Libertarian State Leadership Alliance

Candidate Recruitment Manual

Techniques for Effective Campaigning

Online edition based on the 1996 printed edition.

An Introduction to Campaigning

"Organize the whole state, so that every Whig can be brought to the polls. . . divide the county into small districts and appoint in each a sub-committee... make a perfect list of voters and ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote.. and on election day see that every Whig is brought to the polls."
Illinois State Register, February 21, 1840

Thank You. You have decided to be a warrior for liberty, as a candidate of the Libertarian party. You're ready to pontificate principles, persuade the public, and earn votes. But what's the best way to organize your campaign to achieve your goals? This manual can help answer that question, and start you on the road to being a more effective Libertarian campaigner.

This manual is written with the serious, local level candidate in mind - someone who wants to win a state representative or below seat. But the advice and strategies are applicable to any level and intensity of campaign. Don't let the amount of material enclosed worry you if you are planning on running primarily an informational campaign. No campaign at any level ever does everything in this book - no matter how well financed or how professionally run. But the more aspects of campaigning that you cover, and cover well, the more credibility you will achieve, the more votes you will receive, and the more potential you'll have to recruit new LP members.

As you read this handbook, remember these points of general advice:

You are not the voter, you are weird.

By the time you get through reading this manual, you will have used up the average person's quota of political thought for several years. Add to this the fact that as a Libertarian, you are the rarest of rare birds.

This is not to say that the average person does not think about issues. But for most people the issues are how am I going to make the car payment and keep the kids safe on the way to school, not who's in office or some vague concept called liberty. So listen for the music the voters are hearing, not just the song you would like to play for them.

There are many ways to win elections. TV, door to door, radio, or direct mail can all be the "best way" -- it depends on the variables of individual campaigns. What is important is to do whatever you do professionally. Do one thing well, not three things half-way. One good ad repeated three times is much more effective than three mediocre ones seen once.

There are constants to winning campaigns -- they develop a base of support and organization early, they target persuadable voters, they deliver the right message to the persuadables several times, and they identifiy their supporters and get them to the polls.

And for Libertarians they must include an enormous amount of personal contact with the voters. The campaign's time should be spent in finding those people who are already in substantial agreement, and convincing them to vote for you, not in trying to change the minds of those who are far on the other side of the fence.

Don't be afraid of contrast and controversy. The average person sees over 6,000 ad spots per week You must stand out from your opponents to be noticed by the public. Just make sure that it is in a way that will relate positively to the average voter.

Don't be afraid to take a firm stand on the tough issues. On any controversial issue, about 1/3 of the people will be on one side, 1/3 on the other, and 1/3 in the persuadable middle. By not taking a firm stand, you alienate your supporters, fail to persuade the middle, and you'll never get the other side anyway.

Issues and principles are what you win for, not on! A Republican will believe he will win the race because he will spend the most money on the campaign. The Democrat will believe he will win because he has more door-to-door volunteers and better phone banks. The Libertarian will believe that he will win because his philosophy is pure, and his opponents are Satan incarnate. Uh-uh. You win elections by out-working, out-thinking, out-organizing, and out-spending your opponents.

And this goes double for a Libertarian candidate, because of the built-in vote that the older parties have. Party ID is the single most powerful force guiding the choices of the average voter. About 60% of the voting public identifies with one of the two major parties, and about 60% of those vote that way on a fairly consistent basis. This means that some 50% of the electorate has decided who it will vote for before the parties even choose their nominees.

Thus a Libertarian candidate must get virtually all the undecided vote, or must change people's minds. This is a much more difficult process than merely persuading the swing vote to come your way.

All this means you must work harder, smarter and with more money than your opponents. But the challenge is worth it. Liberty is on the line.

Thank you again for accepting the challenge.

Shout for Freedom,

Ron Crickenberger

Campaigns Chairman
Libertarian National Committee

PS: This manual should only be an outline for your further studies in campaigning. Be sure to make use of the resource guide in back.

Section One: Preparing to Run

Making the Decision

You're a good Libertarian, basically grounded in the principles of self-government, and you feel it is time for you to do something about it. You're going to run for office and show the people of your area that there's a better way to govern.

That's all good and fine, but before you run out with your petition papers to get signatures to get your name on the ballot, there are several things you should consider, beginning with yourself.

Sit down in a chair, relax and try and look at yourself objectively. What is your energy level? Do you have the drive to go forward when it seems that the only one doing anything is you? Or, are you going to throw up your hands and say "to hell with it I couldn't win anyway." What we are talking about here is commitment. If you aren't committed to continuing, regardless of the odds, and giving it your very best effort, then perhaps you are not ready to run for office.

While you're still in your chair, there are many other things to consider. Are you enough like your constituents that they will vote for you? Can you rally a group of supporters for an action project? Do people listen to your solutions to problems, and can you handle rejection if they don't?

How much time is there before the election? A good rule of thumb is that for any statewide office you should begin laying the groundwork for your campaign at least two years before the election. For any race involving a state office such as state senator or state representative you should begin at least 18 to 24 months before the election. For any local race, such as sheriff or school board, begin laying the groundwork at least 9 months before the election. This is not to say that if you don't have this much time you shouldn't run, but merely to point out that any Libertarian campaign which has a good chance of winning requires at least that much advance planning. The amount of time before the election should be a determining factor in what goals you will set for the campaign. If the time is significantly less than the guidelines above, you may wish to make your campaign oriented toward party building and organizing a support base for future winnable elections.

Another thing to consider is how much money you're willing to invest in your own campaign and how much money you think you can raise through the contributions of others. It may not seem fair, but more often than not, when the best candidate loses, it is because he or she did not have enough financial backing to run an active campaign. Running a successful campaign is not cheap! For example, in a major metropolitan area, a winning race for State Representative could cost $100,000 or more, while a winning campaign in a rural area for the same office could cost $30,000 or less There are ways to determine how much you are really going to need, but these will be discussed in the section on campaign finances. For now you should consider whether or not you can ask people for money, face to face, over and over. This ability is one of the most important attributes of successful candidates.

Finally, how well known are you, both favorably and unfavorably? Have you been active in community affairs for at least the last two years? Do you have any major marks against you? For example, have you ever been found guilty, or even been tried and found innocent of anything other than a traffic violation? Regardless of whether or not the courts say you are innocent your trial is a matter of public record and you can bet your last dollar that your opponent is going to find that out and use it against you. Again, this is not to say that you shouldn't run. It is often more important how you handle a past transgression when it is brought up (and it will be in a serious race) than the fact that a problem existed. But you should be aware that it is very difficult to run an effective, forward-looking campaign if you have to be defending your past every time you turn around.



Every two years about a half-a-million elective offices are chosen by a vote ofthe people.

And every two years, about two million candidates offer themselves to the voting public.

If you passed Arithmetic lA, you'll soon realize that three-fourths of all candidates for public office lose. (the ratio is much, much higher among challengers to incumbents.)

And the reason they lose is usually that they shouldn't have run in the first place.

  • They didn't have enough money.
  • They didn't have any kind of base.
  • They weren't really qualified for the job
  • They didn't even know what the job they were seeking was all about.
  • They didn't have enough money.
  • They didn't have a network ofsupporters throughout the district.
  • They didn't understand "the issues."
  • They didn't even know what "the issues" were.
  • They didn't have enough money.
  • They were ignorant and naive regarding the process.
  • They didn't have enough money.

Jerry L. Russell
"Grass Roots Campaigning" January 1992


Well, you can get up out of your chair now. How did you stack up? If you think your self-analysis has given you a clean bill of health, then it is time to start laying the groundwork.

Laying the Groundwork

Winning campaigns start years before the election date, usually before the candidate even thinks of running for office. The public looks for political leaders who are already successful community or business leaders.

Tamara Clark's Libertarian campaign was taken seriously because she had headed a pro-choice referendum and an anti-business tax initiative. Don Gorman served on his local zoning board and held other appointed offices before being elected to the NH legislature. Your groundwork should include as many similar activities to increase your visibility as possible.

The pre-campaign phase is also the time for research. The place to start is with you, the candidate. Draw up a list of your positive attributes. Then a list of your more negative characteristics. Go to friends and family and ask for their honest evaluation in filling out the list. Spend some time thinking of ways to capitalize on the positives. Spend more time deciding how you will handle the negatives.

Thorough research on the district and electorate should also be started far in advance of the campaign. Drive the perimeter of the district and tour any areas you are not familiar with. Determine the age, ethnic and income breakdown of the voters. Make a list of all the service clubs in the district. What special constituencies and interest groups are there? Who are the leaders, official and unofficial, of these groups? What media are based in or cover your area? Which reporters are more likely to be friendly to Libertarians?

You'll also need to research the law as it relates to your campaign. Make sure you meet the residency requirements, filing fees and any special qualifications for the office. What must you do before legally raising money? When are the reporting dates for financial disclosure reports, and what limits or other restrictions are there on contributions?


Answer the question "why are you running?" You'll need one sentence, 30 second, 2 minute and 10 minute versions of this answer. This answer serves as the theme of your campaign. Activities should relate to the theme. Make sure your answer is relevant to the voters in your district, not just to you.

Prepare a list of everyone you know, have known or should know. You'll need addresses, phone #s and estimates of their incomes. Include family, casual acquaintances, childhood friends, and community and business leaders you have met. List every group you belong to and try to get a membership list

Get quality photos made. You'll need a good head shot to give to the press, and action photos (teaching a class, helping in a charity project, etc.) for your brochure.

Decide how much of your own money you can put into the campaign. Decide this now and stick to it

Other things to do to increase your visibility in the early phase of the campaign:

  • Write letters to the editor, and submit some oped pieces. Call in to radio talk shows.
  • Join as many organizations as you have time to contribute something meaningful to.
  • Get evaluated by an appearance consultant.
  • Find armies and get in front of them. Organize a visible Libertarian presence at gun rights, pro-choice or anti-tax rallies.
  • Join Toastmasters and hone your speaking skills. Study tapes by the Advocates for Self-Government to improve communication abilities.
  • Prepare a list of all events, fairs and parades in your district. Organize a booth and introduce yourself to the attendees.
  • Attend all the county and city council meetings in your district and speak out. Also attend the town hall meetings of politicians in your area and speak up. Ask tough questions of those in office.
  • Find out everything you can about the office you are seeking. Study the budget you will be responsible for once in office.
  • Lead a referendum, initiative or recall. Publicize illegal actions of an elected official. Georgia LP candidate Larry Bolin generated hundreds of column inches of newspaper coverage by bringing ethics charges against public officials.
  • Start your own political account - budgeting $1000 or $2000 per year.
  • Work for a well-organized campaign for another candidate.
  • Work on a high-visibility charity event. Ideally, be either the fundraiser or the publicity person for the event. Participate in a Walkathon or similar event where you raise money through sponsors. This both gets you used to asking for money and adds to the list of those people likely to give money to your campaign.
  • Set up a regular schedule of breakfasts or lunches with reporters and with community movers and shakers. Let them know you are thinking of running and that you want their opinions on issues and on your chances of election. In the early stages, do a lot more listening than talking.
  • Subscribe to Campaigns and Elections magazine. Attend a campaigning school. Take a class in fundraising. Read several books on running campaigns. Get all the training you can, there's a marathon ahead.

Setting Goals

All campaigns should have firm goals -- tangible goals, which can be quantified as much as possible. "Reaching as many people as I can and telling them the Libertarian message" isn't sufficiently specific for the purpose of goal setting, but one or more of the following may be:

  • Number of votes
  • Percentage of the total vote
  • Number of news stories generated
  • Number of new Libertarian Party members
  • Inclusion in debates or candidates' forums
  • Reaching "balance of power" status in the voting results
  • Raising a targeted amount of money

All of these are quantifiable.

You'll know for certain whether or not you've reached them by the end of the campaign. And that should give you and your campaign team the motivation to set forth and follow a detailed game plan to achieve them. Therefore, the first thing you should do after deciding to become a candidate is to set specific goals down on paper.

