Howard Dean's speech at the Lib Dem Spring Conference this weekend in Harrogate was interesting even if he didn’t say anything particularly revolutionary. The six key points he made that were interesting were:
1. Build relationships first with the existing communities – you have to reach out to people who care about an issue that you've got common ground with. Implication – start by listening to what people are saying about your issues
2. You can potentially get the community to then adopt your messages (and discipline) – once they’re bought into your victory. Implication – see message discipline by the public as the sign of a successful campaign rather than the (unachievable) cause of one pure message that you direct
3. Messages trump everything else – most internet political campaigns fail. This isn’t just technical failings to use the tools well, it’s mainly a failure to have a motivating message. Implication – a crap message and a good website is pointless
4. Taking the states seriously, even when they were unwinnable at Presidential level, was incredibly powerful. These states then started having a real political debate again, raising the morale of supporters and so meaning that when the Republicans messed up (e.g. a Governor is indicted) the Democrats can reap the rewards. Implication - take the training / support to regional / local staff seriously so that they become more effective campaigners for us.
5. Reaching out to evangelicals didn’t get many to vote Democrat despite stressing the issues that evangelicals and the Democrats share. But it massively reduced their hatred of Democrats – so they were much less enthusiastically campaigning for the Republicans. Implication - keep talking to your opponents so that you can at least reduce their anger at you.
6. Personal relationships between activists and voters really matter, so the same person will knock on the same door year after year to build a long term relationship. Implications - find ways to get your staff to build relationships and be enthusiastic for you.