Campaign Lesson #4 – Preaching to the political choir is patently pointless!

Campaign Lesson #4 – Preaching to the political choir is patently pointless!

The above mailer that hit early last week may well be the WORST case of campaign messaging, timing, and voter targeting I’ve ever seen. As bad as some of these mailers can be, and I’ve seen some really bad ones – this kind of terrible trifecta is still somewhat rare.

So why does this mailer fail on every level? Prepare to be enlightened!

1. The wrong message

Though the 25th Illinois State Senate District is undergoing a demonstrable blue shift, past election results clearly indicate it’s still solidly 60 percent Republican. That means, with the odds stacked against any Democratic contender, they must appeal to GOP voters in order to prevail.

And a Planned Parenthood endorsement mailer, paid for by Planned Parenthood, is NOT nearly the way to woo those voters. In fact, it will have the polar opposite. Worse yet, that mailer gives Ms. Villa’s hyper-conservative opponent quite the effective counter-messaging possibility that folds right into her campaign strategy.

2. Preaching to the choir

It’s beyond baffling how even the best candidates frequently fail to grasp the concept of who will and won’t vote for them regardless of any campaign variable. To wit, any pro Planned Parenthood 25th District voter is already gonna vote for Ms. Villa, so what’s the point? Why send out a mailer that’s not gonna get you a single new vote?

3.Poor Voter Targeting

Without giving up any of my campaign secrets, I know exactly what voters the Villa campaign targeted and that eminently poor choice only compounds their original preaching-to-the-choir blunder.

If you can’t figure out who can and cannot be convinced to vote for you, then you shouldn’t be running.

4. Poor Timing

Given the unique brand of vast 2020 voter ADHD, even if that mailer contained the right message, even if it preached to the NON-choir, and even the Villa campaign used the right voter universe, their abundantly bad timing would’ve negated all of those positives. Put more simply, unless you have unlimited campaign funds – a virtual impossibility in the COVID era – it’s WAY too early to start sending out mailers.

Though no voter “impression” is a bad impression in this bizarre political climate, just like it is with with those Major League batters, timing is everything.

I’m sure Villa’s people wanted to get ahead of the September 24 early voting start date, but had they performed the simplest of data searches they would’ve quickly realized that few voters take advantage of the current limited polling place options. Savvy campaign managers know early voting doesn’t start in earnest until all of the designated polling places open up two weeks before election day.

“But Jeff! Aren’t we going to have an unprecedented number of Vote By Mail ballots in 2020?” Maybe! But most voters have learned not to mail them in too early because of those almost inevitable last-minute presidential race revelations.

Having done my data due diligence there also, it’s more than apparent that most VBM ballots are returned within that same two-week-before-election-day period because Americans tend to enjoy the art of procrastination.

In summary! Between:

  • The inexplicably wrong message
  • Preaching to the choir
  • Poor voter targeting,
  • And poor mailer timing

Ms. Villa’s campaign manager shouldn’t be fired, she should be shot!


If you’re considering running for a major office and you want expert messaging advice, the professionals at Forward Communication are ready, willing and able to help. Please Contact Us for a free consultation.


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