How high should your goals be? Not an easy question to answer. Obviously, goals which are either too easy or outrageously difficult are not good. But they should certainly reflect what you hope to gain in this campaign, over and above what was accomplished in the previous election. If the previous Libertarian vote total was 1,000 for the district, then perhaps your goal should be 2,000... or much higher.

What if you fail to achieve some or all of your goals? Who doesn't? Don't hesitate to set ambitious goals at the beginning, and let your supporters know what they are -- then adjust them downwards (or upwards) as the campaign progresses. Even if you do fall short of your goals, what you learned in the process of trying to reach them should be a valuable lesson for you or anyone else who campaigns in the future. But if you don't set goals, there will be no standard by which to measure your achievements, and little solid evidence for application in future campaigns.

Should some of your goals be more important than others? Yes -- your campaign might be the first of its kind in your area (in which case your highest goal could be to build the LP), or it could be a serious three-way race for election (in which case your highest goal would be the votes). The goals you adopt -- the number and their priority -- are up to you, but regardless of what you decide they should be, they should serve as guideposts throughout your campaign.

Libertarian Political Action

Section Two: Organizing the Campaign

Message, Targeting, and Strategy

Your message is the answer to the question "why are you running." Your first thought at an answer is probably "I'm sick of the government taking away my rights and property. I'm running to dismantle as much of the state as possible." While this may be a valid answer, it is not one which is relevant to the average voter. You must answer the question for the voting public, not for yourself.

Your message should succinctly and clearly state the reason the voter should choose you over your opponents. Think about two winning messages from recent years. In '92 the Democratic message was "Clinton will bring change and a better economy." Bush's message was, well, he didn't have one. In '84 the Reagan message was "stay the course, things are better now than they were four years ago. Mondale's message was higher taxes. In both cases, the winning message was the one most relevant to the voters. Both messages emphasized the winner's strength and the opponents weaknesses. The right message delivered at the right time is a major factor in winning campaigns.

How do you craft a message that fits you and your principles and is still relevant and appealing enough to the voters to achieve the goals of your campaign? Answering this question involves asking a lot more, and that process is the formulation of your strategy.

A strategy answers the question "How will you achieve your electoral goal?" Facts needed to formulate the answer include a demographic profile of your district (age, party, race, etc.), an issues profile (abortion, gun rights, LP vote history, etc.), a list of both you and your opponent's strengths and weaknesses (both personal and issues) and a list of your expected high priority voters (Libertarian base voters, swing votes, and those in the district, not registered to vote but in line with your ideas). Analyzing these lists tells you which Libertarian issues to stress with which groups of voters.

Let's say you are running in a district where the LP's statewide candidates have gotten in the 4 % range, and in the best recent partisan race for local office, in a district similar to yours, the LP's candidate got 35% in a two-way race. The district has a Republican congressman but mostly Democrats at the local level, indicating a large swing vote between the two major parties. In the 92 Election, the presidential vote totals for your district were: 36,% for Clinton, 38% for Bush, 25% Perot, 1% Marrou.

Your opponent, Sammy Statist, is a 38 year-old pro-life Republican, running for his second term. He's avowedly for lower taxes, but voted in favor of increased property taxes this term, angering the sizable senior citizen retirement community. Mr. Statist is an attorney and family man.

You are Lacy Fare, 58 year-old teacher, recently retired from the local college. You are making your first run at elected office, but have been very active in the community, as a part time counselor at the college, and as the organizer of a meals on wheels program for senior shut-ins.

Divide the population into groups expressed as percentages of the electorate.

Decide which groups will be the most likely to vote for you or against your opponent and estimate what percentage of each group's vote you can earn with a good campaign. Professional polling is necessary to accurately gauge the degree of support available for the different issues you might want to address with your message. In it's absence you will have to rely on research into how candidates who have stressed different issues in the past have fared, as well as newspaper research, knowledge of previous coalitions, studying previous election returns, and input from early precinct walking.

Multiply your estimates of earnable votes times each groups' share of the electorate. For the district described above, a simplified coalition profile might resemble the following:

80% of the LP/Perot/Independent vote (.80 x 26)

= 20.8 total points

65% of the Democrat vote (.65 x 36)

= 23.4 total points

18% of the Republican vote (.18 x 38)

= 6.8 total points


= 51% enough to win

The more categories you include in your profile, the more closely you will be able to target your message and efforts toward those voters most easily persuaded to vote for you. You might want to include subdivisions of the above groups such as 27% of Republican women voters and 9% of Republican male voters, or 80% of new registrants from the college, or 65% of the pro-choice vote.

When you estimated the number of votes you could win from the Democrats, Republicans, and Perot voters, you began the process of targeting. Targeting means determining which voters are:

1. Most likely to vote,

2. Most easily persuaded to vote for you, or against your opponent.

Individual targeting refers to a voter's personal voting history. Do they always vote in Republican primaries? Lacy would probably exclude these voters from mailing and other campaign activities, in order to concentrate resources on Democrats and Independents.

Household targeting is used mainly to economize on mailings and phone work. If two or more people in a household fit your high priority voter profile, you stand a chance for more votes by mailing one piece of mail there than if only one voter in the house fits your profile.

Group targeting is used to address the concerns of single issue and ethnic groups. Lacy would want to get a list of pro-choice voters and mail to them. Enhanced voter files from a list broker often give you the capability of pulling out ethnic surnames for a special mailing. A candidate in a border state might want to send a mailing on the LP's open borders policy to voters with an Hispanic surname.

Geographic targeting is the most used form of targeting. The other forms of targeting tell you who to direct your resources toward, geographic tells you where to campaign. You should spend most of your time, especially in precinct walking, in those areas which have demonstrated by past performance susceptibility to a Libertarian message. Indicators of this include past LP candidates' performance, evidence of high swing votes, and yes/no votes on ballot issues.

Once you have defined your target voters by the above process, you should focus all your campaign efforts on those voters, so your message might be something like: Lacy Fare understands the problems of both young and old. You can trust her to protect the right of home ownership, by exempting senior citizens from property taxes on their home. And Lacy will fight to protect a woman's right to choose.

Note that this message emphasizes the positive attributes necessary to appeal to a winning constituency:

And offers significant contrast with the opponent:

Your campaign theme is the visual representation of your message. Everything from the type of campaign appearances you make to the photos used in your brochure should re-emphasize the message. For example, Lacy's brochure should feature pictures of her in a counseling session, helping in the meals on wheels program, and speaking at a forum against the property tax.

Your Campaign Plan

Once you have set the goals for your campaign, you must decide how best to implement them. A campaign plan answers the who, what, when, where, why, and how of what it will take to achieve your objectives. To be a plan it must be written, must be specific, must include definite budget figures, accountability for team members, and a time line for all activities.

In addition to serving as an internal blueprint for the campaign team to organize around, a good plan will serve as a marketing tool, both to the media and to potential supporters and contributors. You will develop much more support if you can show on paper exactly how and why your goals are achievable.

Your plan should include at least the following:

  • Goals - your specific objectives.
  • Message - the answer to the question "Why are you running?," along with your position on the two issues (no more than three!) that you will stress during your campaign. If you feel the need to have a written platform on many issues, produce that as a separate document to be given out on request.
  • Biography - and personal statement from the candidate. Never, never, never fudge even a little on the truth for your resume. You will be caught.
  • District and office history - a summary of the demographics of the district, description of major interest groups, analysis of the opponent and his voting record, and any relevant polling data available.
  • Personal and opposition research - a listing of the positives and negatives of all the candidates in the race.
  • Strategy and Targeting - the methods you will use to get your message across to the people most likely to vote for you. Tells in detail how you will earn enough votes to win.
  • Field plan - shows how you will identify your supporters and get them out to vote on E-day.
  • Media plan - shows how your campaign will earn press coverage.
  • Budget - how the money will be spent for all the items and actions necessary to reach your goal.
  • Fundralsing plan - who contributes and how the money is raised.
  • Time line - plots all events and activities that the campaign intends to undertake. This should also detail all the steps leading up to each event or activity.

After the plan is written, prepare a summary of its main points. Use this as your introduction for the complete plan. The introduction is needed for the external people it will be given to: media, high-end donors, and PACs.

Once you have written your plan, stick to it. Campaigns tend to produce a euphoric insanity, or "electoral intoxication" come October, pushing you to change direction on impulse. If it was good enough to be put in the plan when you had lots of time to think about it, it probably should stay.

The Budget

Your campaign budget should be based on two factors:

  1. How much money will it take to achieve the campaign goals?
  2. How much can you raise?.

If your goal is to win the election, it is fairly easy to get a rough estimate of the amount it will take to have a reasonable chance of success. You will need returns for the past 2 to 3 elections for the office you are seeking, and the campaign expense reports for each of the candidates who sought the office.

Let's say you have 10 thousand voters in the district. You've studied the election returns to find that there has been an average turn out of 60% or 6 thousand votes over the last three elections. You'll need a minimum of 3001 votes in a 2-way race or 2001 in a 3-way race to win.

Next compare the expense reports with the number of votes each candidate received and determine the most money spent per vote, whether or not the candidate won. Multiply the highest dollar amount spent per vote times the number of votes needed, and you will have an approximation of the amount needed to win as a major party candidate.

As a candidate for the LP, you'll need to add at least 50% to this figure, possibly double or triple it, in order to make up for the built-in party identification the Dems and Reps have. You may need further adjustments to accommodate changes in population, and for times when the incumbent has run unopposed.

Next, determine a realistic estimate of how much money you can expect to raise. Use all of the potential contributors lists you gathered in the groundwork phase, and fill in the minimum donation you can expect from each individual and group. Cut the total amount in half to get an amount you should be able to count on raising. If the amount you can raise is much smaller than the amount needed to win, you may want to consider this campaign as a stepping stone toward running a winning campaign next time, and make your plans accordingly.

Now draw up a gross expenditure budget

Make a list of all the things you need and want for your campaign, and determine the costs. These will include:


Ballot drive expenses (if any)


Filing fee (if any)




Postage for direct mail


Postage for press releases


Letterhead stationary, Envelopes


Reply cards, Reply envelopes




Printing other than brochures (e.g. position papers)


Artwork or graphics


Equipment rental




Bumper stickers, Buttons


Paid Media, TV, Radio, Newspaper


Radio advertising


Salary or contract services


Office or headquarters rental




Special events, rallies, etc.


Voter Files, registration records.

This does not mean that you should have all of the above items in your campaign, or that you should not have other items. List everything you can think of, even though you may ultimately write "Zero" in the budget next to some items.

When all the costs are assigned to each item in your "wish list," the total will probably be far in excess of both the dollar amount needed to win and the amount you can expect to raise. Now prioritize until the wish list is pared down to match the amount you need to win.

When setting your priorities for the budget, keep in mind the specific goals of the campaign. Ask yourself, "Would spending X amount of dollars in this manner produce the Y result that I need?" And since voter contact is essential to the achievement of any electoral goal, you should budget 75% or more of your budget to direct voter contact.

Once you have prepared the gross expenditure budget, use those figures and your campaign time line to plot out on a weekly basis how much money you will spend on each budget line item. This gives you a timed expenditure budget.

Next, formulate a timed income budget by placing on the time line week by week all the expected sources of income.

Having the three different forms of budget will give you a good sense of cash flow, and enable you to anticipate cash short-falls in time to do something about them. Good budgeting makes each expenditure the most effective.

Campaign Staff

It's never a good idea for the candidate to be his or her own campaign manager, or treasurer. The functions are very different, and the candidate's highest and best use is to be the candidate, rather than to be forced to make decisions about where to speak, what colors to use in the brochure, how to raise money, or how much to pay for a headquarters.

Of course, the ultimate decision in any dispute will be the candidate's, and there's no reason for the candidate not to participate in important decisions so long as they're not taking time away from campaigning. But he or she should feel equally free not to participate in campaign affairs, because there's already a trustworthy campaign manager and staff in place doing their jobs.

