Pathway to Victory: Political Mudslinging

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No one likes it when people say negative things about them, and in a political campaign attacks can feel extremely personal. Here at SpeakEasy, we want you to feel prepared when the mudslinging begins, so we have outlined a few tips on how to respond to opponents!

We’re sharing a few of the tips you’ll find in 101 Steps to Victory: A How-To Guide for First-Time Political Candidates. This free e-book outlines the 101 most important things a first-time candidate needs to know to keep their campaign on the path to victory. And check back with the SpeakEasier blog in the days and weeks ahead for more of our 101 Steps to Victory.

What if I’m attacked?

Defend yourself without being aggressive and remember: don’t let it get to you. For example — the opponent says, “You are a tax-and-spend liberal who will give away the store to unions.” You say — without sounding angry — “I want to see every dollar raised used wisely to improve schools for our kids and make sure they have a modern classroom to attend and proven programs to keep them safe after school. I can’t understand why my opponent would not support these essentials for our kids.” Notice the pivot to your message; don’t let them trap you into a conversation within their negative frame.

It isn’t going to feel good when you get attacked but remember a few things. If the attack seems serious to you, make sure to let all of your supporters know how to respond so they can defend you. “Dear Supporters, my opponent has launched a negative campaign attacking my position on taxes. I want you to know where I stand — I support safe schools, healthy kids, and excellent programs that are proven to work. I have never supported tax increases for any purpose other than to support our kids when necessary. I am saddened he will not stand up for our kids the way they need.” One more thing to remember — generally most of the damage of a campaign attack is psychological, meaning it throws you and your supporters off your game. Refuse to be rattled and you block most of the power of these attacks.

Should you attack your opponent?

If attacked, perhaps. If there is some information that is very relevant to a race — say you are running for tax collector and it turns out your opponent has not paid her taxes — then you probably should feel a duty to communicate that in a non-personal way. But the truth is that in most small campaigns there are not a lot of attacks, personal or political. Fortunately, in most cases, you can stay focused on your positive message.

Looking for more information about what it takes to run for office? Download our e-book designed to walk candidates through the process of running – and winning – their first political campaign. And be sure to check out more from our Pathway to Victory series!

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