Grassroots:4 - Targeting
non Republican/Democrat candidates
In the previous article on this subject (See: Grassroots:1
- How early should I
) we mentioned that as a non
Republican/Democrat candidate your campaign or your candidate will
face additional ballot access obstacles. In the second article (See: Grassroots:2
- Ballot Access
defined and first step on developing campaign plan) these were
explained and initial steps of information required to incorporate a
solution into your campaign plan were presented. In the third
article (See: Grassroots:3 - Looking at the
concept of targeting
) we introduced the concept of
In this article we will provide some very basic information
about modern day campaigns and elections. While this is all public
information very few citizens seem to be aware of these basic facts.
But these facts will be the key to any independent candidate's
capability to achieve success and for concerned citizens to have a
Real Choice in their elections.
A brief recap on why targeting is so critical for independent
Importance of Targeting for independents
A candidate running for public office in a partisan election
as a Republican or Democrat starts out with a base vote. Most
election districts are skewed in most elections by 10% or less of
the average vote. So in most districts with equal candidates running
80% of the time the difference is no worse than 60 - 40% of the
average vote. So even the underdog in such elections have a base
vote of somewhere around 40%.
When running as an independent candidate, with opposition from
both major parties you probably start with at most 2-3% of the
average vote, lets use 4% for round numbers. So speaking in general
terms we start with a 58% - 38% - 4% race in a very partisan
We will carry this hypothetical district and race through a
look at what these numbers mean in terms of the total potential
voter pool and how an estimate of your campaign can impact the
Some Election Basics
Before building a campaign plan it is very important for an
independent candidate to understand the dynamics of current day
elections. Both good government and success for non
Republican/Democratic candidates require that the dynamics be
changed. If nothing changes, then elections will continue to offer
minimal choices and special interests will continue their current
trend of gaining influence at the expense of the citizens.
To start, you need to understand that in most elections the
majority of the voting age eligible population (VAP) have already
expressed their disgust with the current day elective process. They
have in effect "dropped out" of elective politics. So when you look
at the vote percentages quoted above and make the assumption that
50% of VAP actually vote and adjust the percentages it is really a:
29% - 19% - 2% race with 50% non participating.
Now lets say you work hard and
take 6% of the leading parties typical vote, 4% of the second party
and gain the support of 20% of those who have dropped out
previously, we have a different race. It is now:
26% - 17% - 17% with 40% not participating or in actual votes
in this hypothetical situation: 43.3% - 28.3% - 28.3%.
Now a look at those results shows the promise of both
beginning to restore good government (increased citizen
participation) and potential for success. A race with those numbers
is a toss up. It will require a run-off and the independent
candidate is in close competition to make the run-off. Remember this
was for a very partisan district, in a district that more evenly
distributed the race is a virtual toss up.
The 6%, 4% and 20% percent figures were picked as
representative and in developing your campaign plan you will need to
select realistic targets for your district. However keep in mind
that with a good campaign plan, that is well executed - you do
not have to look at these as a one time shot. If you are able to
retain a sizable amount of any portion actually established as
support, you can repeat the race in the next election cycle and you
are no longer starting around 4%.
At this point some will be saying, "that is voodoo
arithmetic." But it is not - as explained below:
Historical Voter Turnout Facts
The next election
cycle is commonly called the mid-term or off-year elections. This means that in the 2006 election, the office of
President is not on the ballot. Voter turnout statistics are
different for Presidential and mid-term elections. We will use
historical data for mid-term elections which are much lower than
Presidential years. Starting with a graph (on left) the
picture will begin clear up.
As you can see mid-term or off-year elections have not
approached even 50% turnout of VAP since the 1960's. Since then we
have eliminated many restrictions and implemented "motor voter" and
citizen participation has still dropped to 40% or less.
One statistic that is amazing is that 80% of contested
elections are won with 24% or less of the VAP. This is roughly your
target, you have to find, gain the support of and get 24% of the VAP
to the polls to win 80% of the time.
Now lets take the same numbers above that were based upon 50%
turnout and adjust for today's anticipated turnout of 40% for the
The starting point of 58% - 38% - 4% converted to VAP
23.2% - 15.2% - 1.6% with 60% non participants.
With the same campaign targets of 6% from leading party, 4%
from second party and 20% of previous non participants we have in
actual votes the race would be:
40.1% - 26.1% - 33.8 % with 48% not participating.
