Get Your Opponent to Do Your Opposition Research
by Mark Martini, Campaign Secrets
In the frenzy of collecting voting records, financial records, and a variety of other information, it's easy to overlook one critical piece of opposition research. And the best part about it is that your opponent will put it together and deliver it to you for free.
What is it? Constituent letters. One of the first things every challenger should do with opposition research is collect constituent letters from the incumbent.
The process is simple. Have your supporters send letters to the incumbent's official government office asking for information on where the incumbent stands on an issue. Each letter should only address one issue and be written by a real constituent.
If you have time, you might even send a set of letters for every issue you think will come up during the campaign (each from a different person, of course). The first simply asks for the incumbent's position on the issue.
The second letter should clearly communicate that the author disagrees with the incumbent's position on the specific issue.
The third letter should be written so that it seems like the author shares the incumbent's position on the issue.
The worst outcome is that you receive consistent responses, and you have good information on how your opponent articulates each issue.
A better outcome is that you receive contradictory responses. Sure, the incumbent will say the letters were written by interns or entry-level staff, but they will still have the incumbent's signature and that's what counts. Having signed letters that say different things is great ammunition for the campaign.
The best outcome is that you don't receive responses. Imagine how much fun you'd have running against an incumbent who doesn't think it's important to answer constituent correspondence. Be sure to carefully document when each letter is sent and when the responses are received.
Do not make up names. Do not ask the authors to misrepresent their true beliefs. That allows your opponent to claim entrapment when he gets caught playing both sides.
For example, notice that [ ] doesn't say the author is against the tax cut – just that he is concerned. It would be easy to believe, however, that the author is against the tax cut.
It's a simple project, but it will take some work to get it organized. At the end of the day, though, you can't beat a deal that has your opponent doing your opposition research for you.