Business, Community & Government

Starting a Campaign

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 6:11 min

Karl and David lay out what a campaign team needs to consider at the start of a race. Learn why you need to take stock of the electorate--and your candidate--to develop a theory of why you can win.

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Topics include: Taking Inventory


Key starting point in developing your strategy is to figure out who is going to vote for you, and conversely, who isn't going to vote for you. Most campaigns-- poorly run campaigns-- sort of assume, well, we want to get everybody's vote. Well, there are some people who are never going to vote for you. Look, David, I hate to tell you, he's not going to vote for a Republican. I'm not going to vote for a Democrat. We're likely to vote every election. So it's useless for a Republican to try and get David to switch parties. And it is probably useless for a Democrat to say, "Let me remind you, David, to turn out to vote." Similarly for me. - Think of two circles that overlap. So you have candidate A, candidate B. The vast majority of the circle is the base of both campaigns-- so A and B, voters who are going to vote for A, the voters who are going to vote for B. But in that interlocking space are some voters who are up for grabs, weak voters on one side or the other, up-for-grabs voters who are pure undecideds. And you're going to focus much of your attention on those voters. That's how you make campaigns more efficient. - Yeah. So the question to start out with is, who's going to vote for me, and where are those votes going to come from? Historical data will help you. Going to have to campaign everywhere. Going to have to demonstrate that you're trying to get support from every community. But when you've got limited resources, where are you going to focus those resources to get the people who are up for grabs in the election? - If you're a campaign you have to present a coherent argument so that you control the sort of choice that people have in their heads on Election Day. These are battles of definition. And you're trying to define what the choice is all about. And that's a process that begins at the beginning of the campaign. And if it's a good campaign, you're not going to vary much from that fundamental judgment about what the choice is that you want voters to focus on. Because if they focus on your opponent's view of what the choice is all about, likely, you're not going to win that election. - You know, Curly, the great philosopher in "City Slickers," talked about one thing. And I think David has touched on that one thing. In a campaign, if you had to pick one thing that was critical to its success, it was whether or not the candidate had an idea about why they were running that made sense and seemed relevant to the voters. Because at the end of the day, it's that message expressed in all the ways that we can express a message in a campaign-- from the candidate's remarks to social media to ads to you name it-- that ultimately is what's important to voters. Why are you running? And do you seem to have-- does that seem to be real? And is it important and relevant to me? And then I can judge it against whatever's being offered as the reason of your opponent and make a decision. But that one thing is, why are you running? And a c...

About the Instructor

David Axelrod and Karl Rove reach across the aisle to offer an inside look at winning campaign strategies. The respective architects of Barack Obama’s and George W. Bush’s historic election victories teach how to develop a campaign platform and reach an audience with consistent messaging. Find the inspiration and tools to get involved at any level, or simply become a more informed, engaged citizen.

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David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Renowned presidential campaign strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove reveal what goes into effective political strategy and messaging.

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