Next week is Election Day in the U.S., and for many campaigns, the election has already been won or lost – the messages are out, the grassroots are mobilized, the calls have been made, and the voters are ready to go to the polls and cast their ballots.

Still, there’s a lot left to be done. Many campaigns are close… too close to call… or at least within the margin of error. Many other campaigns, where there hasn’t been any polling because the election is for local office, aren’t sure where they stand, and very well could be involved in a close election. For these campaigns, the difference between victory and defeat could be the very activity and work they put in over the next week.

How to Influence the Outcome

For campaigns that are close, the single best way to influence the outcome of the election… that is, the best way to help your campaign win… is to run a strong get out the vote (GOTV) operation. Your campaign must do everything it can to move your supporters to the polls. GOTV efforts can add an additional 1-3% to your overall vote total, and could be the key to victory for your candidate.

For more information on how to run a great get out the vote effort today and tomorrow, read:

Winning Your Election by Getting Out the Vote

A Guide to Making Get Out the Vote Calls

What Candidates Should be Doing on Election Day

One question that often comes up is: what should the candidate be doing on Election Day? I’ve seen candidates do everything under the sun on the big day. I once saw a candidate who played golf all day, not even voting for himself, and who didn’t appear publically until the election night party. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen candidates who spend 24 straight hours campaigning, not sitting down to rest until the last vote was counted.

In my opinion, the best thing a candidate can do on Election Day is work hard to get out the vote. If your campaign is being actively covered by TV or radio, there may be an opportunity to get your name out there over the airwaves one last time by inviting the media to be there when you cast your ballot, and by holding a public rally that is covered by the press.

Other than that, most of the candidate’s activity on Election Day will be one-on-one with voters. The candidate should make appearances at polling places to energize his or her grassroots volunteers and party committee people, and spend lots of time in neighborhoods where he or she expects a large portion of the vote (his/her “base”), energizing supporters to go vote. Be sure to schedule an hour or two to rest and freshen up before your election night party.

For Campaigns that Will Win

Many campaigns know (or think they know) that they will win on Election Day. The polls show them up, way up, and barring a major public incident, they will almost certainly win. What should these campaigns be focused on for Election Day?

Primarily, campaigns that are winning should be focused on getting out their voters, reminding them that this is still a race… There’s a real danger that voters who support candidate who are perceived to be winning could stay home, thinking that they don’t need to go vote… and in turn, cause the “winning” campaign to lose, or more likely, make it a much closer race than it needs to be, even though the campaign that is polling high still pulls out a win.  Then, read: The Elected Official’s Guide to Getting Re-Elected.

For Campaigns that Will Lose

If polling shows that your campaign will almost certainly lose on Election Day, there’s still plenty to be done… As we’ve noted on Local Victory before, many of the most successful political candidates in political history have lost one, two, or three elections before they gained traction and finally won, launching a long career in elective politics.

The best thing you can do, assuming you are going to lose, is finish strong. Get your voters mobilized, get your volunteers organized, and put up a good showing. Not only do you want to narrow the margin of your opponent’s victory, but you want to show the voters, and local party leaders, that you can run a strong campaign, and a strong get out the vote operation.

The Day after Election Day

Whether you win or lose, remember that the next campaign starts the day after Election Day. If you win on Election Day, take a couple of days off, then start planning your re-election effort. If you lost, now is the time to learn what went wrong, figure out how to make it right, and launch your next effort.