Suddenly this previously "locked in"
district where one party dominated is now a wide open district where
the acceptance of issues, not party will now determine the winner in
a run-off. Note that when one party dominates and the candidate is
chosen in the Party Primary about 10% or less of the VAP actually
pick the winner. Not only has such an independent candidate now
generated an open election, but is in the running in a competitive
The components of success
Lets look at each of these numbers and do a gut check on are
they feasible or is this pie in the sky?
6% of dominate party voters. The easiest way to get a
handle on the hard core party vote is to compare the general
election and primary votes. A large portion of the increased vote
for the party in the general election are those who are voting for
the "lesser of two evils" or against the other major party
candidate. These voters (combined with same classification from
second party) and can be targeted. To determine if this percentage
is achievable you will have to do a comparison of the numbers and
relative strength of your issue positions.
4% of second party voters. Same methodology as above. The
second party percentage is lower as we always recommend placing as
much emphasis as possible toward targeted campaigning that will
attract voters from the dominate party percentages.
20% of previous non participants. This groups breaks down
into three categories; 1) infrequent voters, 2) un registered
citizens and 3) will not register or not eligible to register
citizens. The first category is the largest in most but not all
districts and can be identified by voter databases for specific
targeting. Of the three categories listed this will be most
desirable category to work towards in most districts. These are
also practically ignored by most current day campaign tools except
media expenditures. To achieve 20% of the non participating VAP
you will need to attract about 15% from this category and hope for
5% in the unregistered category. The 5% new registrations is based
upon work. In the author's 2002 campaign our estimate is that we
achieved 3% from April through September so with an early start 5%
is very doable. You will have to evaluate your issues and the
number of infrequent voters to determine if 15% is a feasible
number for the other category. Note that with infrequent voters
you assume a greater burden on the get out the vote effort. In
fact this will be the most critical part of the campaign plan,
aside from achieving ballot access.
This is the background material on the dynamics facing an
independent candidate and their campaign. In today's elections the
general election candidates are chosen in the major party primaries
where the turnout is very low. This gives a very small percentage of
people and candidates with big budgets a "lock" on the majority of
elective offices and is a major factor in the deterioration of
As an independent candidate you will need to make some
modification in these dynamics by bring more citizens back into the
elective process. This is both restoring good government and
providing that the ultimate winners are selected by a wider base
than in the current norm.
Yes it is hard work, but success can be achieved. As noted
above, each group of citizens that you need to apply the most effort
to can be identified and targeted. While this is still in general
terms by now you should begin to see how this can be applied to your
district, using the strengths you have as a candidate and the
weaknesses your expected opponents will have. This is the essence of
a campaign plan. To identify the obstacles and opportunities and
plan how to overcome the obstacles and take the maximum advantage of
the opportunities. In other words how to stay focused so that all of
your effort and resources contributes toward improved results on
So far we have used general statistics, while very factual,
are not specific to your district. In the next article in this
series, we will use an excel spreadsheet (downloadable) to give you
a tool to begin looking at how these statistics apply to your
district. From that a campaign plan can be started.
An Action for the concerned citizen
Now for an action item for citizens who would like to see
their choices improved in future elections. If people reading this
article are honest with themselves this would include all but the
most partisan citizens. Having
is very American and should be a goal of all citizens who are not
beholden to special interests. Citizens that care about good
government need to be more proactive, not just waiting until the day
before an election to decide and then complaining that the limited
choice is less than desirable. If you are such a citizen and know
someone who would be a good candidate, forward these articles to them. If you are such a citizen and know other
citizens that are of a like mind, consider forwarding this article to them.
There are enough good citizens in our country to restore good
government, but many just feel like they do not have a chance.
Encourage them, unless you are totally satisfied with today's
government. Your encouragement may be all the additional support
that your potential candidate was waiting for.
One thing you can take to the bank,
doing nothing - does not change much!
An Action for potential candidates
Get what voter statistics you can for your district for the
last few elections for the office(s) you are considering. Also
make a list of the top ten issues for your district.
If you have some interest in
for the people of Georgia, the following articles
may be of interest:
Part 1 Many ask, "Why a Southern Party �?"
Part 2 The Southern Party: Strengths and Weaknesses
Part 3 The
Southern Party: A Plan for 2006 Election Cycle
Part 4 The Southern Party: We need your help