A Beginner’s Guide to Political Targeting

Political targeting involves identifying what group or groups of people a candidate wishes to appeal to the most and then working to get those votes. Depending on the election, area, and issue, different groups will be targeted by a candidate.

Traditionally, there are specific groups or areas that Republicans and Democrats target more than others. Plenty of data available on voter demographics shows which candidate the majority of a single group voted for in the election.

How do you use political targeting?

Originally, political targeting involved candidates making personal appearances in various places with potential supporters and presenting their best self to those voters. Now, there are so many voters all over the country that this technique could not have a substantial benefit. Candidates still rely on making appearances at large events and organizing rallies, but media has become the biggest way to target voters.

Deciding which demographic you want to appeal to and then crafting messages for them is the most efficient way of using political targeting in modern elections. Much more strategy goes into modern political targeting, with campaigns utilizing advertising and research to find out the best ways to appeal to their desired group.

How did Donald Trump use it to his advantage?

In the 2016 election, President Donald Trump used political targeting to win. While Democrats pandered to their usual groups, many voters felt it was disingenuous and looked to an alternative political candidate.

Trump and his team knew their target audience was white, middle-class Americans who felt they have been overlooked in previous years. The Trump campaign also searched out new or undecided voters, which led to his success with the silent majority, the group of people who do not frequently vote or openly express their opinions.

Trump was able to target these groups by acknowledging their desire for change and need to have more financial stability, and also their desire for security, whether abroad or in the United States. By using carefully crafted advertisements, commercials, and speeches, Trump and his team appealed to these groups and won the election.

10 Amazing Political Quotes

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”

Mark Twain

“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on. ”

William S. Burroughs

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

Groucho Marx

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”

Napoléon Bonaparte

“Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.”

George Burns

“Every politician should have been born an orphan and remain a bachelor.”

Lady Bird Johnson

“Rule-following, legal precedence, and political consistency are not more important than right, justice and plain common-sense.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln

“As you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

Kanye West





Filibustering, Explained

Over the years, filibustering has been called “a distraction” and “political gamesmanship.”

The recent more-than-24-hours filibuster by the Democrats was so epic that it was even covered by, of all places, USWeekly.

I won’t get into the details here about that particular protest, but let’s consider the recent headlines about the latest filibuster (which, reportedly, is the 9th longest one in history) to offer a refresher on the purpose of filibustering, why it’s important and when politicians typically use it as a strategy.

The Purpose

The term filibuster comes from a Dutch word meaning “pirate.” Since the 1850s it’s been applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill. The filibuster wasn’t always a go-to course of action.

A 2009 story by US News & World Report says:

According to research by UCLA political scientist Barbara Sinclair, there was an average of one filibuster per Congress during the 1950s. That number has grown steadily since and spiked in 2007 and 2008 (the 110th Congress), when there were 52 filibusters. More broadly, according to Sinclair, while 8 percent of major legislation in the 1960s was subject to “extended-debate-related problems” like filibusters, 70 percent of major bills were so targeted during the 110th Congress.


Why It’s Important

Simply put, filibusters are intended to make all members of congress pause in order to promote comprehensive discussion.

But many say that filibustering actually does the opposite and, therefore, should no longer be allowed. Still, others suggest that the answer is not complete elimination.

Writes  The Witherspoon Institute’s The Public Discourse:

“With a simple change, the Senate can restore its republican bona fides, give minority points of view an audible voice, greatly reduce the number of filibusters, make incremental gains in the passage of bills important to the majority, and improve the quality of debate.”





3 Political Movies That Mirror the 2016 Election

You know what they say about art imitating life. Well, that especially goes for political movies. Whether it’s Robert Redford in All the President’s Men or Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon, we often see our current world brought to life on screen with these narratives. Here are three political movies that, if you binge watch them this weekend, will surely give you goosebumps because of their eerie similarities to Decision 2016.

The Candidate (starring Robert Redford and Peter Boyle; directed by Michael Ritchie)

This film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The plot: A campaign manager Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) convinces activist-lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford) to run for senate. The public swoons. But to keep their affections, Lucas pushes McKay further and further away from McKay’s core beliefs and message. His platform gets watered down, but his popularity soars.  

Says Rob Samuelson writing for PoliticsChatter.com:

[The film’s] dry wit shows how in over his head Redford is and, once the race becomes competitive, the panic on his face is hilarious. In an anti-establishment year like 2016, it’s possible this panicked ‘Oh no, I can actually win this thing’ moment has happened to a number of candidates.

Stewart plays an idealistic senator who wants to make his community a better place. Another senator (played by Rains), however,  has Stewart’s character in his sights because Stewart’s do-gooding is interfering with the corrupt senators’ moneymaking.  The bad senator sets out to discredit and discourage Stewart’s character. A filibuster happens.  Stewart’s character warms hearts and wins minds. “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is full of optimism for the ability of the little guy to convince the public to act on an important issue,” writes Samuelson.

Lincoln (starring Daniel Day-Lewis; directed by Steven Spielberg)

Day-Lewis, you may remember, won the Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of the president in this Tony Kushner screenplay.

Says Samuelson:

“For all the soaring rhetoric about equality and freedom–it takes place as the 16th president tried to pass the slavery-abolishing 13th Amendment–the real strength of 2012’s Lincoln is in showing how political deal-making happens.”

How to Talk to Kids About the 2016 Election

Little do we know, we are bringing up the next generation of voters. So how do you help young children and teenagers understand and navigate the current political climate, especially if you want to get them involved early?

Youngsters today turn to social media and the internet for news, even when they’re not looking for it. Common Sense Media reports that a study by the University of Chicago showed people between the ages of 15–25 get news once per week from family and friends through Twitter or Facebook.

