Why run?

First-time candidates make a lot of mistakes. One that I find particularly difficult for them to overcome is when they lack the ability to articulate why they are running.

There’s an old saying in politics that to get elected when running against an incumbent, a challenger has to answer two questions: why to fire the other guy and why to hire you. It is never enough to do just one of those things.

We’ve all seen campaigns where a candidate focuses on the failings of the other guy, real or perceived. In fact, I think we’re already seeing that in the Republican presidential nominating contest. While Mitt Romney is sure to be the nominee, I think one of the reasons he is the reluctant choice of many is because he hasn’t sealed the deal on why he wants to be president.

The dirty little secret about why candidates don’t answer the question? Because the reason they are running won’t hold up with the voters: they are running simply because they want to be elected.

Not because they want to do the people’s business. Not because they want to represent the voters.

No. They just want a seat at the cool kids table.

In three to five minutes, a candidate has to be able to give a voter enough information to make them even consider casting their ballot for them. Good candidates hone these skills by interacting with the voters – knocking on doors, attending candidate forums and various meetings.

If your in-depth knowledge of a topic is germane to the position you are seeking, then by all means fill up your website with position papers; otherwise, it’s just your ego talking.

Until you grab the attention of the voters, everything else is just wasted bandwidth.


6 thoughts on “Why run?

  1. Absolutely on-target. Any candidate who isn’t able to articulate and defend convictions and positions risks being uninteresting at best, and an easy target for the highest bidder at worst.

  2. Just for the sake of argument, does it matter? If they want to do the job and they can demonstrate some competency, shouldn’t that be enough? And if they share your values, what more?

      1. Well, what values can you discern from a statement of why they are running? Everyone has an answer to this question, even if it is as simple as I am better than the alternative.

        I think you know what they value by a lot of things they say and do. It seems to heavy a burden to place everything on this one question.

        1. For me – a lot, actually. I can tell if it’s just campaign BS or whether it is heartfelt. What they say and do comes later – I’m talking about the initial introduction of a candidate to voters. If they can’t tell why they are running, maybe they need to re-think the run.

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