An important task in any political campaign, whether big or small, is policy development. Voters want to know where you stand on the issues, and you need to be ready to articulate and defend your positions during debates, in speeches, and as you interact with voters.
A good time to flesh out and develop solid policy positions is during the dog days of summer, when voters are distracted and candidates are not doing a lot of visible campaigning and public appearances.
There are plenty of important issues to master: immigration, budgets, taxes, deficits, economic development, health reform, education funding and reform, gun laws, federalism, ethics, energy, government efficiency, climate change, and so forth.
It makes sense to develop one- or two-page briefs on all key issues, and in-depth white papers on a few of the most important.
It’s also important to localize all issues. You will connect far better with voters if, say, during a debate or speech, you are able to quote local statistics on an issue, or relate the opinion of a local expert or official, or even that you chatted with people in the neighborhood about the issue.
Part of the value of getting out and talking to voters and leaders in your district during this slow period of the campaign, is that you get to know what issues matter most to them. You also can ask the opinion of local experts and get information and data from them.
So talk to neighbors; talk to local leaders, including elected officials. Talk to education leaders about their funding challenges and concerns. In a debate, if the subject of immigration comes up, you will come across as knowledgeable and credible if you can mention what your local police chief or sheriff said about crime and drugs related to illegal immigration. Find out how they feel about gun laws.
If you’re talking about education needs and reform, be able to discuss the needs of your local schools, how they’re doing, how budget cuts are affecting them, and whether test scores are going up or down. Talk to your local chamber of commerce and economic development leaders to gain insights on the local economy and how you can help with job growth. Even on national issues like deficits and federalism, you can refer to a conversation you had with a neighbor, or local leader.
You will be better trusted, and will look like you’ve really done your homework, if you are knowledgeable about issues your voters are concerned about, and if you localize them.