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Campaigning 101 – Finding Your Win Number

Welcome to the Dog’s on going series about campaigning from the point of view of the Candidate. If you have been following this series or if you are a candidate or thinking of being one, you might have noticed that we have not talked too much about how you are going to actually win. As everyone knows you need to get more votes than your opponent, but that is not enough to actually design a plan to get those votes. The place that you need to start is the Win Number.

No, your Win Number is not 50% plus one vote, nice try though. Well, in a way it is that, but you can actually project what that number is going to be, though it takes some work on your part. You will need to contact your local elections office for some information. Depending on the office you’re running for it might be the County Clerk or the Secretary of State. What you will need is the precinct by precinct vote totals for the last three election cycles similar to the one you are running in. So, if you think that you are going to run this cycle (what is keeping you from getting in anyway? Fear that you can’t do a better job than the Bozo that holds the seat now?), then you want the 2006, 2002 and 1998 precinct election results. You will also need the turn out percentage (the number of voters who actually voted divided by the total registered voters).

Yes it is a lot of work to do this at the precinct level, but it will pay off later when you start to target your efforts. First you need to project the vote. To do that you will average the turn out for the last three elections, then multiply it by the current number of registered voters.

1998 vote total + 2002 vote total + 2006 vote total X current registration = Projected Vote totals.

The formula for the Win Number is as follows:

Projected turn out/2 + 1 = Win Number.

So, now are done, right? Wrong. This is just what it would take to win in a nominal election and it leaves your plans horribly vulnerable. If you set your plans for 50% plus one vote, you leave yourself open to doing just about everything right and then losing by one vote because just one of your constituents did not make it to the polls. What you need to do now is add between 5% and 10% of the projected turn out. Lets call it 7% for this exercise. So if your district had a projected turn out number of 2000, your Win Number is 1070 votes.

Now, go do that with each precinct. See, the Dog knows that you jumped to the district level totals just to try it out. Now go do the math for all of them. What you should have when you are done is a spreadsheet that has each precinct, the registration in each, the turn out for each by year, the projected turn out for each and the Win Number for each.

Now it is time to figure out if you where you are going to have an enough Dems in each precinct who are going to vote for you. To do this you need to get the Democratic Performance Index. Basically what you do is take the percent of the total vote that voted for the Democrat in the race for the last three elections. Add them all together and divide by three. This will give you a DPI for each. Now multiply the DPI by the projected turn out. This should tell the number of votes you can nominally count on in each precinct.

Now take that number and subtract it from the Win Number for each precinct. If you have a positive number, great! If you have a negative number this is a precinct that is going to take some work. Also check on the over all totals for these numbers, it will tell you how good a chance you have at wining the race overall as a Democrat.

Most likely you are going to find that you need to persuade some swing voters in order to get to that 57% of the vote number you are shooting for. So, now you have to find them. There are one way to do this is look at the vote percentage for two candidates for State wide office in the district, like the Governors, who are particularly useful in the midterm elections and a State Senate race. These don’t have to be of the same party, in fact it a better indicator if they are not. Subtract the lower percentage from the higher and that will give you the percentage of voters that are persuadable.

Now multiply the Persuadable Percentage by the projected turn out for each precinct. This will give you the number of persuadable voters in each precinct. Check to see how many of them you need to get your Win Number. If you have enough or nearly so, you are in very good shape! If you are below, then you have some really tough sledding ahead of you.

One tried and true method of winning when you don’t have enough persuadable is to expand the electorate, by voter registration. By figuring out where there might be a pool of people that are not registered but would naturally vote for you, the equation can be changed. In any case as a believer in democracy, you should always plan on some voter registration activities. It is not enough to just win, if you want to have the people have their voice heard, it is important that you have all of the people that can vote have the opportunity to do so. Registration is the first step.

Once you have all this information you will be a long way towards knowing the outline of your field plan. You will know where to focus your efforts, where you can reasonably go light. Ideally you will campaign in every precinct as there are always some votes that you can gain, but time and money might make you have to scale back. If you do scale back make sure it is in the places where you can most afford to do so.

This was a little deep, the Dog knows, but if you are going to be a politician, you should be the best one you can. Get your campaign manager on board ASAP and you as a candidate can focus on inspiring the people to trust you do represent them. Until then, you had better be doing your homework. The have a name for those that don’t put in the work, they are called the Also Ran’s, don’t be on of them!

That is it for this week. The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for Govtrak.org

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