Individual roles in the campaign should be divided up by function, and should include the Campaign Manager, the Media Coordinator, the Headquarters Manager, a Volunteer Coordinator, the Research Director, the Ballot Drive Coordinator, etc., etc.

Remember, these are functions, not necessarily separate and distinct people. You may not have enough volunteers to staff such positions. In a very small campaign, for example, the Campaign Manager may agree to take on all of the other roles as well. But it is important to outline each function which needs to be performed in your campaign, and to assign responsibility for performing them.

How do you get people to take responsibility for certain functions? First, of course, you have to ask them to -- but there's more to it than that. Most volunteers, even the most eager, are inexperienced or uncertain about what you need. Your job is to give each one the tools needed to get the job done, and that means a specific job description and an estimate of the time needed.

For example, you could approach a potential Media Coordinator and ask, "Will you be the Media Coordinator for the campaign?" and leave it at that. Or you could say, "I'd like you to be my Media Coordinator. I'd like to send out two news releases per week, hold three news conferences, and appear on five talk shows. I figure this will take about ten hours per week - will you do that?" Obviously, the second approach makes it much easier for the prospective Media Coordinator to accept because you've given him, in two short sentences, a specific idea of what you need. The first approach doesn't give any idea at all.

A campaign in which all the roles are clearly defined and assigned, and in which everyone concerned knows what he or she is expected to do, is a far smoother campaign than one in which everyone is spending half their time just figuring out what they're supposed to be doing - and ending up leaving the important decisions to the candidate.

Getting People Involved

Much of the foregoing assumes that the candidate already has a respectable number of people willing to be involved in the campaign in some way. But what if you don't? What if your campaign is a "pioneer" effort, where you seem to be virtually the only active Libertarian in your area, and where your main goal is simply to build up the size and abilities of the Libertarian Party? Or, what if all the familiar faces in the party -- the "old timers" -- think it's great that you're running and might even give you a check, but say they're "too busy" or are "too burned out" to really do anything?

Unless you're determined to do absolutely everything yourself -- which won't build the party and won't work very well, eitber -- you must find a way to involve new people in your campaign. And the most important tool you have to do this is a mailing list of members, contributors, and interested people which your state party has compiled over the years.

Take a look at the list. Chances are you won't recognize a lot of the names, and in many cases it won't be because they're people who don't want to do anything. Most Libertarian Party mailing lists are full of people who have never been contacted personally and have never been asked to get involved. A reasonably high percentage of them can become active in your campaign if you're willing to put in some initial hard work (which will be easier than to try to activate old-timers who don't have any time to give you). From the total list, cull the names of those who live near your city. Don't worry if they're members or merely inquiries.

Now carefully plan an event. Typically, this is a "Campaign Kick-Off" or similar affair. Take the names on the mailing list from your area and send them an attractive invitation to the event, then plan to follow up by telephone.

Remember, you're not looking for scores and scores of people. Chances are you'd settle for 5 or 10 good new activists. So if your net list contains 100 names, be pleased if 20 agree to show up and half of them agree to work for you. Later, you can call those who couldn't attend, to see if they're interested in another event or project

Hold the event preferably in a convenient semi-public place, such as a small room in a large hotel. Make the room small enough so that if only 20 people show up, they won't feel lost in a giant cavern. Have a planned program for the event, perhaps a Libertarian film, plus three or four speakers, including the candidate, who will speak for 5 or 10 minutes apiece. Have wine and cheese, or cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If you charge admission at all, make it nominal, no more than $5.00. Have a sign-in sheet at the door for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the people who show up. And be sure to have a "volunteer form" distributed to whomever shows up which will allow them to volunteer for your campaign.

You have a specific message to convey at this event: To introduce and talk about the Libertarian Party, to show how your campaign fits into the purpose of the party, and to demonstrate a concrete accomplishment that your campaign will achieve if it has help. Then you must directly and specifically ask for the help of the people in attendance. Keep in mind that most people become active for psychological reasons - they want to become part of an effort to accomplish something good and worthwhile. That's the appeal you have to make at this event.

To restate in the form of a checklist: 1) arrange for a suitable meeting place; 2) prepare a simple, informative, attractive invitation and mail it to your list (roughly three weeks before the event); 3) call the entire list and ask them to attend (roughly two weeks before the event); 4) call the people who have agreed to attend and remind them of the event (roughly the week before); 5) maintain the schedule and purpose of the event by making it brief, enjoyable, interesting, and directed toward the goal of developing new activists.

Doing this is going to cost you something in terms of time and money; renting the room, furnishing the refreshments, mailing the invitations, making the calls. You'll probably be able to enlist the physical or financial aid of one or two of the old-timers. If you're truly unable to handle such an event as this, the key thing is to establish personal contact with the people on your mailing list and to ask them to get involved. If all you can do is get on the phone and ask people to come to an envelope-stuffing party, that's better than not making the effort at all.

One last point about old and new activists: Once you've recruited a few new faces to help you, some of the old-timers who were previously "too busy" will miraculously find that they have some time and will get reinvolved. And, as for new activists, never get bogged down in worrying about whether or not they're "real" libertarians. A lot of them won't be. But remember that most Libertarians developed their political beliefs through exposure to other Libertarians. So let the new people get active and involved, and they'll find that their understanding of libertarianism gets progressively stronger by interacting with you and your campaign.


Almost no one likes asking for money. When candidates decide to run for office, their vision is on the glamour aspect, making speeches, ripping the opponent to shreds in debates, and cutting TV commercials. But money is what wins elections. While financial underdogs do occasionally pull off upsets, money is the single most dominating factor in the vast majority of campaigns. In virtually every race that Libertarians have won, they have outspent their opponents.

Money gives you communication with the voters. Time spent on fundraising will enable you to reach more voters more often than the same amount of time spent in other methods of campaigning. Fifty to sixty percent of the campaigns and the candidate's time should be spent raising money. Unlike scheduling and other detail work, fundraising is not something left up to a manager or committee. The candidate must be involved in a major way. After all, that's who the people are supporting.

Contributors are more likely to give money to a good person with a good idea than they are to a good idea alone. Candidates must have enough belief in themselves to ask for financial demonstrations of personal support, and in the Libertarian philosophy to ask people to make generous investments in their own personal freedom. You are not begging for a handout If you can't ask for money to advance what you believe in, does it mean you don't really believe that Liberty is worth supporting?

The only real impediment to your raising the money you need is overcoming the fear of personal embarrassment But it's extremely difficult to offend a person by asking him or her for money. This is not to say that the people you ask will necessarily say yes, but in virtually all cases, the worst they will do is say no. A surprisingly high percentage will say yes if asked and asked correctly.

Fundraising, like sales, is essentially a numbers game. Ask a certain number of people to contribute, and a certain percentage will say yes and the remainder will say no ("I'll think about it" or "Maybe later" qualify as "no" answers). Therefore, the ideal way to raise money successfully is not to worry about people who have already said no, but to concentrate on finding others who will say yes.

Why People Donate

People give money, in descending order, for shared relationships, fear of pain, or shared values.

Other Key Points

1. Face to face solicitation by the candidate.
2. Telephone solicitation by the candidate.
3. Face to face solicitation by finance committee members.
4. Telephone solicitation by committee members.
5. Group appeals at events.
6. Group event sales.
7. Hand addressed, hand signed direct mail.
8. Obviously bulk rate direct mail.

Personal Solicitation

"Money comes in direct proportion to the amount of time the candidate spends fundraising. The candidate should fundraise 3 hours a day five days a week. Fundraising comes before the chicken and the egg!"
Cathy Allen
President of Campaign Connection, and consultant on over 80 winning campaigns.

Facing someone, explaining why the money is needed, and asking him directly for it will, in the long run, yield the highest contributions from the greatest percentage of people. If it is possible to identify every potential contributor to your campaign and approach that person for money on a one-on-one basis, you should do so.

You will need to develop two distinctly different pitches, one for relationship donors, and the other for shared value donors. Of course for some people you will combine elements of both. The themes from these pitches should also be used in phone and mail fundraising, and, in the case of shared value donors, should relate to your over-all campaign message.

With relationship donors, you are not out to convert them to Libertarianism. Play up the relationship instead. Your script should go something like: "Dad, good news. You've always encouraged me to get involved, to try to make a difference. Well, I'm running for the state legislature, and I need my family's backing. I want you to give me (3-5% of their gross income, or double the highest donation you know of that they have ever given to another candidate or charity)."

A pitch for a businessman you spend money with might go like: John, you've been my doctor for 8 years now, and I've spent hundreds of dollars with you. I want you to know it's been worth every penny for your good service. You know I'm running for state representative. I'd like to ask you to spend some money with me. Will you write me a contribution of (2-3% of gross income) for my campaign?"

After you ask for a specific amount, SHUT UP. It is the donor's turn to respond. The next 15 seconds while you are waiting for an answer will seem like an eternity, but keep quiet. If you talk first after the specific request, you'll lose dollars. DON'T say "please give $500.00 or whatever you can afford." This gives the prospect an out, and is a big mistake.

If (when) you get excuses or objections, listen to the donor's reasons, and repeat them back to the prospect, if possible with a sympathetic anecdote: "Yeah, I know how hard it is to send kids to college. I've got two youngsters in private schools myself." Then answer their objection: "But just think how much more affordable it would be for both of us if we could get the government out of the education business. That's exactly why you should contribute to my campaign." You have answered their objection in a way that steers the conversation back to areas of agreement. Be a good listener, and don't interrupt.

Ask at least three times. Use a different hook each request And don't go down too quickly on the amount you ask for. Let them know what others are giving to the campaign. If they say no three times, ask once more for an amount that anyone can give. If they can't give anything, ask for their advice, for their time, and if it is all right to call back at a later date.

Get the check now. Don't settle for a pledge, settle for a contribution. Try to remove any excuses they have for delaying the donation. If they don't have their checkbook with them, ask, "what time tomorrow can I send someone by to pick it up." Thank them profusely. And send them a written thank you also, as soon as possible.


Most of the advice for face to face solicitation also applies to telephone appeals. While you can't look your prospect in the eyeballs, you're still conveying a very personalized request. A small number of people can contact a large number of prospects this way; generally speaking, a list of 20 or 25 names is not an excessive demand for a telephone fundraiser, which means that four people can contact a list of 100 prospects in one or two evenings of calling.

The candidate should concentrate on calling family, friends, high end donors, and previous donors. Use peers or other volunteers to call lists that are "colder." One good trick is to use two or three assistants to the candidate during phoning sessions. The assistants give the scripted message to the prospects, then the candidate gets on the phone to close the sale. Never let the candidate call alone. The peer pressure of a group is needed for successful volunteer telefundraising.

Here's a hot tip to combine your telemarketing efforts with your mail fundraising into a dynamic, coordinated, and highly personalized program.

1. Personalizing each letter with the prospect's name in the greeting and again in the P.S. is best.

2. The P.S. will read, "I'll be calling you next Thursday between 5:00 and 9:00 P.M. to get your input and advice on my campaign."

3. Mail your letters out 50 at a time to be called in one 3 to 4 hour time slot.

This sets up the prospect to expect to give, and really impresses them with your level of organization, also prompting a donation. Most importantly, it locks the candidate into doing the calls that are so critical to a successful fundraising plan.

The candidate should be able to call 15 prospects per hour, connect with 7, and get money from 4. With a $40.00 average donation you should raise $500.00 per shift from your prime list.

Special Events

Group solicitations are the third most powerful. By this is meant situations such as banquets, cocktail parties, etc., where a group request is made. These can be tremendous successes or total failures depending upon the kind of pitch that is made and the advance preparation and follow-up. Absolute minimum requirements include a skilled "pitch" person, response cards and/or envelopes distributed to everyone in attendance before the pitch is made, and collectors to circulate around the room picking up checks and pledges immediately after the pitch.

Special events which involve the selling of goods or services, such as garage sales, bake sales, car washes, etc. can be successful once people have been drawn to the event and understand that they're not there just to buy the cute little lamp but to contribute to a political campaign.

