to our talking points, stick to our guns, don't get sidetracked. Whether you are on the phone, at a door, at a party, or speaking at the caucus, don't go down rabbit holes and DO NOT get into non-advantageous issues. That brings me to another point.
- Positive, winning issues should be the focus. We are blessed to have a candidate in Ron Paul who KNOWS his stuff. And he sure talks about it... on every little minutiae and detail of everything that he is asked about. Unfortunately, this gets him involved talking about issues that are losers for us. Same thing happens with our grassroots... how many times have you seen Ron Paul supporters miss a golden opportunity to win a vote because of an insistence on talking about the Fed, or the gold standard, or foreign policy, or something to that effect, when the voter only needed to hear Paul's pro-life stance or his strong pro-austerity fiscal policy? If you think it is principled to focus on losing issues then you are wrong. The Fed this year is certainly more of a winning issue, but I recall being in New Hampshire in 2008, whereupon I heard supporters talking about the Fed to potential voters who couldn't have cared less. FOCUS ON BIG, SWEEPING PRINCIPLES. RON PAUL: CUT A TRILLION DOLLARS, BALANCE THE BUDGET, CREATE JOBS. This is what we need in the final days. The less we bring out about Ron Paul to an undecided voter that might turn them off, the better!
- Keep your cool. The final days of a campaign are stressful. It is natural to be nervous and unsure of victory, to feel a little insecure even. But you cannot allow this to in any way detract from your efforts or putting in the best job you can at the end. If we in the grassroots think it is stressful, then we should not forget that the campaign itself is feeling that stress a million times over. But none of us – not the campaign nor our volunteers – can lose hope and give up. This is why maintaining composure is so important. This means when you speak with voters, keep a level head and remember to STAY ON MESSAGE (there it is again!).
- Be positive. Negativity kills campaigns as time winds down. If we cannibalize one another, what do we need enemies for? Constructive criticism is a great and useful thing, but outright negativity should be shunned. We must be positive, because we have a lot to be positive about. In line with that...
- Act like winners. Ron Paul has done this much better this year. He is confident, and we all can see and feel it. He knows that he is in this thing to actually win it, not to just run a quixotic effort to educate. He has the message, he has the team, and he is the candidate. Remember when Ron Paul said at the debate "well, now I'm pretty high in the polls," well we need to carry the same kind of confidence. Don't ever be discouraged by someone saying "we can't win." We know we can, and we have to express that through everything we do. Attitude here is more instructive than words could ever be; you don't have to say "I'm on a winning campaign" to express that by doing a great job and being confident in your work.
The time of reckoning is approaching and the campaign's early stages are quickly coming to a close.
It is almost time for us to ensure we finish strong.