It’s important to both understand your own candidate and the other candidate. Going through the process of candidate research and opposition research, gives campaigns the information that they need to help define the candidate’s message, craft attacks on the other candidate, and be prepared to respond to potential attacks against your own candidate just to name a few of the benefits of going into the campaign with your eyes wide open.
Candidate Research: Keep Your Friends Close
While the title sounds exciting, the reality of this step is research. Winning campaigns know their own candidate inside and out, their opponent, and the voters themselves. Here is a list of staple questions to answer about yourself in the context of your campaign. Like it or not, particularly in high profile races, your private life could get drawn into the campaign, so keep that in mind if you’re raising your eyebrows over a question or two!
Opposition Research: Keep Your Enemies Closer
Answer the same questions that you did for yourself with your opponent in mind. Depending upon your race, this process could take a few hours or a few weeks. If you’re running for a small municipal office, by all means copy and paste from LinkedIn, Facebook, surf to the appropriate government agencies for some source documents, and Google the rest.
In a major city or in a Congressional race, this is a more involved process. In this case, someone else other than the candidate should conduct all possible candidate research. While there are ethical considerations, consider interviewing anyone who has an ax to grind against your opponent including former spouses.
Don’t Miss These Steps
It’s really easy to think that you can skip this step particularly candidate research. Resist the urge to skip candidate research and opposition research! As the candidate him or herself or that you know your candidate in and out, but when you put pen to paper, the challenges and weaknesses become all the more apparent as well as how to address them or not.
About the Author Ben Donahower is a national authority on get out the vote and campaign signs. Ben is a seasoned campaign operative in the battleground state of Pennsylvania where he has worked on campaigns professionally since 2004. His strengths include providing strategic vision for candidates, campaign analytics, and voter psychology. Read more from this author