Anywhere in the world, an election campaign has always been one the most memorable and exciting events in a democratic country where suffrage is a part of life. Naturally, either the national or local elections have significantly influenced the social and financial environments even for a short period of the election campaign.
Oftentimes, winning or losing an election could either “make” or “break” candidates, both as politicians and individuals. Many had said that politicians belong to a rare breed of people. Those who run for public offices are ambitious, determined and highly competitive individuals. It is maybe for these reasons that politicians take defeat as very hard on them and their families with some even going into temporary or complete obscurity.
According to Presidential Historian William A. Chafe, former US Pres. Bill Clinton hit a “period of immense depression and was disconsolate for months” after losing the Arkansas gubernatorial election in 1980. Fortunately for him, his wife Hillary Clinton “came to his rescue” by strengthening their relationship bond at his low ebb and personally formulated his next campaign plan that won him back the gubernatorial position in 1982 that eventually led to the US presidency in 1992.
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Although the untimely demise of matinee idol Fernando Poe Jr. was never officially reported as a result of an emotional breakdown, there were lingering whispers among close associates and friends that Da King found it arduous to accept his defeat on the 2004 Presidential election with his strong suspicion of a mammoth election cheating by his political opponents.
Election Campaign Strategies in the Philippines
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Similar to formulating a strategic management plan for business projects, politicians must realize the paramount importance of formulating and implementing a political campaign plan long before the start of the campaign period. Most professional campaign operators nowadays employ the most modern and scientific approaches to running a campaign similar to operating a business project.
Just like in a business feasibility study, an environmental scanning is essentially necessary knowing the fact that an election campaign is a fiercely competitive episode in a political world. Oftentimes, campaign planners utilize the (S-W-O-T) analysis approach that takes into consideration the internal environment, Strengths and Weaknesses of the candidate including the available resources and the external environment in terms of the Opportunities and Threats provided by the political scenario and by the political opponents, respectively.
Based on the findings of the environmental scanning, a campaign plan can now be created with the end view of utilizing the candidate’s strengths, strengthening the weaknesses, taking timely actions on the opportunities and confronting threats from political adversaries.
In crafting a political campaign design, we should always remember there is no single “best” campaign strategy. The most effective strategy will vary for each individual candidate and for a particular election, whether it is a national or local election and other parameters.
Campaigns for local elections are very dissimilar from national campaigns. If you're a new candidate who is running for office in a local election political campaign, you might be confused about what kind of strategy you should use for winning votes. If a city or municipality is small enough, a candidate may be able to personally meet and shake hands with many of the voters by walking through the sitios, puroks and barangays of the community. While candidates in national positions are not afforded this luxury, local elections allow candidates to do the “leg work” to personally attempt to “win voters” by personal contact.
Many campaign planners have confirmed that many candidates for local elections regretted spending a big sum of money with the hope to win a local election. Many stories have been passed around where candidates were reported to have spent millions in their campaigns only to end up as losers, simply because the money was not spent to where it was intended to but rather settled in the pockets of political aides and leaders.
With this in mind, local candidates should not make the mistake of thinking that in order to win, they need to spend huge amount of money on your campaign. If you're facing a deficit of campaign funds and still want to get your message and name out to the voters, then be prepared to devote at least an hour a night for door-to-door campaigning in the three months before election day. Candidates for local elections will be able to meet and reach out to literally thousands of voters by using simple and effective door handouts that outline your background and campaign message,
This kind of “leg work” campaigning doesn't cost a lot of money, but it is extremely effective in local elections since most political candidates simply won't take the time to mount an effective grassroots campaign since it's so labor intensive and considered as hard work. If a candidate ever decides to be perseverant in his local campaign by putting in extra time and dedication to visit voters in their own homes and neighborhood, in most likelihood he will have a huge advantage over his opponents.
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Election Planners and ManagersMany political analysts have established that a family-run campaign does not necessarily translate into an efficient and effective undertaking. The most experienced “political dynasties” in the Philippines have even elevated political campaigning to an art, and over the passage of time have acquired the mastery of how to maximize the utilization of their overall resources as well as their political and social connections. This is very true with influential families who are especially skilled at the political maneuvers by putting the charismatic and appealing family members at the frontlines while assigning the crafty and the cunning ones to the management side. They are very adept in mobilizing the clan and its network for other tasks in the campaign, including recruitment of campaigners, survey takers, poll watchers, bodyguards, political “barkers “ and political “underground agents.”
However as new developments emerged in the political world, election campaigns of today utilize services of “public relations” and event management groups to manage election campaigns especially in the national level in order to ensure victory. In highly developed countries, election campaigns had created a new trade known as the “campaign management” industry which is a direct descendant of the public-relations profession.
A political consultant had said that most of these professionals, though, remain in the background. "It's an underground industry-most of these people don't carry calling cards, don't introduce themselves, don't appear at press conferences, don't advertise their services. "They get hired by referral and by word of mouth. The really good ones are overloaded with clients and forced to turn down others."
"You let the spotlight fall only on your principal," a political consultant adds. Another one says, "The professionals are often relegated to the backroom, or they don't have the reputation to face the public. "Undocumented experts," is how yet another political consultant describes himself and his peers.
Of course the clandestineness is understandable. Most of them have day jobs, either as news reporters, columnists, businessmen, advertising executives, legislative staff, or even current civil servants. Besides, in the professions where they officially belong, moonlighting for politicians is an ethical taboo. Broadcast and mass communications journalists working as public relations practitioners or political consultants.
“Winnability” of a CandidateThe candidate’s “total package” can be easily determined by his qualifications, political experience and performance, and his overall knowledge of important issues that will result to the current public perception. Likewise, it is necessary for campaign planners to ascertain the chance of both national and local candidates to win the election.
Both being an incumbent candidate and a challenger in an elective position have its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
Definitely, incumbent candidates for local positions have already their own “political base” in certain localities and demographics in the community, and having a monumental advantage in terms of “name recall”. Having said that, it is a fact that most incumbent candidates are well-funded and enjoy the liberty to use government’s resources such as vehicles, funds and manpower, specifically the temporary and casual employees, during the campaign period. On the one hand, an incumbent candidate who has laudable performances to run on is perceived to be almost unbeatable. On the other hand, an incumbent with a lackluster performance and plenty of negative political issues is exposed to be attacked by political opponents, a great disadvantage of being such.
Although this is not absolute, a challenger candidate usually have trouble raising campaign money, and often must spend more time and personal resources raising their identification and name “recall”. Candidates belonging to major political parties also revel in a big advantage in terms of organization and resources compared to those with minor political parties and independent candidates.
March 17, 2013 Rocklin, CA USA
Watch out for the exciting concluding article to this four-part series!