Unfortunately, though, young people can’t always tell what’s spin and what’s fact.  Case in point: Candidates and talking heads from both sides of the political aisle use their social media platforms to turn a news headline to their advantage and/or pummel their rivals.

This might be why the University of Chicago study also declared: “Youth must figure out how to judge the validity of online data and how to discover different perspectives on shifted issues.”

The media assumes a colossal part in our nation’s political procedure. What’s more, with the all day, every day news cycle, those impacts are amplified. So it’s important to meet kids where they are when it comes to helping them understand the events of the world.

For Young Kids

Seek out age-appropriate news sources. Common Sense Media suggests HTE Kids NewsTime for Kids, and Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

Additionally, read kid-friendly books that can teach kids about politics and the processes.  “Check out Bad Kitty for President, which does a surprisingly good job of explaining the U.S. political system,” writesRegan McMahon.

For Teenagers

Around high school, it’s essential to participate in the news cycle right alongside your kids.

Writes McMahon:

“Compare the media coverage on different shows and networks. Do reporters, news anchors, and opinion shows spend too much time on distractions that heat up the news cycle rather than on the real issues facing our country? Check the credibility of candidates’ claims at the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org. “

Teens certainly have enough experience to grasp the political landscape, so make sure you don’t underestimate their ability to keep up and stay involved. There are new events making headlines everyday, and our job as a country is to make sure we’re raising concerned, politically literate, and engaged citizens who care about the present and future of the country.

Political Lessons That I Learned from the Boardroom

dan centinello's political lessons from the boardroom

A disturbing trend has taken hold in the American political arena. According to information shared by the United States Election Project, voter turnout has been steadily declining ever since the elections of 1964. In 2014, that number hit a record low of 36.4 percent, the lowest turnout since World War II. Some may point to the fact that those were midterm elections, and that the voting public is really only spurred  into action during general election years. However, this ever-growing absence from the polls highlights a political apathy that can present a monumental challenge for campaign officials.

What Are Voters Really Looking For?

Why is it that so many voters today seem disillusioned? With today’s round-the-clock media cycle, they’re constantly bombarded on all sides by competing messages. Is it any wonder that eventually they would just choose to curl up in the proverbial corner with their hands over their ears? In many instances, they’re looking for more subtle signs to help determine their confidence in a candidate, one of these being the manner in which his or her campaign is conducted.

If you are a political campaign manager or strategist, take a page from the book of business marketing’s best practices. First, consider the importance of brand loyalty when it comes to building and promoting a business that consumers can trust. Could a company hope to make it a splash by investing all of its efforts in marketing while spending little to no time focused on maintaining its operations?


And the same goes for political campaigns. Shortcomings that such a mismanaged business would suffer can just as easily be experienced by a mismanaged campaign.

Running Your Campaign As You Would Your Business

Conversely, by applying the same principles that the best companies rely upon to retain consumer confidence to the campaign trail, you prove to voters that your candidate is capable of fulfilling his or her promises. With this in mind, here are five business management strategies every campaign should follow:

  • Establish a culture: Those companies whose employees are engaged in its culture care more about its outcomes. Similarly, an engaged voting base is more likely to campaign on your behalf.
  • Hire a capable staff: No company (or campaign) can succeed without having a qualified staff to rely upon.
  • Plan, then execute: Successful businesses begin with the end in mind. Envision your desired outcome, and then go about making it happen.
  • Analyze and prioritize: Executives often care most about the areas where performance is falling short. Knowing this will help you see where resources need to be allocated to reinforce your efforts.
  • Budget, budget, budget: Fundraising is only half the job; voters want to see that those dollars are being spent wisely.

Ideally, every campaign should be an audition for the office that your candidate is pursuing. Voters are watching how you handle yourselves behind the scenes almost as much as they are listening to the message you’re trying to put out. Understanding this offers you a key advantage over the ‘win-at-all-costs’ crowd whose desperation is readily apparent to the general public. Just as is the case in the corporate world, choosing instead to stick to sound business management strategies will greatly increase your chances of achieving success in the end.

Summer Reading List: 5 Must-Read Political Books

Dan Centinello's politcal book reading list

With 2016 being an election year and my extensive experience with political campaigns, I thought now would be the perfect time to share five must-read political books. After all, just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t improve your understanding of politics while on vacation.

1. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

While this book was written back in the 1830s, what earns it a spot on this list is that many of Tocqueville’s perceptions still remain current and true of modern-day America. What’s unique about the French researcher’s remarks: Tocqueville made them at a time when the U.S. was just learning to crawl across the pages of history.

2. Blueprint for Revolution by Srdja Popovic

Rather than use aggression and scorched-earth political tactics to bring about change, sometimes it’s best to throw flowers rather than verbal grenades, which is what Popovic teaches in this 2015 book. The selection is especially useful for those who often work in group settings or desire to learn more about how to effectively resolve conflicts with a minimum of disruption.

3. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

President Lincoln is one of the most closely examined presidents in American history and Goodwin sets out to show us why. Team of Rivals is an award-winning work of art that has inspired presidents and filmmakers alike.

4. Believer: My Forty Years in Politics by David Axelrod

If you’ve wanted to dive deeper into the roots of the Democratic Party, plunge into the pages of Senior Advisor David Axelrod’s memoir. The book traces his path from journalist and political strategist to the man who was instrumental in America electing its first African-American president.

5. Echo House by Ward Just

If you prefer fiction, Just’s work may be more to your liking. The foreign correspondent’s novel chronicles the lives, intrigues and power plays of three generations of an influential Washington family. The cast of characters runs the gamut from reporters and civil servants to politician’s wives and lawyers.