Banquets or parties which have an admission price far above the cost of the food or beverages fall generally into this category; again, the trick is to get people there. In general, you will make more money for the campaign for the amount of time invested with other forms of fundraising.

Direct Mail

Campaigning through the mail is relatively easy -- print up your message, address it, pay the postage and send it. You don't expect a return, except in the voting booth.

Fundraising through direct mail is another problem. You do need a return: Money. There are specific techniques which can be used to increase the return. Therefore, the direct mail fundraiser must be concerned with the recipients, the message, the style, the appearance, and a number of picky but important details.

It can't be emphasized strongly enough that direct mail is the least powerful method of raising money, and it should be used only if 1) your list of prospects is too large to be called, and 2) in connection with a telephone follow-up. Even if your list is too large, you should identify top prospects and plan to call them as a follow-up to the mailer. But to rely exclusively on direct mail for funds is a serious mistake.

Why Use Direct Mall?

If you believe a significant source of funds exists among a large number of people who are not within the personal reach of your campaign, use direct mail to raise funds.

For example: If you are the only LP candidate in your state or major geographical area, you should send a fundraising letter to a list of libertarians in that state or area, or even to the libertarians in an adjoining state or area if there is no LP candidate there.

Another example: You or a key volunteer in your campaign belongs to a group which, while not explicitly libertarian, favors some issue or position which you also favor. A tax protest group fits this pattern, assuming that the membership knows you or knows of you already and is sympathetic to your message.

Warning: Appeals to groups who take a libertarian position on a given issue (e.g. gun control), but where there has not been any direct personal involvement with the candidates are rarely successful.

The Team Approach

Consider the possibility of forming a Campaign Committee on behalf of all the Libertarian candidates in one particular area, and raising funds from potential sources as a team. Costs -- and returns -- would be shared.

Be careful before you jump into this, though. You may have valid reasons to campaign on your own -- your stature in the community, for instance, or another LP candidate who just isn't a good candidate (it happens) and with whom you don't want to identify. But "teaming" your direct mail fundraising can be a good way to hold down costs, which almost always have to be paid up front.

The Trade-Off

The methods you use in your direct mail fundraising will depend upon money, volunteers, and the size of your mailing list. There is always a tradeoff between economy and appearance.

On the basis of appearance alone, the best fundraising advice would be a hand-addressed envelope on a high quality paper stock, bearing a "live" first class stamp. The letter inside would be individually typed and addressed to the recipient by name. You (or whoever is writing the letter) would sign each one individually.

Personalizing Mass Mail

If time or quantity prevents such methods, there are ways to make your appeal appear to be personal. And the more personal your appeal, the more effective it will be.

The envelope will appear more personal if hand-addressed rather than labeled. Volunteers can address envelopes for weeks before the mailing goes out. Similarly, a "live" first class stamp appears more personal. If you are cutting costs, a "live" third class stamp can be used. A bulk rate indicia virtually screams, "This is a mass mailing." An envelope that appears as if it has 20,000 identical twins starts out with two strikes against the possibility that the recipient will want to respond to the message in the letter.

The letter itself should be printed, not mimeographed or duplicated in some obviously cheap manner. If the quantities are manageable, print your letter to leave space for individual names and addresses to be typed in over the body of the letter, along with a "Dear (name)." Again, if the quantity is small enough to handle, sign each letter individually. If you can't, have the printer use blue ink for the signature to set it off from the black type.

If you can't individually enter names and addresses at the top of each letter, consider ways to avoid the "Dear Friend" cliche. One method is to omit the standard greeting altogether and to substitute a "Memo" format: "To: Friend of the Smith Campaign; From: Art Jones, Campaign Manager." Using the "Dear Friend" is not always bad, but it, again, virtually screams "Mass Mailing!"

The "P.S." at the end of the letter is the second most read part and thus the second most important part of the letter. It should re-state the message of the letter, and move the reader directly to the reply piece. This may be typed, or you can try a handwritten message if it is legible, again printed in blue ink.

General Appearance

The overall appearance of the entire piece should be clean and classy. Don't sacrifice quality in fundraising. People like to think that you're worth giving to. So, spend the extra dollars for two colors, or for a cream-colored paper instead of white, if you think it helps the appearance.

Many of the rules for other printed matter apply equally to fundraising letters. Leave big margins and have lots of white space. Skip a line between paragraphs, although the paragraphs themselves should be single-spaced. Underlining important words or phrases in the body of the copy tends to make it appear more interesting, but underlining can be overused and is not absolutely necessary.

If you can, have a prominent person agree to sign your letter and lend his or her own personal letterhead to the envelope and stationary. If your appeal is to libertarians exclusively, ask a well-known libertarian. If you are mailing to an interest group, ask a well-known member of that group.

The Message

Asking for money is exactly like making a sales presentation for a product or service. The letter should grab the reader's attention immediately, lead him through a logical chain of reasoning, and get him with a "hook" (an appealing reason to contribute). Finally, ask for the contribution. Just as there is "no tomorrow" in selling, you must create a sense of urgency and immediacy. Otherwise, the desire to give will disappear quickly.

  1. "Grab the reader's attention." The first paragraph must hit the reader between the eyes. The first line is the most read and the most important part of the entire letter. It should be of headline quality, if not headline form.
  2. One method is to ask a question which requires an answer. Another is to come up with a startling fact or statistic which will be of immediate interest, or to predict some impending disaster if some action is not taken.

  3. "Lead him through a logical chain of reasoning." Build a solid foundation on which to base the appeal. Cite facts and figures. Create images of future events which might happen if there is sufficient support. Be persuasive.
  4. 3) "Get him with a 'hook.'" The "hook" is the specific reason or reasons to contribute right now, which you are assuming have great appeal to the reader. Be very specific.

    There are a variety of hooks. One is to state that the need is so desperate that your campaign will quite literally grind to a halt if you don't get support. Desperation works very well, if true.

    More positive hooks include the prospect of helping to support something specific. In the case of a campaign, specific projects -- one or two -- can be cited, along with specific dollar amounts. For instance: "Your $ 50 will help us to buy 60 seconds of prime time advertising."

  5. "Ask for the contribution." This is directly analogous to "Ask for the order" in sales. If the reader is still with you by the end of the letter, he knows that you want money. But, he is highly unlikely to respond unless you ask him directly for a specific amount in your concluding sentences. That means writing, "Send $50 today!" or something which sounds peremptory, demanding, and downright not nice, but which must be done.
  6. This is very important: Ask for a specific amount and don't be afraid to shoot high. Many first-time fundraisers ask for insignificant amounts because they are afraid of offending someone. This is absolutely wrong. If you need $50, ask for it. Don't ask for $10 and hope you'll get $50. You won't. But if you ask for $50, you may get $10, and you may get $50. In any case, you won't offend anyone if you have presented your case properly.

    Style, Language, Grammar, and Length

    Style is important, but almost impossible to teach. In general, write the letter as if it were to a specific person, attempting to convince him to do something.

    Language is not so important, except for the "don'ts." In other words, it is perfectly OK to use contractions and colloquialisms if they fit the general tone of the letter, and they probably should. However, don't use words which require an extensive session with the dictionary, or which are libertarian "in" words. Write it to read quickly, with two or three syllable words, with no more than 21-word sentences nor more than six lines per paragraph.

    Grammar and spelling are extremely important. Have someone proofread the copy for such errors. The author should never be the proofreader.

    Length is totally irrelevant. Again, many first-timers are afraid to write more than one page. This is wrong. Successful fundraising letters can be one page or twenty pages. It's the content that counts. Don't omit necessary or compelling details in your letter, any more than you would fail to give a complete sales presentation.

    Unless you are convinced your letter is a masterpiece, show it to someone who knows more about direct mail fundraising than you do for comments and criticisms. This thing is costing you a lot of money, and it should pull a maximum return. There are professionals who make their living writing these letters; as a last resort, pay one of them to write your letter for you.

    Making The Reply Easy

    Assume you have written an effective letter, made a clean and classy appearance, and have convinced your readers to send you the money you need right now. Make sure then, that he has sufficient tools to do so. These include:

    1) A "reply piece." This is the card with the name, address, amount given, and legal information (if necessary). It should look like something you can't throw away, a bill. Use action colors for the reply card, red, orange, or yellow. Green produces the lowest response rate. Make it idiot proof! Include "Make check payable to....

    The reply form should resell the letter. The message on the bounceback should be an extension of the message in the letter, and as specific as possible, such as: "Yes, I agree that Hal Smith is the best candidate for Assembly, and should be heard by as many people as possible. Here's my check for $250___ $100___ $50___ $(other)_______."

    Note that specific amounts are suggested. Never leave the amount open. The "(other)" space should be at the very end, with plenty of gap, in dollars, between the preceding amount and $0.

    Also very important is the inclusion of the required legal information pertaining to correct address, campaign treasurer, occupation of the donor, and all that mumbo-jumbo which varies from state to state. Remember that you can be prosecuted for leaving off this information.

    Sometimes, you can include information on the card which won't fit neatly into the body of the letter. Favorable quotes from the media or from well-known people are examples.

    Also, request their phone number.

  7. The Business Reply Envelope (BRE). Always, always, always, include one. Nothing deters a potential donor like the lack of a return envelope and sufficient postage. Buy a Business Reply Permit from the post office.
  8. Make sure the BRE fits into the main envelope, and that the bounceback card fits conveniently into the BRE. This sounds obvious, but check it anyway. Each BRE will cost you a fee which is nothing compared to what is inside.


Teasers are the words written on the outside of the envelope to provoke initial interest. The most successful teaser is a message which suggests that there is a positive benefit to be gained by opening the envelope. The message should relate to the content of the letter: if "How To Lower Your Taxes" is written on the outside, the letter should damn well relate to that, by pointing out how the LP candidate will take anti-spending steps, etc., if there is enough financial support, etc. There is a subtle distinction between creativity and silliness and hysteria. Before you use a teaser, get a second opinion.


There is always a temptation to cram everything in sight into your mailer; brochures, statements of principle, position papers, etc., along with the letter, the bounceback card, and the BRE.

This is usually an enormous mistake, because all of the miscellaneous information is a distraction from the purpose of the mailer, which is to raise money. The typical reader will read the letter first. If he is then tempted to plow through two brochures and a position paper, he'll forget what the letter asked him to do.

It's an excellent idea, however, to include one insert with the package so long as that insert reinforces the main point of the letter. If your letter has told your readers about the wonderful news coverage your candidate has received, enclose a copy of a favorable newspaper clipping on a separate sheet - but have the sheet include wording that will reinforce the point: "The news media already respects Hal Smith. Help him continue his effective campaign by sending your maximum contribution." Or, if you're trying to raise money for radio ads, show a picture of the candidate at a microphone. Whatever it is, if it adds to and reinforces the message, then it's worthwhile, but if it's merely clutter, don't bother.

Many of the methods outlined above can be used in combination. One example is to follow up a direct mail piece with phone calls to all recipients, or at least to a manageable number of top prospects. Another example is to mail invitations to a cocktail party, follow up with phone calls, charge admission for attendance, and then stage a group fundraiser at the event itself -- this would incorporate four of the five methods, and could add a fifth method by isolating two or three potentially heavy contributors after they arrive, pulling them off to the side, and asking them directly for a large contribution.

Political Action Committees

Political action committees are the mutual funds of politics. They form a means for the small donor to make his influence felt on issues important to him.

PACs generally contribute along ideological grounds, but philosophical agreement is not their first criteria on who to contribute to; viability of the campaign is. They will look first to see that you are well organized and will want objective evidence, especially polling, to show that your opponents are vulnerable. Libertarians have had the best luck with PACs of which they or their supporters are active members.

PACs should be solicited early in the campaign, but they seldom contribute until September or later when the campaigns can be more realistically evaluated. Your first mailing to a PAC should include your campaign plan, press kit, a report on your fundraising to date, and a cover letter outlining your areas of ideological agreement and requesting assistance. Follow-up mailings and phone calls should stress objective factors in the race which could lead you to victory.

