There are politicians who are eager to run and can’t wait to start doing something. Others are more hesitant and have plenty of reasons why to delay early planning. They are caught up in the daily business, think that early efforts will be forgotten until election day or are simple reluctant to spend money. In reality, there is no candidate or party leader that has ever lost an election because he started to plan too early. In particular, here are three things that candidates should do early on:
- Develop a campaign plan, strategy, and message. Campaigns are very chaotic operations and extremely exhausting at a personal level. Once the real campaign kicks in, it will feel like a roller coaster ride. It helps to manage the chaos if there is a plan. If you don’t develop it early on, there won’t be any at all and the campaign will end up being a shot-gun attack (or worse, you will be the target of a shot-gun attack).
- Neutralize weaknesses. Every candidate has weaknesses, smart ones are honest about it and have a plan to neutralize them. If this is not done early, it will not be done at all, because it takes much more time to change public opinion than to shape it in the first place.
- Reach out to enemies. When Tony Blair was the opposition leader of the British Labour Party, he flew around the world to reach out to Ruport Murdoch, who owns, among many other things, the influential British newspaper The Sun. The effort seemed to have paid off as The Sun would ultimately endorse Blair instead of bashing Labour as in previous election cycles. If you want to duplicate this, it has to be done early on, and from a position of strength.
As an add on, it also helps to raise lots of money. As much as politicians usually hate this part of a campaign, I also do not know of any politician who ever lost an election because he spent too much time raising money.