Campaign Trail: A Beginner’s Guide to Campaigning

Whether you're considering campaigning to be the next president of the United States, or you only want to be on the board of directors at your local library or the company you work for, knowing the ins and outs of campaigning can be extremely beneficial.

While someone running for a local seat isn't going to need to go on much of a “campaign trail,” knowing why people travel while campaigning can also help you when it comes to running for any sort of political position.

What Exactly Is a Campaign?

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Before you start on the campaign trail, you will need to know campaign basics. Traveling while on a campaign is part of the basics – even when you're campaigning locally you will speak at many events.

A campaign, when running for any sort of political office, is when a politician and their constituents organize an effort that is meant to influence the general public to vote them into the position they're running for. The person running for the position and the people working with them come up with a strategy that is meant to help them win over the public (or private, depending on the office) vote.

Of course, depending on the political office, the popular vote might not even matter. That doesn't stop the President or Governor of a state from campaigning to get the most votes that they can in hopes that they will win over the electoral college votes for that state.

What Is Your Campaign Message?

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Before you head out on the road campaigning for a position in the ranks of political greats, you need to have a message and a strategy. Your message is what you want the voters to know about why you're running for the position you're running for and what you plan to do once you're in that position.

You'll talk about policy changes you want to make and things you want to do to make people's lives easier or things you want to do to make more money for your town, state, etc. You want to be honest with people, but you also want to offer the voters things that will interest them and make them take action to vote for you.

There might even be a slogan, like the presidential campaigns typical have. You will need money for travels and other expenses while you're on the campaign trail, and aside from fundraisers and donations, having your slogan on T-shirts and hats might be able to make you some gas money to get to your next event.

Heading Out on the Campaign Trail

Once you know what you're running for, and what your message is, you will need to plan some events (which can include a great deal of travel depending on the office you're running for). Presidential campaign trails take those running for the seat of the president all over the United States (and sometimes to other parts of the country).

Presidential candidates don't make stops in every single state though. They'll usually make a plan to stop in states that tend to vote against the party they are running with or have an equal amount of people on both sides.

There are many things that a candidate will do while they are campaigning, that keep them on the go along the campaign trail.

1. Speaking Engagements

There are all sorts of speaking engagements that you can partake in. When someone runs for the role of president they often have rallies where they speak to the people that intend to vote for them. At these rallies, they talk about their campaign strategies and may even repeat their campaign slogan, if they have one.

You may speak locally or around the country. You may need to travel to the capital of your own state if you're running for governor or state senate, or some other role that will have people all over the state voting for you.

2. Television Engagements

Sometimes your speaking engagements will have you on television. You may be on a local news show or on something more national. You may be talking about one particular stance or about your entire campaign strategy.
It is because of all of these engagements that most politicians hire speechwriters to come up with the best ways to get across what you have to say.

3. Interviews (In All News Media)

From television interviews to radio interviews, and even interviews at the local theater in front of a crowd – Interviews are a huge part of your campaign trail. They are one of those time when people get to ask you the questions they want answers to, whether it be about the things you stand for or about things that they wish you were talking about but aren't.
Most politicians have questions submitted ahead of time, though not always. This way you have time to prepare your answers or have your speech writer prepare the best ways to answer.

4. Debates

People love a good political debate, and this is one of the only times they get to see how your answers weigh against the stance your opponent or opponents have taken.

Debates also generally have questions that are predetermined, allowing candidates to prepare their answers – giving them a chance to make sure that they come off professional.

The Length of the Campaign Trail

When it comes to the campaign trail and the length of campaigning, you can consider a couple different “lengths.” One length is how long the campaign itself lasts. The other is the length for which you will travel while campaigning.

Campaigns can last only a few months or for a year or more, depending on what position you are campaigning for. Presidential campaigns sometimes stretch the year mark, while a gubernatorial campaign may only last a few months. During that time people will be seeing commercials about you and your strategies, watching your debates, attending your events, and they'll be reading about you online.

The amount of on-the-go traveling you have will depend on your campaign. Most politicians don't start the campaign trail the very moment they put their hat in the ring. They often begin after preliminary voting, ensuring that the money they put into travels is going toward the chance of them being elected.

You may be on the road for a few months or just a few weeks. If you're running for something local, you might have a week-long time where you're doing events and interviews, without the need to travel around the country.

When the Campaign Trail Ends

Your campaign trail can go on until you're elected into the position you're running for, or at least until it's time for people to actually vote. Once voting is done, you'll either begin preparing for your new political position, or you'll go back to life as it was (if you aren't the winner).

Depending on how long your position lasts (if you're the winner), you'll get some time off from campaigning until it's time to do it again (if you're in a position you can hold for more than one term). The next time you run people will look at not just your current campaign, but also what you did your first time around in office.

One thing you want to avoid doing is failing to follow through with the things you promised during your campaign. While even the presidents don't always make all of the changes they promise, people see when they try. The president doesn't have final say in thing, as there are channels that laws and changes need to go through.

You'll become more popular if you do try your best to follow through with all of the things you said you'd do during your campaign. Whether they go through successfully is another story.

Final Thoughts on the Campaign Trail

If you want to hold an office, even if you're running for a spot on your child's school's board of directors, you will need to set out on the campaign trail – even though your trail may keep you within your own hometown.
However, going on the road is only a small part of the campaign trail. Most importantly, you need to be offering your voters something they want and need.

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