Opposition Research

Opposition research is a vital part of the underdog campaigns that Libertarians must run. Being able to hit an opponent at his weakest point helps even the odds against entrenched party loyalty. Opposition research also helps you draft your campaign message, by showing you where to draw meaningful contrast between you and your opponents.

Areas to research include:

On line services, such as Lexis/Nexis, can provide a wealth of information. They have many newspapers and periodicals from which you can do a "word search" on your opponents. Some papers are on line at local libraries. If not, they may have a hardbound index.

Court documents are public records, subject to your inspection. Ask to look at major and minor civil cases, criminal cases, and tax liens. Check to see if the opponent actually meets the requirements for the election and the office in terms of residency and qualifications.

Before using your information, make sure you are not guilty of the same charge. Make it fit your overall theme. If you can show patterns there will be much more credibility to the charge than if only a single incident. Build a positive image of yourself first, then reveal the opponent's negatives. Never make a charge without full documentation. And if you are going to attack, do it throughout the campaign, not just in the final days. You'll be seen as desperate and unbelievable.

Election Day

E-Day and the few days before it are the most active of the campaign. Your Get Out The Vote and election day efforts serve three purposes:

1. Ten percent or more of the electorate decides on election day who to vote for. The percentage of last minute decisions increases greatly as you go down the ballot. You want to swing them your way.

2. You want to make sure all of your identified supporters get to the polls.

3. You want to prevent election fraud, more and more of a problem for Libertarian candidates.

Your persuasion activities include:

Your GOTV efforts will include:

Preventing fraud is done primarily by having an alert poll watcher at each precinct for the entire voting period. Volunteers should be on the lookout for the following methods of voter fraud:

Libertarian Political Action

Section Three: Reaching the Voter

Precinct Walking

Walking should be a major activity of the campaign, especially in evenings and on weekends. It is easy, can be fun, and it is the most productive way you can spend your time early in the campaign. The best way to reach a voter is through personal contact. Repeatedly, candidates have succeeded when they have walked door-to-door, talking with each voter and distributing literature.

Precinct walking is the single best campaign technique for overcoming the built-in advantages of the older parties. It is not costly, but it is time-consuming.

The importance of personal contact can't be overemphasized. Think about it: Most voters have been conditioned to think of third-parties and their candidates as extremists or lunatics.

Libertarians must counteract and overcome this conditioning, and the best way to do that is to personally demonstrate to each voter that Libertarians are perfectly normal people who happen to believe strongly in their political viewpoint. That's why it's so important to establish non-threatening neighborhood visibility wherever and whenever possible.

Your entire campaign must be aimed at the truly undecided voters. Most campaigns do not do this. Think about this: Most campaign hoopla is aimed at voters who have already decided. The people who hear you speak are already with you or against you. The people who attend coffees and small meetings are people you probably would have won anyway.

It is fun to preach to the choir, but you will pick up very few votes. Also, the people who attend political speeches, debates and rallies are highly partisan people. Truly undecided voters are precisely those who are not partisan and who are not especially interested in speeches or political events. But their votes count just the same. Far and away the best place to meet these people is at their homes. Precinct walking is the key to meeting undecided voters.

Targeting allows you to walk those precincts that have the highest number of truly undecided voters. By knowing the number of ticket splitters in previous elections, we can predict with great accuracy the number each precinct will have in the future. There will be precincts where 40% of all voters are undecided and others where less than 10% will be decided. You will obviously work hard in the areas where 40% of the votes are up for grabs and waste little effort where less than 10% of the votes can be won by you.

Precinct walking is one of the few things you can do early in your campaign that will have enough impact to win votes that stay yours until November. If you just give someone a card at a shopping center during the summer, it is extremely unlikely that he will remember you on election day. However, if you visit the family at home, they will remember you for years.

Learn to love door-to-door campaigning. Your campaign must be built around this form of personal contact. If your friends insist on showing you off at coffees, schedule them after your evening walks. If people want to help you, have them go with you on walks.

You should be walking four, five or six times a week. If you really want to win, this is what you do. No campaign was ever won by people hanging around a headquarters gabbing. You win votes one at a time by going where the people are and meeting them straight on. If you do absolutely nothing in your campaign except walking precincts you will have a good campaign.


"I was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives by literally walking in. Between April and November 1992 I personally contacted 15,000 individuals through door-tp-door campaigning.

For nearly a year before the August '92 primary, family members and volunteers assembled lists of registered voters in the district. After announcing my candidacy, I began a routine of knocking on doors Mondays through Saturdays from noon to 9pm. Mornings were reserved for fund raising appointments, and Sundays were set aside for family. I was able to campaign full time because I had budgeted enough personal wealth to pay the bills.

Door-to-door campaigning is grass roots politics in action. Every candidate has their own message; mine was "Hello, my name is Greg Kaza. I am here personally to seek your vote on election day. The overwhelming majority of people told me I was the first candidate to ever knock on their door. Some did not believe I was a candidate until I showed them my identification. Several invited me into their homes for dinner. Only two expressed hostility: both told me that they were finished with politics and politicians."

Greg Kaza, Liberty magazine, Vol.7 number 1

The candidate who walks door-to-door can expect a lot of time spent in conversation and discussions. He should stay in the highest priority precincts. His volunteers, however, need do nothing more than walk from door to door saying, "Hello, I'm a volunteer for Hal Smith, the Libertarian candidate for Assembly in this district. I'd like to give you this brochure, and I hope you'll have a chance to read it." About one in every 100 people will want to talk. The rest will be surprised and relieved that you're not subjecting them to a long harangue, will smile, and thank you. But you will have accomplished a key objective: you've proven to the voters you meet that Libertarians are normal, friendly people instead of a vague threat.

A far less effective technique -- but still one to be used in low-priority precincts -- is the "literature drop" without the personal contact. This is acceptable, but, again, doesn't allow the personal contact which is so necessary in breaking down voters' allegiance to the traditional political system.

Time Considerations

Because neighborhood visibility is so important, you must work out a Time Budget before you start walking. Precincts differ, and you will need to adjust the budget after you have walked a few.

A standard rule-of-thumb is that four man-hours are required to walk one average precinct of 300-400 voters. That is, a team of four can do it in one hour, two in two hours, etc. -- including talking to the voters who wish to talk.

If you have 20 top-priority precincts, then, you may need 80 man-hours. Make sure you and/or your volunteers have the time to walk these precincts before Election Day.

In general, weekend afternoons are good times to walk, as are weekday evenings (except Friday) before 9 p.m. Early morning is not a good time.

A Typical Walk

You have assembled a group of 20 people for a Sunday afternoon precinct walk, and have identified your top-priority precincts and decided on the message you will use.

You have obtained precinct maps (the Election Department can help you find these), cut them out, and posted them on sheets of cardboard. You then assign one or two precincts to teams of two volunteers for the afternoon, arm them with a map and an adequate supply of brochures, and turn them loose.

Each team of two should divide the precinct, starting at opposite ends and working toward each other. Each person should ring every doorbell in his division, and have prepared some introductory statement like: "Hello, I'm visiting this neighborhood on behalf of Lacy Fare, the Libertarian candidate for Assembly." Depending upon the level of evangelism, the volunteers might mention something else about the candidate and her opinions on one or two relevant issues.

The voter should be handed the brochure, asked to vote for the candidate, and thanked. Always be courteous and pleasant, and remember to smile. Where no one is at home, leave a brochure on the doorstep and move on.

It's always good to have one of your supporters walking in his or her own neighborhood, and sending personal letters to friends. Assuming this person is known and liked, his influence and solicitation is likely to carry more weight than the standard candidate's letter.

Coffees and Public Appearances

"Coffees" are hallowed political institutions which may or may not fit into your campaign. They are very effective when organized properly.

To set up a coffee, enlist a supporter to open his or her home and invite the entire neighborhood to come meet you at a particular time. Your friend should provide coffee and goodies (no booze).

Everyone in the neighborhood should be invited, because only a small percentage will actually show up. Invitations should be printed and distributed in mail boxes. If you plan several coffees, print invitation forms to be filled in with time, place, etc. The invitation should state the purpose of the event: to meet the candidate.

The host or hostess should always follow up invitations with personal phone calls or visits to neighbors. This will increase the turnout. Typically, 10-30 people will attend.

Format: There will be a period of introductions, then you will speak for 10 to 15 minutes, and a question-and-answer period will follow. A coffee should be a relaxed, personal event, not a formal presentation.

Candidate's Nights and Speaking Engagements

There are always Candidate's Nights, and you should make it a point to attend. The format will vary according to the situation. If you are a candidate and receive an invitation to speak, accept it and attend. Nothing looks worse than an empty chair where you should be.

Parenthetically, it is just as bad not to respond to Candidate Questionnaires submitted by groups or newspapers. Always respond.

You should, of course, be finding speaking engagements on your own, without waiting for an invitation. Various service clubs, homeowners associations, interest groups, etc., should be contacted and asked to provide a forum for you. Ask your friends to get an invitation for you from groups where they are members. Most such groups need speakers desperately, and will be glad to have you. If not, the worst they can do is refuse.

As always, communicating briefly, intelligibly, and specifically applies to speaking as well as to writing or advertising. Stick to the issues.

Phone Banks

Phone banks and door to door work are your primary means of canvassing the voters. Canvassing is the process of asking the voter who they are committed to. Those definitely for the opponent are not thought about any longer, and are dropped from all future mailings and calling. Those definitely in our favor are targeted for the Get Out The Vote effort, but are also dropped from the mailing list for persuasion pieces. The undecided voters are where you place all further resources. Your goal is to contact all of your targeted voters by phone or at home by election day.

Try to secure a donation of a place for a phone bank early in the campaign. Any office building with several lines will do. Voter lists with phone numbers included are available from most political list brokers, usually for about 2 cents per voter. This is a much more efficient use of resources than having volunteers look up the numbers out of the book. You will also get other valuable information when you purchase your voter file from a broker, such as voting history and census data.

Your phone bank script should be very simple. "Hi, I'm calling for the Lacy Fare to State House campaign. Is ___________ home? Hi, __________, Do you have a minute to answer a few questions? Good. In the race for state assembly, will you be voting for Lacy Fare or Sammy Statist?" If they indicate an opponent, record the answer, thank them for their time and end the call. If they indicate your candidate, record that as well, and you may wish to ask if they will volunteer, make a contribution, or at least put up a yard sign. If they are undecided, read them a list of your main issues, and ask them which is most important to them. Close by asking that they consider voting for Lacy. Then follow up by sending them a piece of relevant literature, and target them for further mailings and phone calls.

Paid Media

Repetition of your message is the name of your advertising game. It will take at least three impressions for the voter just to begin to remember what you are trying to tell him. When you have heard your basic message so many times that you are sick of it, the voter is just beginning to be aware of it.

You will get more votes by sending the same impression three times to one hundred voters than you will by sending the message once to three hundred voters. If you can't repeat your message at least three times to each voter, target further, cut down on the number of voters you are trying to reach until you can get the necessary repetition.

When comparing cost between different types of media, ask for the "cost per thousand" or CPM. This is simply the ad rate expressed in terms of what it will cost for the ad to have the potential to be seen 1000 times. In general, TV will have the lowest CPM, radio next, then newspapers, then direct mail. CPM is not the only factor to consider when planning your advertising budget. While TV has a lower CPM, radio can be targeted to a more defined audience. And though mail has the highest CPM, it can be the most closely targeted, and can convey large amounts of information where a TV ad cannot.


Most advertising departments of newspapers are equipped to help you decide the size, frequency, cost, and even the appearance of your newspaper ad. Costs vary enormously and should be determined ahead of time in your budget

For a typical display ad of significant size, such as a quarter page, follow many of the same rules as for brochures. That is, use an attractive layout with plenty of white space, setting off each point you make. Use an appropriate photograph. Don't try to rewrite the Statement of Principles, but instead identify yourself, your party, and office you seek, and three or four of your main issues. Newspaper ads establish legitimacy as much as they send a message. Keep them clear, clean and simple.

