What Makes a Good Candidate

I have begun to think about what attributes a good candidate should have. It started with the thought which has long prevented me from seriously considering running for public office, which is that I am not flashy. People do not pick me out of a crowd for any reason unless they know me. That made me wonder how I would try to appeal to people if I were running for office. The answer seems blindingly obvious now, I would let people get to know me, and try to get to know them. That would mean meeting with people in small groups where we could interact personally.

At first I thought this would rule out a large campaign. While those campaigns are known for the advertisements and flyers and speeches to crowds of thousands, I think that a candidate with a good organization could focus his time on meeting individuals while his organization took care of the advertisements and arranging the speeches to large audiences. In fact I think that the candidate would be better able to inspire the kind of grassroots campaign that everyone talks about if they focus their energy on inspiring individuals by letting people get to know them and feel connected and committed to them.

The more I think about it, I realize that the people that make the worst officials (in my experience) are those who lose touch with the people they are supposed to represent. In some cases they never really knew and understood their constituencies in the first place.

Does anyone want to add their thoughts on the subject?

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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2 Responses to What Makes a Good Candidate

  1. Jason Black says:

    In a small (population of about 30,000) Brazilian town I lived in about eleven years ago, there was a mayoral election. One candidate, Miamoto, a carpetbagger, brought a bunch of money from out of town for the campaign. He had TV and radio ads going for months. People walked down the street wearing his hats. Those who had cars had Miamoto bumper stickers. Some cars with large speakers on top would drive slowly through the residential neighborhoods blasting out the most obnoxious song about Miamoto. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing the guy’s name. I didn’t even know he had any opposition, since I never heard of any other candidate. When I asked people who they were going to vote for, everyone said Miamoto.

    The day of the election came and went. Miamoto lost. Handily. His opponent hadn’t raised any money or done any advertising. Most of the town didn’t even know he was running for office, until they got to the ballot box. How did he do it? He had, for some three years prior to the election, taken time to personally visit every house in town at least twice. He talked with people about their concerns for the city and shared with them his ideas. Everyone knew his name, but he never told them he was running for office. When they saw his name on the ballot, they remembered and voted for him. When I asked people why they voted for him instead of Miamoto, they simply said that they knew him, and that he knew them. They were voting for a friend, not a candidate. I don’t remember his name (he wasn’t my friend). I remember Miamoto, because of his stupid advertising. I still have his obnoxious song memorized.

    Sounds easy, doesn’t it? This works if you have a small constituency and if your message and name resonate with the people. Try it. Let me know how it goes for you.

    I don’t think this kind of campaigning is advisable in most elections. For very small towns or groups it may work well. For statewide or national campaigns, what we see is what it takes. People like you and me complain all the time about negative campaigning tactics, but history and study both show that it works. That’s why candidates do it.

    That said, I agree with your logic. I just don’t think it’s likely that the status quo will change. Why? Apathetic voters. We’re too lazy to research our candidates, so we listen to sound bites and advertisements to tell us who to vote for. Many simply vote for the one with the loudest and most obnoxious jingle, to speak figuratively – whoever is the easiest to remember on election day, in other words.

  2. David says:

    That is exactly the kind of thing I was thinking/wondering about. I felt confident that in small scale elections this approach would be a good strategy. I think you are right about the large elections needing the publicity and advertising – the campaigning that we are all exposed to – in order to be successful. What I am wondering is if the personal component might be used somehow to augment that.

    Certainly a candidate running in an election with 3 million voters (the governor or senator of a small state for example) could not expect to have the success of Miamoto’s opponent. What I wonder is if they might benefit from the word of mouth advertising that they would get from those people that they took the time to talk to individually. Those few voters, I would think, would be more committed to that candidate and more likely to promote that candidate to their friends.

    I can see one possible hurdle that they would have to overcome. Because they are running advertising – unlike the candidate in your example – people might view their personal attention as a gimmick or as being insincere. I suspect that it would be difficult to be totally sincere, and even harder to convince 3 million voters that they were totally sincere.

    Thanks for the story Jason – it gives me plenty of food for thought.

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