What Are the Main Factors In Being Elected?

With a federal election underway and a provincial election coming up later this year, I’ve been thinking about “what are the main factors involved in getting a candidate elected?”

This is what I’ve come up with (ranked roughly in order of importance) but would love to hear things I missed (or mis-ranked).

1. Name Recognition – there’s a reason that incumbents are elected in such a high percentage of elections and being a known name on a ballot is a big part of that.  That’s also why political parties of all stripes look for new candidates who already have name recognition – authors, athletes, media personalities and so on.

2. Safe Seats – If you’re running in a riding which has historically elected candidates from your party, even if you’re a new candidate without strong name recognition, you likely have a good chance of being elected.

3. Scandals/Hot Topics – If there’s a big issue that develops during an election which overrides local constituency concerns and other factors, that can play a part in electing candidates who might otherwise not get in.

4. Timing – Somewhat similar to the last point, if you happen to be running for an opposition party after a governing party has been in power for a number of years/election cycles, you may simply get in due to voter unrest and desire for “change”.

5. Vote Splitting – with two conservative parties in operation at the time, voting splitting is a big reason why we had federal Liberals in power through much of the 90’s and now, with the right unified and three (or four if you count Quebec’s Block party) leftist-centrist parties operating in Canada, you have the right wing Conservatives maintaining power.

6. Social Media – every election, the impact of social media grows and grows and is now becoming a major contributing factor in election successes whether it’s Barack Obama or Naheed Nenshi.  Just the fact that pretty much every candidate is on Facebook and/or Twitter and/or has a home page speaks to the impact of new media.

7. Media Coverage – favourable or unfavourable media coverage can help put someone over the top or end a campaign.  Somewhat related is the notion of “The Moment” which can be either good or bad and can define a campaign in a huge way, either intentionally or unintentionally.  For example, things like JFK being willing to wear make-up for the first televised debate when Nixon wasn’t is an example of a candidate using media to intentionally do something that helps his campaign.  On the other hand, Howard Dean’s yowl became an unintentional media moment that pretty much ended his presidential campaign.

8. Door knocking/phone banking/community events – I’m not convinced that this is the key to electoral success for a variety of reasons which I might get into in another post.  But pretty much all the politicos I know swear by it so I’m putting it down. 😉

What’d I miss?  Oh, I know – MONEY!!! – which is sort of inherent in all of these points to one degree or another.  But being able to spend lots on advertising, brochures, buttons, billboards, advertising, building quality web sites, or whatever – can play a huge part in getting a candidate elected.

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