The "endorsement" ad -- with a long list of names of people who support you -- is quite effective, especially in local papers. If you have a firm list of supporters (they should sign an endorsement card), use this list in a newspaper ad. People spend hours reading through these lists, looking for people they know. Strange but true.


Radio advertising, if done right, can be worth every penny of what you spend. Be prepared, however, to spend quite a bit for maximum effectiveness.

Costs vary considerably depending upon the station, the listenership, the time of day or night, the frequency, and the length of the commercial. Each station can supply this information and can tell you what kind of person listens, when, and even where.

Go back to your voting analysis. Determine which areas might respond to a libertarian message, and what kind of message. Compare this data to the information you have about the radio station. For example, if there is a high student population in precincts with libertarian potential, choose a station within your budget that students listen to.

The key to successful radio advertising is repetition. The more time you buy, the better. Be sure to reserve time early, since many stations sell out their paid political time. The time you buy should be near Election Day. (Some stations refuse to sell political time; you should find that out, too.)

The safest format for a radio spot is for the candidate or a supporter to deliver a simple, clear, strong, comprehensible message. Always ask for the vote, and always state the name of the candidate as many times as will fit into the message logically -- certainly at the beginning and at the end.

The best approach is a personalized one-to-one appeal from someone who is perceived to be a real person, not a studio creation. Ask the listener questions to grab their attention, with the answer being your campaign message. One good trick is to write the script as if you are talking directly to your opponent, ("Shame on you Sammy Statist for voting for that property tax increase that is robbing our senior citizens of their homes").


TV is becoming the dominant medium in more and more elections. It is definitely the most persuasive medium. People believe what they see on TV, and if it's not on TV it's not real. Being seen on TV creates a celebrity status for the candidate. TV is usually the most cost effective means of advertising in terms of the number of people you can reach for each advertising dollar. But TV is certainly not for every race.

When deciding if you should use TV or not, go back to your campaign goals. Don't use TV just because it's "sexy." If you can't target the broadcast to your district, or can't afford enough spots to get good repetition, spend your money elsewhere.

Your script is the most important part of the entire process. In creating it, remember your goal is to persuade your targeted voters. A clever ad that does not sell the campaign message is a waste of resources.

Make a list of visual metaphors for your message. Hands removing money from a pocket, a giant hand snatching up a senior citizens home, or a shrinking stack of dollar bills might all fit an anti-tax theme. Then put your candidate into the metaphor as the hero with the solution, or put in your opponent as the devil causing the problem.

When you get your ad to fit into the 29.5 seconds that you have to work with, take out another 20% of the words you've crafted so carefully. You'll need the extra space for cuts and to avoid ending up with a cramped look. Build in lots of cuts, scene changes and different camera angles.

They add action and make the commercial seem longer. Feel free to adapt another political ad to your use. There is no copyright on political advertising. An ad written for a voice over, rather than with talking actors, is much easier to produce, and hence less expensive. Humorous and negative ads are the most effective in terms of being remembered, especially in combination.

Advertising firm's charges for a 30 second spot start in the $2,500.00 range, and can cost 10 or 100 times that. However, most cable and many broadcast stations will cut a commercial for you for low fees, or free, when you make a buy from them. You are then free to run the ad on other stations also. When choosing who to use as a shooting and production team, ask to see their demo reels. If they don't have one ready, they are not who you want. You may luck out and find that your local cable company has a better reel than the pros in your area.

Shoot at least twice as many takes of each scene as you think you need. Do it over and over and over. You'll have to push your actors and camera crew, but it will be worth it in the studio when that cut you thought was perfect is a quarter second too long. Try doing a rough production cut at home on a pair of VCRs to save time and money in the studio.

Buying TV time can be somewhat complicated, but you should know these basic points. As a candidate you are entitled by law to the Lowest Unit Rate (LUR), the lowest rate that that spot has sold for. At most stations you are also entitled to an ad agency discount of an additional 15%. But you will usually have to ask for both of these rates. In asking for the LUR you might want to get on the salesperson's good side by mentioning that, as a Libertarian, you believe they should be able to sell their ads for whatever they darn well please.

Rating points are the percentages of TVs tuned (not necessarily turned on) to a specific show. Judge the true value of an ad by dividing it's cost by it's rating to give you a cost per point The stations can give you ratings as well as ad cost. They will also tell you which shows are most suited for your ideal voter's demographic profile.

Look for bargains. News adjacencies, the spots right before or after the news, can be half the cost of commercials aired one minute later. There may be an election special news show the Sunday before E-Day with very low rates.

Always make sure that your spots are run. Set VCRs or have volunteers make sure that the spots went on as paid for.

Once you determine the cost of newspaper or electronic advertising, you can use this information to solicit donations. People are often willing to give money specifically for the purpose of buying advertising, because the "big time" aspect of it appeals to them. Try it.

Earned Media


News releases are used to notify the news media of an event that has happened or will happen. These events include: meetings, announcements of candidacy, staged events, actions of LP groups, and comments on current events by LP leaders or candidates. In short, anything which could be of interest to someone outside the LP is a possible topic for a news release.

Prepare a Media list. The easiest source is the local Yellow Pages under the headings: Newspapers; Radio Stations; Television Stations. It's desirable to send your releases to the "Political Editor" or "News Editor." It is even better to find out that person's name, by calling the newspaper or station. There are other sources of media lists besides the Yellow Pages, notably the library. Include the wire services (AP, UPI, etc.), if their offices are in the territory covered by the release.

You may wish to use one release for newspaper, and another for television and radio. You will be writing them as you would like to have them printed or read, and different media will be able to use different lengths of stories.

Write to be heard. And write your release exactly as you would like to see it printed in the paper. Very often it will be, if you do a good and reasonable job. Don't write a four page release if the paper can only be expected to print three paragraphs.

Most reporters and editors are busy (and sometimes lazy) people. They do not wish to rewrite your release, and the chances of getting your release used by the media are proportionate to its correctness of style, structure, and content Fortunately, mastering style, structure and content is easy.

Always Include...


A news release should be easy to read. If it isn't, it won't be read. Therefore, always double space; always leave big margins around the copy; always indent paragraphs well in from the margin -- about ten spaces.

Also: if the release is more than one page, staple the pages together, and indicate page numbers. Use a standard designator to indicate the end of the release, such as "#," "-30-," or "End." Type "MORE" at the bottom of each page to show that the release continues on the next page.


If you have never written a news release before, or if all of your previous ones have been lousy, take a look at a number of news articles from your local paper. Read them for style, not content. Note that all news articles are written alike; they all read the same way. Remember that if your release doesn't read like any other news release, the reporter or editor will have to rewrite it. He doesn't want to rewrite it. So he probably won't use it.

A news release is not a short story. It does not have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Instead, it follows a specific structure known as an inverted pyramid.

Decide what you are going to say, then prioritize your points in order of importance, and write them, paragraph by paragraph, in descending order. The important points come first; the trivial detail comes last.

The Reason: Editors have space requirements, and may need to cut your story to fit available space. They cut from the bottom up. Maybe the editor will have room only for your first two paragraphs; if so, you'll want to say what you have to say in that space.

Paragraphs should be short, no more than two or three sentences, and sometimes only one is enough. Involved, complicated thoughts do not fit easily into news articles.

Because of the importance of the inverted pyramid, always tell Who, What, Where, and When in your first paragraph.

What to Say

The first paragraph covers all the bases, and should be written as if the entire story could be told -- not the details, but the essentials - even if everything else were cut out.

And What Not To Say

A news article is not an editorial, and a news release is not a vehicle to propagandize as such. Express as much opinion as you want, but do it between quotation marks.

Avoid esoteric terms understandable to no one but another libertarian ("epistemology," "neoRothbardian").

Back to quotes: Make them up. If you are writing a news release about your candidate, you don't have to call him. If you will be handling releases regularly, make prior arrangements with the candidate that he will stand behind any quote you attribute to him.

Photos and Tapes

Use them, if they relate to the story and are good quality. Include them with the release to newspapers. For television, use slides or film clips if you can get them, as well as photos. For radio stations, provide cassette tapes of the speaker for use on the air. These should be very brief.


An Advance Announcement is used to notify the media of an upcoming event. Confine these to the bare details. After the announcement goes out, call the individual recipients, make sure they have received it, and invite them to attend.

Helpful Hints

Direct Mail Campaigning

Direct mail is an important means for getting inside the homes of large numbers of voters -- certainly more homes than you or your volunteers are likely to visit. Even if you have the money to mail to every voter in your district, you should not. Your piece of mail may be the last straw to convince a marginal supporter of your opponent to go out to vote against you. You will need to decide who will receive your message, based on your targeting of who is most persuadable.

Once again . . . go back to your voting analysis. On the basis of that, select the precincts or groups which have indicated libertarian tendencies, or have some receptivity to some part of your message. You should mail to those precincts, as many of them as you can afford.

You can obtain voter indexes (lists of registered voters with their addresses) from the Election Department, or from a list broker. Generally, a broker will have a much more "enhanced" list with more information about the voter. They will cost money. You can specify the precincts you need.

What To Mail

You have three basic choices: 1) An envelope with a letter and brochure enclosed; 2) a post card; 3) a "self-mailing" brochure.

"Self-mailing" means no envelope; there is a space for an address and stamp on the brochure itself.

Any of the three choices is fine. The least expensive is the self-mailing brochure, if you have designed your basic brochure to include a blank panel on the back for mailing purposes, or with a blank panel except bulk mail indicia. This way, you can use the brochures both to hand out and to mail.

Special post cards are also effective. The front can be a photograph, or a particularly compelling, brief message. The back can include a short bibliography and statement of position.

Mailing a letter-and-brochure inside an envelope can be especially effective if the letter is addressed by hand, with first class postage. The letter can be a well-written statement of positions and qualifications, and a request for a vote.

Mechanics Of Mass Mailings

The actual mechanics of mass mailing depend on the quantity, your budget, and the availability of resources such as time and volunteers.

When calculating the number of pieces you will be mailing, figure on the basis of households, not registered voters. Generally, the number of households is roughly 60% of the number of registrants in a given area. So, if you want to mail to ten precincts with a total of 3,000 registered voters, you will send about 1,800 pieces of mail.

Obviously, volunteer labor for addressing, stuffing, sealing, stamping, etc., won't cost you more than beer and cookies. Equally obviously, you can't expect a handful of volunteers to send out 20,000 pieces of mail in one night, although a group of eight or ten can get 3000-4000 pieces out in a few hours if sufficiently motivated.

If you have few volunteers, or a large volume of mail, contract with a direct mail company to handle it for you, especially if you are using third class bulk mail postage. For a reasonable fee, direct mail houses will do everything. You need to supply address labels, taken from a computerized list of voters which exist in most counties.

If you are dealing with labels, bulk mail, and large numbers, call around and locate a direct mail operation that is familiar with political mailings. They will tell you what you need to know.

Third Class Bulk Mail

For large quantities, third class bulk mail is far cheaper than first class. However, mail with a first class stamp on it is more likely to be taken seriously than a letter with a bulk rate "indicia" (an indicia is the little box in lieu of the stamp).

The difference in effectiveness between first class and third class, aside from the time it takes to deliver, is greatest with mail in envelopes; it is much less with postcards and self-mailers. The difference can be further minimized with the use of a "live" third class stamp (not an indicia), which should be available in large quantities from the post office. Therefore, unless time absolutely does not permit, use bulk rate for large quantities.

A bulk rate permit will cost a fee, but the "break even" point for mailing costs between first class and third class is very low. If you plan to mail more than 1000 pieces during your campaign, third class will save you money, assuming you mail in quantities of 200 or more, as required by the post office.

Note Carefully: If you mail bulk rate, there are several rather idiotic rules to follow which were conceived by the post office. The least idiotic is the requirement that your mailing be separated by zipcode sections, and that each section be zipcode sequenced.

If the above paragraph is meaningless to you, and you don't plan to use a professional direct mail operation, call the main branch of the post office and arrange to have a cordial, informative meeting with someone in the Bulk Mail Division who knows what he's talking about (Such people are not easy to locate.)

