Winning the political game: A million little things add up to a big win

Here’s an oldie but goodie campaign tip I’ve written about previously. But with municipal elections starting to heat up across the state, it’s very relevant today.

Political campaigns can be discouraging because a lot of campaign work is boring and tedious. Myriad details must be taken care of, and it’s easy to question whether doing all these little things is really very important or will make a difference in the end.

Candidates and campaign workers want to be out doing big, glamorous things, like engaging in high-profile debates, filming television spots, holding high-level strategy meetings and visiting editorial boards.

But those things won’t win an election unless they are supported by a solid foundation built through a lot of attention to detail, detail, detail—all the little, boring things that ultimately add up to success: developing voter lists, stuffing envelopes, printing and production, responding to calls, e-mails and letters, building a volunteer team in every voting precinct, following up with donor prospects, recruiting and training grassroots workers, putting up lawn signs, building relationships, and so forth.

A candidate I worked for many years ago spent many months, long before the election year, criss-crossing the state by himself, meeting with state legislators, county commissioners and mayors. He visited them where they were – in their homes, at their businesses, in their farm fields.

He put forth an incredible effort, spending thousands of hours, meeting one-on-one with these influencers. He later recalled stopping at 2 or 3 a.m. at a deserted gas station restroom in Nephi toward the end of a long trip across the state, totally exhausted, asking himself if it was really worth it.

It clearly was. He won the support of the state’s opinion leaders and it was a big step in winning the governorship.

In that same campaign, at campaign headquarters we would sometimes call our opponent’s campaign office at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. No one was ever there. By contrast, we routinely worked until 1, 2, or 3 a.m. We weren’t absolutely sure we were going to win the election, but we sure knew we were outworking our competition.

Political success usually results from a million little things coming together at the right time. A campaign is hour after excruciating hour of work and more work, with plenty of wondering if you’re making any headway, especially if your opponent is getting more headlines. But if you’re working smart, getting the fundamentals done, doing the little things, the routine things, the busy work — then it will all culminate in a big win at the end.