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How to Win Your Primary Election

Entering a primary race and winning a primary race is an entirely different beast. We have heard much debate recently about the pros and cons of having primaries at all but people who advocate for them, believe these races help build a good foundation for the democratic process.

Primaries offer those interested in representing their party the opportunity to toss their hat into the ring for consideration. It promotes greater visibility of the candidate, helps them produce a clear mandate early on and drives them to build solid support from grassroots organizations.

Legislated primary elections refer to cases where the country’s legal framework stipulates that political parties must choose their candidates by holding internal elections. In some cases, the laws or regulations merely state that parties must select their candidates democratically, while other countries have chosen to lay down the details of how primary elections must be held. Legislated primary elections are often membership-based; otherwise, they can be open to all voters in the constituency.

In the primaries, voters are responsible for choosing a single candidate to represent their political party, so it really helps to narrow the field. Each state has its own rules about who can vote for which candidate in a primary - so ensure you are registered vote as some limit votes to choose only those representatives within their own party while others allow all voters.

Start Early

In big races in the US, leaving it late to declare a run in politics usually means one thing- you are banking on this surprise/ shock to carry you over the finish line. You are doing the electorate and yourself an injustice by leaving such little time to build your campaign. Yes, the media will be abuzz with a late entry but this will oftentimes not be enough to carry you over the finish line.

Stay Positive

It’s commonplace now when races are tight that we take any advantage we can get. It’s incredulous to see this happen in a primary, pitting party member again party member but it does happen. We always advocate steering clear of such tactics as you may end up alienating future voters. Think about the future of your campaign. Cna you earn voters from your opposition after you have beaten them using such divisive tactics, we don’t think so.

Web Presence

As always a strong web presence is required. We are sick of saying it. Your online properties - website and social media pages - will need to work hard for you to maximize your campaign. Setting them up can be time-consuming and expensive, so be very clear from the beginning what you need. Some basic functionality includes a bio section, campaign messaging, a donation button, volunteer signup, and links to your social media properties. There are numerous website providers specifically for political campaigns, a list of which you can get in the resource below. There are also companies like NationBuilder and Crowdskout that provide website builders as part of their packages. Your social media profiles, Facebook Page, Twitter accounts, Instagram, etc should fill in your campaign updates, responses to what is happening on the campaign trail, as well as provide brand awareness. It will be important to resource your digital campaign with people that have experience influencing voters online.

Voter Engagement

Voter engagement during a primary election is crucial. As candidates are from the same party, it can sometimes be difficult to tell them apart on policy issues so we have to look at separating them under different criteria. Who connects with you more, who is working harder on the ground, who identifies more with you as a voter?

Voter targeting is often done very specifically during a primary run, candidates will likely be from different areas and may have different interests. A smart candidate would segment their hometown and other places where they have a loyal support system and attempt to touch base with all the voters from this community through door-to-door canvassing. Locking down guaranteed votes is what primary races are all about. You will have 2 markets during your primary campaign, your primary voters and your general election voters, to clear the first hurdle successfully, your focus will rely heavily on the primary segment.

These groups may have quite different preferences, presenting a challenging strategic task. A politician seeking to win needs to align sufficiently with primary voters but not align so much that general election voters see the politician as unwilling to take on his or her own party.

Long Game

Winning your primary doesn’t have to come with sacrifice, you have to maintain a broad appeal. In a primary candidate who wants to win the general election, they should be very careful about the compromises they make to win the primary. You will want to politically capitalize and do better than closely contesting a general election. All this will help you frame messaging, how you conduct yourself on camera and how you go about fundraising. After your primary campaign, you can analyze what worked and what didn’t, remember you will need to look beyond your current voter database and take in larger sections of the electorate.

Exploring the factors that differ between Primary and General Elections is something we look into discussing more if this interests you why not drop us a message below. If you need help in any other aspect of your campaign, why not join our global community and sign up for Ecanvasser today?

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