Business, Community & Government

The Campaign Plan

David Axelrod and Karl Rove

Lesson time 8:10 min

Karl explains why you need a campaign plan, what it should include, and how to follow-through and evolve as the race progresses.

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Topics include: Writing the Plan • You Have to Follow Through and Evolve • Considerations for Primaries


A lot of a campaign is going to depend upon the message, which David is so well versed in. But after you settle on what that message is and what the theme is, you then need to sit down and write out a plan. Now, a plan for a state rep race or a state Senate race may be a lot shorter and a lot more concise than a race for president. But you need to take the elements of the campaign and reduce them to writing and to numbers. And to spread them over a calendar so that you have a concrete idea of what it is that you're going to do and when you're going to do it and how much it's going to cost. Campaigns that plan tend to be campaigns that have a greater propensity to win, because it means that they've made conscious decisions about what's necessary to do, and when to do it, and to make certain that they have the resources in order to execute that plan. So it starts with a message and a theme, which David has talked about. And you need to take those ideas, what is it that you want to talk about, and plan them out when you're going to talk about them and how you're going to talk about them. The when is relatively easy. It requires some, you know, sort of thinking it through. How long do we want to spend talking about that issue? When do we want to introduce this facet of the candidate's background? When do we want to emphasize this particular theme? You can have a robust discussion about that and plan it out. But the how gets to be really problematic, because the how involves spending money. It's not just simply now, we're going to send our candidate out and talk about it this week. But we're going to have to back that up with whatever kind of media is available to you. Now, if you're running for governor or president, senator, maybe even a lot of congressional districts, that means that you're going to have the full range of communications available to you-- television, cable, radio, digital, mail. And again, you're going to need to, again, plan. What do we need? How much of that do we need in order to win? And then, it's an iterative process. Are we able to put that money together? You then need to think about volunteers and your ground game, which we're going to talk about later. But how do you go about mobilizing people who will then communicate with and focus on the target voters that you've agreed upon in order to persuade them and then get them out to vote? All of this needs to be done at the beginning of the campaign and agreed upon and committed to paper and then reduced to numbers. That is to say, you need to have a budget spread over time that shows, for each one of those activities, how much you're going to need to spend, what you're going to need to spend it on, and how it shows up across the budget. And then, carefully check it against the fundraisers. Do they think that amount of money can be raised by that amount of time? Over the years, I've seen, more often, that people fail in a campaign because they don't...

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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