by Dave Grager
Labor Day is tomorrow, which means the real start of the campaign. Right?
Wrong!!! While this is a popular notion that took prominence in the 1940s with the late momentum of candidates such as Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.
However, in more recent decades, candidates have announced and ramped up their campaigns earlier and earlier. On average, most candidates for a major office, like a congressional campaign, announce and run the summer in the year before their general election day.
Ok, now why do campaigns announce early, and need to ramp up much sooner than Labor Day?
The short answer is money. The long answer can be answered by considering a number of factors. First, if you’re considering running for office, especially for a seat with a competitive primary. The momentum advantage of announcing first cannot be understated. Primary candidates have been won by getting your name ID out first and having a bigger window of time to fundraise. The next consideration is and one reason why campaigns are getting more expensive is that it’s harder to reach voters to tell them about you. Gone are the days where a TV ad, interview in the local paper, and a large quantity of yard signs meant a strong campaign. These elements are still important, but more voters than ever don’t watch traditional networks, don’t have a subscription to the local paper, and don’t own a home to plant a yard sign. So, to reach these voters it becomes even more important to meet them where they are, out at community events, a social media presence that’s more than Facebook, text banking voters in lieu of phone banking. If you are able to raise the money and resources needed for all of the components listed above, it won’t guarantee success but it will get you so much closer. Finally, instead of the long held assumption that people don’t volunteer for the campaign until after Labor Day needs to really be changed to something to the effect of 100 days before election day. So, as long as this is emphasized it gives the campaign ample time to hit all of its goals.
To conclude, the landscape of political campaigns is changing. In many cases, like sports, there is no off-season. While the arrival of fall brings an added sense of urgency, remember that the best campaigns have the groundwork set in place so that by Labor Day it is a well-oiled machine.