Not that long ago, the conventional wisdom in politics was that reporting a large “Cash on Hand” number – what reporters like to call a “war chest” – meant your campaign was comfortably in front runner status. You could afford to do the things a winning campaign needed to do. Even better, you might scare away potential challengers
That’s because the resources needed to wage a successful campaign used to cost lots of money, but they don’t anymore. And a resource deficit doesn’t ward off as many potential candidates away as it used to.
You can get websites up for practically free. You can send emails to thousands of supporters for next to nothing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube all give you access to millions of potential fans for free. If you spend time connecting with your super-fans they’ll be all-in on your campaign
The things wealthy campaigns have traditionally paid for, like polling, consultants, TV ads, and direct mail are becoming less and less effective. Having more money than your opponent doesn’t give you an advantage when it comes to being a truly authentic candidate, which is what voters are craving nowadays.
It’s frustrating to me that some campaigns still cling to the notion of a “war chest” and delay spending on critical campaign infrastructure like building a website, hiring a team, and growing an email list all so they can report a large “Cash on Hand” number and keep their “burn rate” razor thin.
The rut of conventional wisdom is hard to break out of, especially in a business like politics, where few people would criticize you for doing what has always been done. But in this case, saving your campaign cash is putting modern campaigns at a disadvantage.
Savvy campaigns will adapt to the new political environment and get over their fear of spending money early.