Post offices differ enormously in the manner in which they treat bulk mail. Some are careful and prompt; some are sloppy and lazy. Some make you follow each rule to the letter; some don't care. It always helps to establish a cordial, personal relationship with the Bulk Mail Division.

Never mail third class unless you are sure you know exactly what you're doing. It's worth it to find out.


The best time to use direct mail is the few days before the election. Unfortunately, every other candidate will also be mailing at that time. This tends to clog up the mail service.

Make sure your mail goes out in time to reach the voters before Election Day, not after -- but not too much before. This gets tricky with third class mail especially. But the weekend before Election Day is still far and away the best time.

Be prepared, then, to "sweat out" your mailing for a few days after it is mailed, until you know for sure that it hit at the right time.

The Campaign Materials

The Candidate's Brochure is the backbone of your publicity effort Therefore, it must be versatile and calculated to reach the lowest common denominator, simple and striking.

It is not a position paper, or a Statement of Principles, or a condensation of the LP platform. If you feel you need these, fine. But don't include them in the Candidate's Brochure. Again, stress the message of your two or three main issues.

By "brochure" we mean whatever type of printed campaign literature you decide to produce. It is not so important whether your piece is an 8.5x11 tri-fold or a 3x8 card, or something else. It is critical though, that it be well done.

Many brochures can be "self-mailers," that is, the back panel has enough space for a stamp and address, so that it can be dropped into the mail. Make allowances for this when you design your brochure, if you are planning to do any mass mail.


Your brochure should be laid out so that your message will come through even if the copy is not read. There should be a "grabber" headline, and headlines for each section of copy. Write it to be scanned; that is all most voters will do. Repetition is important even within the brochure. Use the "military instruction" method of:

1. Tell them what you are going to tell them.

2. Then tell them your message.

3. Then tell them what you told them.

Have the typesetting and layout -- in fact, the whole design -- done professionally. Voters do not respond to material that looks as if it were designed and pasted together on the kitchen table, because it looks as if "you don't have a chance," even if they agree with you.

People know that it takes a lot of money to run a campaign, so anything you put out should look fairly expensive, whether it is or not. Actually, the price of a professionally-done brochure is only slightly higher, per unit, than a cheap, mimeograph sheet, when dealing in significant quantities. But the added legitimacy of professional work heightens the willingness to listen to your message many times over.

This means selecting a paper that feels nice, having lots of white space around your printing, using good quality photographs, and choosing a pleasant typeface. It also means, if you can possibly afford it, using two colors or even three, instead of just one.

In general, bright colors and color combinations are preferable to the more subtle and esthetically pleasing. You can, however, make effective use of the "screen," that is, using a solid color, like deep blue, but reducing the tone in certain areas of the brochure. The same color then appears to be two or three different colors. Using a screen is more expensive than using one color, but less expensive than using two.

Some colors reproduce well, which is why you see them all the time. Blue is generally the best. Getting into pastels and light browns is great if it works, but disaster if it doesn't, so be very careful.

Also, try a "reverse." This is the technique of printing white (or whatever the color of your paper is) letters on a dark background. This also creates the illusion of more than one color.

To repeat, white space is precious. Margins can be used to frame islands of print They should not be used for cramming in afterthought, diagrams, or symbols.

You can create imaginary "frames" around specific paragraphs in your brochure not only with white space, but also with "boxes" (lines around a paragraph), and the use of a reverse print or a screen to highlight specific items. Some words or paragraphs can be printed in bold or italic type, to set them off further.

Nothing turns a reader off faster than to be confronted with a wall of small print, called "gray area." Psychologically, gray areas are death. They say, "Don't read me." The voter won't read your brochure unless he wants to, so give him every incentive.


Use them. They create interest, and allow the voter to picture you as a member of the human race. Posed shots are OK if you look natural. Candid shots are always good, especially if they relate to a specific point in your brochure. The best photos are action shots which relate to the theme.

Quality counts for photos, too. If you don't have a good camera, borrow one, plus a photographer who knows what he's doing. Always use black-and white film, and never use Polaroid or instamatic cameras.

The Message

Tell the voter who you are, in pictures and in words; your background, your qualification, and your political party.

Stress the two or three most important issues in your campaign, and hit them hard -- explain the problem and the libertarian solution. It is usually a bad idea to go after your opponents in your brochure, unless you can cite chapter and verse and their offenses are truly horrible. If you do take this approach, set the relevant paragraphs apart in some way.

You are the candidate. The Libertarian Party is not. Neither is John Galt. So, unless your name happens to be John Galt, don't tell the voters who he is. Tell them who you are, and relate your specific solutions to their specific problems.

Staying in Control

Despite the overriding necessity of having your literature done professionally, this does not mean that its design and production are beyond your control. To the contrary, you can control it every step of the way, so that it looks and reads the way you want it.

When dealing with an artist (the graphics or layout person), prepare a rough sketch of what you have in mind. It doesn't matter how rough it is, the artist will be able to follow it and ask you questions on details. Artists appreciate this greatly; they hate to be given only a vague verbal notion of what is required, and then get yelled at when their product doesn't correspond to the client's ideas.

Think about what you want to say on each panel of the brochure. Suggest the placement of each item on each panel. Suggest the color scheme. Give the artist all the information you can.

When it comes to actually writing copy, determine in advance how many words you can afford to write in each panel, and write to that limit. You can get a precise measure by finding someone else's brochure that has a design and typeface you find attractive, and literally count the number of words in a panel or paragraph.

If it's 200, then you know whatever you want for the corresponding panel of your brochure can't go beyond 200 words. There's only one thing worse than having to cut copy after the brochure is designed, and that's to decide not to cut overlong copy and to cram it all in there anyway.

Before You Go To Press...

Make absolutely sure there are no spelling, grammatical, or typographic errors, and the copy is laid out straight on the page, and photos are cropped properly with no wavy edges. Ask the printer for a proof before the final brochure is run.

Since every word counts, every word that is garbled will take away points in the mind of the voter, who expects you to be perfect. So be perfect, at least where the brochure is concerned.

Signs, Buttons and Stickers

The primary purpose of signs and billboards is to establish name identification for the candidate. They also contribute to the legitimacy of your campaign.

They are very poor vehicles for communicating more than your name, your party, the office you seek, and possibly a brief, meaningful slogan.

Signs can be either an important and integral part of your campaign or a complete waste of money. Too often signs are ordered in the last few weeks of a campaign. Some get put up on telephone polls, on public rights of way, and in other obnoxious places. Then the rest go into the trash a few days after the election.

However, in a campaign where there is aggressive door to door work and telephone canvassing, signs can play a very important role. It is when signs are placed in the yard of a supporting voter, or in the window of a supporting business, that they create favorable name ID. This is a good reason for the candidate to do much of his early campaign walks along busy streets, talking to shopowners and homeowners alike in those places where a sign will have the most visibility.

Readability from a distance is the most important factor in sign design. Large block letters in a reverse print give the greatest visibility. White on blue is best, followed by white on red.

Legal Problems

Some municipalities have ordinances which prohibit the posting of signs in most areas within city limits. These ordinances are unconstitutional, but don't waste time and resources challenging the law. Forget it, and put your energy into other things besides signs.

Professional Services

There are people who will design, produce, put up, and take down signs for you professionally. These companies are not cheap, but they are quite good. They will also often bear the burden of challenging local anti-sign ordinances on constitutional grounds. Let them worry about it.

Hiring such an outfit is fine if you have a big district and enough money. A statewide candidate, for example, may well need this service. But a local campaign should be able to get by with volunteers.


Most billboards are outrageously expensive. If you use them, make sure they are worth it in terms of location, visibility, and message.

Location: Never rent billboard space without having driven by the location from as many angles as possible. Freeway locations are the best, followed by major city streets, preferably near stoplights. Not all billboard locations are necessarily good, so know what you're getting.

Visibility: Use big letters and highly contrasting colors in keeping with your campaign theme. A billboard will not be esthetically pleasing; if yours is, you may have done something wrong.

Message: Keep it simple. No one stops his car in the middle of a freeway to read a billboard. "Elect Smith, A Libertarian For Assembly" would do just fine. A photo is OK, but not necessary.

Determine in advance whether or not your billboard will be lit up at night with floodlamps. If not, think twice before using it.

Bumper Stickers And Buttons

One of the first things many candidates do is to buy large quantities of bumper stickers and buttons. From a cold, hard, practical viewpoint, this is a mistake. People don't wear buttons except in crowds of people who are wearing the same button, and there are enough unused bumper stickers lying around to ensure a supply of paper for the next twenty years.

They are, however, great for morale among the small group of hard core supporters. So, buy a few.


Promotional items such as pencils, pens, rulers, cups, glasses, napkins, etc. with your name embossed on them are cute, but that's about all. If someone donates them, fine. Try to sell them, or give them away as prizes at a fundraising event.

Soundtruck and Caravans

Rigging a speaker system to your car and driving around town asking for votes is an old-time political gimmick that is probably still used in some places. To say the least, it borders on the obnoxious.

Caravans are all right, though. The typical caravan will have ten or twelve cars plastered with crepe paper and signs, driving around main streets on a Saturday or Sunday. There is nothing wrong with this unless the drivers give into the temptation to honk their horns every two feet, which gets old very quickly.

These can be a real plus, but be extremely careful: It's easy for the event to overshadow the message and the essential seriousness of the campaign.

If you have a special event, make sure you barrage the media with notices, and that a sizable audience will be there.

Never predict the size of an audience, especially to the media. If you do predict, aim low. If you predict 500 people, and 50 show up, this will get reported.

Libertarian Political Action

Section Four: Organizing a Petition Drive

Before a single signature is collected, those responsible for a petition drive should have the answers to the following questions:

1. How many valid signatures are required (exact number)?

2. How many total signatures are required (approximate number)?

3. What date does petitioning start?

4. What date and time does petitioning end?

5. What information is required to be on the petition?

6. Who is responsible for printing the petitions?

7. Who is permitted to circulate petitions?

8. Who is permitted to sign petitions?

9. Is there a distribution requirement (so many signatures per county or district)?

10. Is there a requirement that signatures must be segregated by counties or other geographical divisions?

11. Where should the signatures be submitted?

12. Must the signatures be notarized?

13. What other screwy requirements are there?

Now that you know the answers to these questions, you should map out the petition drive and divide the basic elements -- time, money and signatures -- into manageable units.


Assume a state with a requirement of 10,000 valid signatures, or approximately 15,000 total signatures. You have 120 days in which to collect the signatures.

If you collect 125 signatures per day, you'll meet the requirement (120 x 125 = 15,000).

If 50 people collected 300 signatures apiece, or 2.5 signatures per day for 120 days, you'll meet your requirement (2.5 x 120 x 50 = 15,000).

If 100 people collected -- well, you get the idea. The point is: to quantify. Break everything -- time, money, signatures -- into manageable units, and get about getting the job done, unit by unit.

Get pledges from volunteers to collect a specific number of signatures. Ask each person to make a commitment for an actual number, whether it's 10 or 1,000. Ask them to collect one or two or five signatures per day for every day of the petitioning period. Ask them anything, but get a firm commitment for a specific number.

Add up your numbers. For this example, assume they add up to 8,000 signatures. That's not enough.

You'll probably need to pay people to collect signatures to make up the volunteer shortfall, so you need to raise enough money to cover 7,000 signatures. The average rate is 50 cents per signature, so you need $3,500.00.

Go back to your LP members - especially the ones who refused to commit to a number of signatures -- and ask then for specific dollar commitments.

Explain that $100.00 is as good as 100 signatures, and ask them to "buy" 200 (or 400, or 800) signatures. If 35 people agree to contribute $100.00 each (or some other formula), you've raised your $3,500.00.

Once again: ALWAYS QUANTIFY. Don't just say, "We need 15,000 signatures," and leave it at that. Say, "If every one of our 100 members collects 150 signatures or contributes $100.00, we'll achieve our goal of 15.000 signatures."

