Issues Matter and So Does the Person Behind Them
August 4, 2009
By Christie Gross, President My Campaign Group, LLC
I share the same passion to influence positive change with public policy as many candidates seeking elected office.
It’s a passion that has led me to a career as an issues consultant helping candidates develop and articulate their vision for change through issues platforms. To me, there’s no better job to have on a campaign, especially when I’m fortunate enough to work with a candidate who cares as deeply about addressing some of society’s most difficult challenges as I do.
Yet as many current and former candidates know, the daily rigor of campaign life leaves little time for issues, which take a back seat to fundraising, speaking engagements, and even the all important State Fair appearance. It seems there’s always something else a candidate should do other than think about how to solve problems. Consequently, issues have become less of a priority for campaigns, and the task of developing policy generally falls to volunteers or junior campaign staff to complete or is disregarded altogether.
Campaign strategists are always seeking new ways for candidates to make an emotional appeal to voters, since the emotional connection is a main reason people turn out to vote on Election Day. Unfortunately, issues aren’t always a part of the campaign’s communication strategy even though a meaningful issues platform provides candidates another way of communicating directly with voters.
A candidate with an issues platform that tells a personal story, identifies challenges, and offers realistic solutions has a clear advantage over their opponent when it comes to making an emotional appeal, because few candidates understand the power of communicating issues this way. An issues platform displaying each of these three elements provides another opportunity for a candidate to share their vision and desire to serve the public. It also enhances a candidate’s ability to obtain free press and to engage voters in new ways.
And this is an advantage few volunteers or junior campaign staff understands. Even the most dedicated volunteer underestimates the importance of stating the problem or providing a meaningful solution. And the hardest working junior campaign staffer relies too much on facts and figures to support a position and entirely omits the personal story.
The person hired to develop issues on a candidate’s behalf must understand how government works; know how to communicate with voters; and they must be passionate about creating positive change with public policy. Lacking any one of these skills limits the impact an issues platform provides a candidate to obtain the votes needed to win, and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.
Although voters won’t always agree with every solution a candidate puts forward, it’s my experience that voters respect a candidate more for having the courage to offer well-thought out solutions rather than reciting their party’s positions or stating general platitudes.
As a young girl when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up without hesitation I’d utter the word, President.
The desire I have for solving problems is why I’m an issues consultant. No, it’s not exactly President. But there’s still time for that.
Christie Gross is president of My Campaign Group – a political consulting firm dedicated to supporting Democratic candidates develop issues platforms and to providing public policy guidance. She has over 10 years experience advising candidates running for office at the national, state, and local levels, and has worked with elected officials in more than 15 state capitols successfully helping them carry out their policy agendas. More information can be found at: www.mycampaigngroup.com.