Today, The Huffington Post ran a piece with interesting implications and insights for challenger candidates everywhere, including prospective independent and third party politicians. Author and Statistician Bill James, who’s baseball thinking was the foundation for the Moneyball story, has several recommendations for political candidates who are facing tough electoral prospects. The article also discusses the rising importance of data in the campaign profession, and how politics lags behind other industries (like baseball) in the use of data analysis to gain advantage over the status quo.
James’ advice to challenger candidates who face disadvantages in campaign cash, independent expenditure support, and name recognition against favored incumbents include several interesting thoughts for independent candidates to chew on, and it “often involves throwing the traditional campaign playbook out the window” –
“If you’re outspent in a campaign, what you absolutely cannot do is start a pissing contest, pardon my French,” James wrote in an email. “If you’re outspent and you start talking about your opponent being corrupt and senile, you’re in BIG trouble, because he’s got a lot more guns than you have.”
Instead of going negative, he advised, a candidate should do the exact opposite. “Talk about your opponent in the nicest terms that you CAN, in order to take certain weapons away from him,” James wrote. “If you’re speaking well of your opponent and your opponent is savaging you, there is a chance he comes off looking like an ass and you can win the election.”
James also suggests that candidates looking for a non-traditional advantage take a unique approach to the campaign issues they choose to emphasize.
“Beyond that, James suggested a candidate run on a platform distinct from either major party (anti-drug war, pro-gay rights). Or a candidate could obsess over an issue completely off the beaten path. As an example, he highlighted deer-related car crashes in his home state of Kansas. “No one talks about people hitting deer with their cars as a political issue, but in Kansas” it could work, he said.
“If a candidate for office starts talking about thinning the deer population or investing in barriers to reduce the number of deer on the highways, the other side will probably just ignore him, because they’re not going to know what to say about it,” he said. “But there is a chance that the issue will resonate with voters in an unexpected way.”
Although it’s doubtful that anyone will win an election of any significance in 2012 campaigning on deer safety, James’ point is still well taken. Recently on the national stage, we’ve seen candidates like Newt Gingrich (moon base) and Ron Paul (end the Fed) take this ‘non-traditional issue’ approach with varying degrees of success, and it remains to be seen how third party candidate for President, Libertarian Gary Johnson gains traction with voters by emphasizing unique issues from the Obama and Romney campaigns.
The entire article is well worth a read, click thru at the link below.