Months of marathon campaigning have led to this moment. Finally, the polls have closed and the votes cast; the metaphorical chips will fall where they will. There’s little left on the previously overflowing to-do list but sit back and wait for the result. With some luck, the election will lean in your favor, and open the door to additional years of welcomed hard work. But winning a political campaign doesn’t necessarily free a candidate from the burden of campaigning. Active politicians should begin considering their long-term plans for reelection the moment the celebratory balloons are popped and the party hats put away.
This isn’t as hasty a strategy as it might seem. If a politician’s goal in running for office is to reach a position where they have the power to enact changes they believe necessary for their constituents, they have to think long-term. After all, a politician’s individual ability to pursue his or her political agenda will be considerably limited if he or she is voted out of office after a single term. This drive for reelection manifests in current events; after only a few months in office, representatives for President Donald Trump have confirmed his intent to campaign for a second term in 2020.
Incumbent politicians do hold a structural advantage over their challengers; according to American University historian Ally Lichtman notes in an interview for NPR, those already in office at the start of a campaign have the advantage of national name recognition, government access, campaign experience, and the presumption of success. That said, incumbents face defeat more often than most think; out of 45 presidents, only 14 have successfully served two full terms.
Elected politicians accept a plethora of new responsibilities when they take up elected office; however, those new tasks can’t be allowed to entirely overshadow campaigning efforts. In order to govern effectively and plan for reelection, political figures must pay attention to the needs and interests of their constituents, and continue engaging with voters after the votes are cast. The following are a few strategies for doing so.
Establish an Online Presence and Mailing List for the Campaign
Campaign websites and social media pages should be regularly updated, maintained separately from the incumbent’s official website, and host the latest news from the campaign. When run effectively, a campaign’s online properties can boost voter engagement and serve as the foundation for online campaign efforts.
Seek Out Public Speaking Opportunities
Voters don’t want a representative who works behind a closed door and never communicates. Even incumbents need to be heard! Scheduling high-profile public speeches will ensure that voters increase their familiarity with political figures and candidates.
A single defeat doesn’t mark the end of a political career. Consider Ronald Reagan, who ran twice before successfully achieving the presidency after his third campaign – or even Abraham Lincoln, whose unsuccessful campaigns established him as a political leader and set the groundwork for his presidency. If the votes don’t weigh in your favor on election night, accept the results and plan for the next campaign.