The reason is this: If you give a person a reasonable, achievable goal and that person knows that other people like him are committing to the same goal, he'll be motivated to achieve it, too.

Of course, some of your members will refuse to collect signatures or to send money. You'll need to ask some of your reliable activists to "double up" on their pledges. Many of them will do it anyway, without being asked.

If, after you've asked everyone in sight for a pledge of signatures or money, your numbers still don't add up to your goal, go ahead with the petition drive anyway. Many people will wait until you're really desperate, and then they'll respond. The real key is to get as much committed ahead of time as possible.

If you can account for 25% of your goal in pledges before the drive starts, you'll probably make it.

Dealing with Paid Petitioners

Ideally, you'll be able to find LP members who are willing to collect signatures for pay. If they are good petitioners, two or three of them can clean up a large percentage of your requirement over the length of the petitioning period. Try to get them to commit to a certain number of signatures per week, and check on them frequently.

If you can't find LP members, or don't have enough of them, you have no choice but to "go public" and advertise for petitioners. Occasionally, you'll find people who have done it before for pay. Usually, the people who answer your ad will be novices whose primary interest is in making some quick money. A very high percentage of them will be either totally unreliable or no good at petitioning, although surprisingly few will be downright dishonest If twenty people answer your ads, figure five at the most to be worth a significant number of signatures. Emphasize that a good petitioner can make good money -- $50 per day for 100 signatures, $100 per day for 200.

Treat your paid petitioners as you would treat valued employees. Make them feel wanted and needed. Be courteous and friendly, but not a pushover. Set specific, reasonable goals, and praise them for meeting them. Offer incentives if necessary. Check on their progress on a regular basis. Throw a party for them occasionally, where they can meet other petitioners and exchange ideas and techniques. Suggest good places to petition.

Pay them regularly and often, and set up definite paydays in advance for everybody, no exceptions.

Your classified ad can read: "Petitioners needed to collect signatures for political party. $50-$100 or more per day possible," and include a name and phone number.

Screen the calls for people who are underage, non-citizens, or obviously inappropriate for the job. Many of the people who say they will come in for training won't; keep your ad in the paper as long as you can afford to.

During the Petition Drive

As Coordinator of the Petition Drive, you've taken on the responsibility for:

1. Knowing and complying with all legal requirements;

2. Establishing a "game plan" and sticking to it;

3. Recruiting volunteer petitioners;

4. Raising money;

5. Supervising the paid petitioners.

There's one more thing, and it's the most important: keeping track of the signatures.

"Phantom" signatures are, unfortunately, the rule rather than the exception during petition drives. Phantom signatures are the ones you think you have, but don't.

For example, you appoint three county coordinators, A, B, and C. They're supposed to collect the completed petitions from the petitioners who are working in their respective counties.

When you call them up for a status report, A says he has 1,000 signatures. B reports 1,900 signatures, and C tells you he has 900.

Great, you've got 3,000 signatures! Except that A was relying on the word of his "ace" petitioner who told him he had 250 signatures when he didn't have any. B, on the other hand, could verify 1,000 of his signatures, but he was also counting the 900 that C gathered, since he didn't understand that he was only supposed to report the signatures from his county, not C's.

Suddenly, you have 750 phantom signatures -- one quarter of the total you thought you had.

The point is obvious: Don't count any signatures unless you yourself have actually seen them. If geography makes this impossible, appoint one person in each location whom you can trust not to report signatures which he or she hasn't actually seen.

There should never be more than two levels in the hierarchy; you, and a regional coordinator, if necessary. Don't permit the regional coordinators to rely on the word of anyone else. And don't accept signature counts based on anything other than what they have in hand at that moment.

Maintaining a policy of keeping a "conservative count" is absolutely crucial, even though it may call for you to be a son-of-a-bitch.

Many ballot drives have failed precisely because sloppy signature counting showed more than there actually were. People tend to be optimistic; they want to believe other people, and they want the petition drive to succeed. So they tend to round up to the nearest thousand, or estimate the number of signatures they think are "out there," and then report these numbers as hard facts.

In fact, there will be a "float," that is, a certain number of signatures which actually do exist but which no one has ever seen. Since you don't know how many there are, don't count them. Let them be a pleasant surprise when they come in at the last moment.

The best way to ensure a "float," and therefore a pleasant surprise, is to mail a petition to every LP member or sympathizer on your list, whether or not he has agreed to collect signatures, or even if you've never spoken to him. The signatures will start drifting in -- one here, twenty there -- when you need them most. But don't count them until you see them.

Where To Petition

The standard method of petitioning is to stand in some public place and ask everyone who passes by to sign the petition.

The alternate method is to obtain a list of registered voters, with their addresses for each precinct or area, and then go door-to-door asking for signatures.

"Public" petitioning is generally much faster. A good public petitioner who gets 150 signatures per day will do much better than a door-to-door petitioner, even if one-third to one-half of his signatures turn out to be no good.

The door-to-door petitioner should have a very high validity rate, however, since he already knows who is registered to vote and who isn't. And door to door is also much better as a campaigning tactic. But he probably won't get more than 50 signatures per day.

Public petitioning is recommended when the petition drive is to qualify a candidate or party statewide or in a large area, when many of your petitioners are experienced or are comfortable with public petitioning, or when you don't have the resources to organize a door-to-door drive properly.

In addition, there are some states which do not check your signatures for validity unless they are specifically challenged; in these states, there's little point in trying for a high validity rate by going door-to-door, since it takes longer.

Door-to-door petitioning works best when the petition drive is to qualify a candidate in a small district, when you're circulating two or more petitions at the same tine, when you have the resources to organize the drive properly, or when your petitioners are shy and inexperienced, and fe el much more comfortable approaching people in their homes rather than on the street.

Little league and school ball games can be great places to get a batch of sigs quickly -- the people are sitting down and can t run away from your pitch quite so easily. Events where people are milling around rather than rushing in or out work best.

Depending on local election laws and the size of the precinct and it's turnout, polling places can be excellent places to petition on primary day. Everyone who comes there is registered.


1.If you are collecting signatures at a supermarket or shopping center where advanced permission has been granted, find the manager or supervisor in charge of the establishment and introduce yourself. Be sure and thank them.

2. Try to approach people on their way in to the store. Ask them to sign before their arms are full of packages.

3.Be friendly, polite and positive.

4. If a person's reaction is definitely negative, leave them alone. Always remain polite!

5.Stay out of political discussions. You are out to collect signatures, not to convert people to Libertarianism. For those people who are truly interested, give them a brochure and take their name and address. Offer to put them on the LP mailing list or contact them at a future time to discuss the issues, party, or candidate.

6.Keep talking until you have asked them to sign the petition. Many people assume that you are involved in a registration drive, not a ballot drive.


8. You should be able to collect 20 signatures an hour. If you're not, consider changing locations or ask another volunteer to listen to you and make suggestions.

9. Be as clean and neat as possible.

  1. IMPORTANT! After a person has signed, check the petition and make sure it is properly filled out before the person leaves.
  2. Try to approach groups of two to four people. Larger groups are harder to convince. It is usually easier to get younger people to sign than older people. If you have a choice, go to the younger person.
  3. For some reason, petitioners consistently report that black females will sign more often than other ethnic groups.

13. One good "closer" for people who are hesitant to sign is to tell them that they are not really supporting the candidate or his ideas, just his right to be on the ballot. You may often have to say this twice to get people to the point of signing.

14. Offer people the clipboard as you are talking to them -- try to get it into their hand.

15. If you get one person to sign, stop someone else and give them the pitch while the first person is signing. Group psychology makes it much easier to get a signature if the person sees someone else in the act of signing.

Some petitioners have reported good luck using a short cover sheet which covers up just the top of the petition sheet. It includes a picture of the candidate and a short, simple (not "legalese") explanation of why the candidate needs signatures.


Campaigns & Elections,
a magazine for political professionals. Excellent investment for each state party. Campaigns & Elections, Inc. 1835 K Street NW, #403 Washington DC 10006 20263-7788. Campaigns & Elections also sells: "Filling your war chest; How to raise money for political campaigns." Contains tips, techniques and strategies involving political fundraising. $15. On The Campaign Trail: Campaign computer simulation that lets you run for a senate seat/ $19.95 for 5-1/4" disc and $21.95 for a 3 1/2" disc. The Political Pages, Campaigns & Elections 1996-97 Annual Guide and Directory to Political Campaign Consultants, Product Service Vendors and Suppliers. $15.00. Especially recommended: The Road to Victory, a 60-page compilation of the best of the magazine's previously published essays, $44.95. Many audio training tapes also available. 1-800-888-5767.
Political Publishing Company,
a source for manuals, campaign software & computer systems, signs and seminars. Company owner Sal Guzzetta has presented training seminars at the '93 and '96 Libertarian National Conventions. For a current catalog: P0 Box 17274 Alexandria, VA 22302-8574 1-800-562-6624 24-hr. FAX: 703-549-8059.
Advocates for Self-Government
has numerous excellent tapes on improving communication skills and presenting libertarian ideas in an effective, nonconfrontational manner. Recommended: "Campaigning for Outreach," "The Essence of Political Persuasion," and "The Liberty Communicator Course." The Advocates for Self-Government, 269 Market Place Blvd. #106, Cartersville, GA 30120. Phone: 800-932-1776.
The Graduate School of Political Management,
offers a masters degree in political management. Academic Center #T-409 801 22nd St. NW, Washington, DC 20052
Grass Roots Campaigning,
an excellent newsletter containing campaigning tidbits. For a free sample issue, write: GRC/ C Box 7281 Little Rock AR 72217.


The Federal Election Commission,
999 E Street, NW Washington DC 20463
Intellectual Ammunition,
sound bite material from a free market perspective. A good investment for each state party for $49 a year, from The Heartland Institute, 634 Wabash Ave., 2nd floor Chicago, IL 60605 312-427-3060
State Legislators Magazine,
a good source material for state house candidates. Available from National Conference of State Legislators 1560 Broadway, Suite 700 Denver CO 80202 800-468-4036 ext 593
online data base services for opposition research. 1-800-227-4908.
The International Society for Individual Liberty,
publishes numerous position pamphlets from a Libertarian perspective, and will use your imprint if you order in sufficient quantities. 1800 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94102


Campaigning to Win,
published by the National Women's Political Caucus. Excellent, all-inclusive manual on campaigns. Very readable, with good charts and checklists. Highly recommended, $35.00, available only from the NWPC at 1211 Connecticut Ave., DC 20036. 202-785-1100
Leveling the Playing Field of Politics,
by Cathy Allen. One of the best books out. Includes lots of valuable check lists. $25.00 from The Campaign Connection, 1809 Seventh Ave., Suite 1610 Seattle, WA 98101-1313. (206) 443-4990
How to Win Your First Election,
by Susan Guber. This handbook has very good sections on precinct walking and personal contact. From the Pickering Press, at your local bookstore.
Take Back Your Government,
by Robert A. Heinlein. A practical handbook for the private citizen who wants democracy to work. Timeless advice on political activism, written in the 40s by the dean of science fiction. Published by Baen books from your local bookstore.
Winning Elections: A handbook in participatory politics,
by Dick Simpson. This is an excellent book on precinct level organization. Simpson was an organizer for independent Democrats who went up against Mayor Daley and the "Chicago machine." Shows the intense degree of detail and person-to-person work necessary to win elections when there is no pre-existing base of party support. Swallow Press, from your bookstore.
The Rise of Political Consultants,
by Larry J. Sabato. A must-read if you plan on hiring professionals for your campaign. Lots of good information on specific techniques of campaign technology. Published by Basic Books, Inc., from your local bookseller.
Rules For Radicals,
by Saul Alinsky. Excellent, entertaining book on general political organizing. Alinsky was a labor organizer in the thirties and forties. Vintage Books, from your local bookstore.
How to Win A Local Election,
by Judge Lawrence Grey. Good recently published book that touches all the bases of the basics. Available at your local bookstore.