Leadership strategy: part 1 – timing.

Having always been a student of political strategy, the strategy used in leadership campaigns for political parties is particularly intriguing. It is entirely different from the challenge of a general election or even of a by-election. With the two largest provincial Liberal Party organizations and the federal Liberals currently mounting leadership contests, now is a good time to start to offer some tips to the contestants.

Let’s start with timing of the announcement for federal candidates and communications with the key audiences for that race.

There are two possible answers to timing. If you are well known and have been assured funding for the run, your only reason to announce early is to pre-empt some possible opponents. For example, Justin Trudeau has announced early and his friend MP Dominic LeBlanc has announced his support instead of that he is running.

If you are not as well known as, for example, Justin Trudeau, you might announce early to optimize the time you have to reach voters. Bear in mind, in the federal race, there are three categories of voters. The first category includes the party’s MPs, Senators, Liberal Privy Council members, national and regional party organization officials, electoral district party presidents and previous candidates. We already know about these people. You can expect around 80 per cent of them to vote. The best way for the candidate to communicate with these people is by personal telephone calls.

The second group are party members. They used to have to be elected as delegates to federal conventions but now all party members have a vote whether they are at the convention or not. They are people who are involved. At least 50 per cent of these people will be expected to vote. These are the people who have to be wowed as the candidate tours the country.

The third group will be the friends of the Liberal Party of Canada who have been signed up to participate in the leadership voting. More than 20,000 have already been signed up not even knowing who will be running. Candidates are sure to encourage more of these sign-ups by people supporting them. Judging by the NDP experience with this category of leadership voter, we can expect 20 per cent or more of them to hang in for the vote. These people have to be left to your Facebook and Twitter experts as well as your provincial organizations.

A best guess at this time is that there could be as many as 200,000 people eligible to vote in this federal Liberal leadership contest. If a candidate spends just $5 per voter, there goes another million loonies.

This discussion will continue.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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