As we roll into another presidential election and witnessed the rowdy Republican debate on Wednesday it is once again clear that most people who decide to run for president are clueless about how to do so.
They want to run for president in the worst way, and they do.
Not only are they at sea, but so are most of their highly paid consultants and volunteer advisers. Most political consultants’ primary skills are billing lots of hours, telling the candidate to run away from all of their conservative positions on issues and then producing ineffective TV and radio ads, blanketing the airways with them and billing the campaign for 15% of the cost of the ads.
In 2016, 17 Republicans ran for president. Few people today can identify even three of them.
This year, we have 11 so far.
And fewer can tell you the difference in the political/ideological views of former Sen. Tim Scott, or former governors Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Asa Hutchinson.
But Democrats in 2020, if anything, were worse. They had 29 candidates, and because national Democrats do not tolerate any significant ideological difference in the party, it was almost impossible to tell the difference between the candidates based on issues.
Granted, most of the “major” presidential candidates have a “secret agenda.” They’re actually running for vice president. They are looking for a cabinet post or auditioning for TV or radio talk show gig.
What should presidential candidates do and not do if they want to be elected president or, at a minimum, run a serious campaign?
Here are some thoughts pulled from more than 60 years of marketing strategies at the national level of politics.
1. You must have a base. Without a base, you’re going nowhere. Former President Ronald Reagan in 1976 and 1980 had 1½ bases before being elected. His half-base was his wealthy California friends. That’s enough to get you to the starting gate. It will not get you to the finish line. Mr. Reagan’s full base was the entire conservative movement.
Former President Donald Trump’s base was his $10 billion. Vivek Ramaswamy has a net worth of about $1 billion. This helped jumpstart his presidential campaign.
Those with no base — Messrs. Hutchinson, Burgum, Hurd, Elder, should reconsider their ridiculous run.
2. Every election (no exceptions) in a free society is about the future. Don’t believe me? Remember Winston Churchill? A few weeks after he literally saved the British people’s very lives, he was defeated for reelection as Prime Minister in a landslide. The voters fired him as Prime Minister because he was focused on the past, and the Labor Party painted a picture of what the future would look like under them.
Talking about the past is a major reason why the Republicans massively underperformed in the 2022 election, and if Mr. Trump and other Republican candidates continue to talk about the stolen 2020 election, Democrats will have a big victory in 2024.
3. Identify a hole in the political arena you occupy. The first of Viguerie’s Four Horsemen of Marketing is position. A position is nothing more than a hole in the marketplace. What hole in the political arena does the presidential candidate occupy?
Gov. Ron DeSantis has a hole in the arena that he occupies that is unique in that he did not lock down and shut down his state during COVID-19. He chose liberty over tyranny.
If you don’t have a hole in the marketplace, i.e., have a lane that you are dominant in, it’s going to be almost impossible to prevail.
In the 2007-2008 Democrat presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton started with a huge lead. Barack Obama developed a hole in the marketplace that was brilliant. The focus of his presidential campaign was this message, “I wasn’t in the U.S. Senate at the time, but if I had been, I would have voted against the Iraq war. She (Hillary) voted for it.” This message separated Mr. Obama from Mrs. Clinton and electrified Democrats. Mr. Obama then rode that message to the White House.
4. Define or be defined. The law of the jungle is eat or be eaten. The law of politics is to define or be defined. If you don’t quickly define yourself with your own position, differentiation, benefit, brand and tagline—your opponent surely will. Conversely, you also need to be busy defining your opponent.
5. Give the voters a tune to whistle. In our massively over-communicated society, it’s especially helpful to give the voters an idea that rattles around in their head. Below are some examples:
Former President Ronald Reagan in 1980 – Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?
Former Virginia Gov. George Allen – You do the crime; you do the time.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin – No Critical Race Theory taught in Virginia schools.
Former President Donald Trump – Make America Great Again.
Democrats in 2022: Democracy is on the ballot; a woman’s right to choose is on the ballot.
Republicans in 2022 – crickets, nothing, nada, zero.
6. Tagline. Your name says nothing about your views, values, beliefs, policies if elected, etc. It used to be that people were exposed to 1,000-1,200 advertising messages a day. Now, it’s significantly over 5,000 and growing. You only have a few seconds to get people’s attention. Make America Great Again is probably the best political tagline in decades.
This column originally appeared in the Washington Times on Monday, August 28, 2023, go here to read the original on the Washington Times website.
Make America Great Again
Ron DeSantis COVID policy
2024 Republican candidates