Don’t Make This Mistake: A Cardinal Sin of Elections

Kelly on May 15, 2014

in Campaigns, Field, Pro Tips

Saira Blair Taught An Incumbent One of the Cardinal Rules of Campaigns

There are a few cardinal sins in elections. One of them is underestimating your opponent. Failing to take your opposition seriously or only going through motions because you think you have the race locked up is a recipe for disaster.

There are plenty of examples of political campaigns ending badly because of these mistakes. The latest example learned the hard way Tuesday. What should other candidates learn from his mistakes?

Don’t Get Out Worked

Saira Blair, a seventeen year old high school student is the Republican candidate for a House of Delegate’s seat in West Virginia. She managed to win her primary this week by about 150 votes, defeating two term incumbent, Del. Larry Kump.

How? We think Del. Kump said it best: “Quite frankly, she out-campaigned me.”  

According the AP article: “Friends in her high school class of 400 helped wave signs at polling places. She rallied some to register to vote. Blair also spent $4,900 and had a $2,300 loan, compared to Kump’s $1,840 in spending.”

Her fellow high school students may have been enough for her margin of victory. There’s a sentence you don’t read too often.

Lessons for Every Candidate

So, what can we learn from the Blair campaign example?

1. As we said, never underestimate your opponent.

2. The most organized campaign usually wins.

3. Small local races are winnable, even against established incumbents.

In this race, turnout was very low, approximately ten percent. Only about 1,600 total votes were cast. Del. Kump again summed it up well, “It was a low voter turnout election and she won.”

When turnout is this low, you can count every vote and even prepare a field plan to target each voter you need individually. (Check out GetElected’s lesson: How to Build a Field Plan.)

Assuming a candidate can knock on about 20 doors an hour, and you want to knock every door three times, you need about 240 hours to hit every voter. If you walked four days a week in 5 hour shifts, a single candidate covers the whole expected electorate in 12 weeks. Add two volunteers to knock with you and your down to four weeks. Not too intimidating.

Congrats to Ms. Blair and let this be a lesson to every candidate. Never take your opposition for granted.


Email Subscription

Kelly Dietrich

About The Author

Kelly, founder of GetElected, spent sixteen years in politics working campaigns all across the country at every level of government. His specialty is new campaign creation, strategy and fundraising.

Leave a Reply