These are the basic steps any potential presidential candidate must take to launch a serious bid for the nation’s highest office:
- Convince yourself and your family that you should run for President.
- Publically flirt with the possibility of running while denying you are going to do what you plan to do.
- Mingle with the donor class because you are going to need to raise a lot of money.
- Raise your media profile.
- Introduce yourself to party activists (see step 4 above).
- Position yourself on the issues important to an increasingly progressive primary electorate while not forgetting you need to win in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania
- Raise money and campaign for other Democrats and probably form a Leadership PAC. A leadership PAC is a political action committee that can be established by current and former members of Congress as well as other prominent political figures, such as prospective presidential candidates. Leadership PACs are used to fund expenses that are ineligible to be paid by campaign committees or congressional offices. Those costs can include travel to raise a politician’s profile, for instance. Democratic leadership PACs are also used to fund fellow Democrats’ campaigns, especially threatened incumbents or challengers trying to win seats that were previously held by the GOP. Politicians often use their PACs to donate to other candidates because they are considering seeking a leadership position in Congress, a higher office, or leverage within their own party as they show off their fund-raising ability. Leadership PACs enable prospective candidates to build donor lists, travel to early primary states, and court future support by contributing to local officials and state parties without having to formally declare a candidacy. Unlike independent super PACs, which can receive unlimited contributions, leadership PACs can accept $5,000 per year from individual donors or other political action committees. Limits to how much these PACs can donate vary from $10,000 to state parties to about $5,000 to candidates per election. Money raised by the PACs cannot go toward the candidates’ formal campaigns, although the currying of influence in early or influential states will certainly be beneficial.
- Consider creating an exploratory committee. The most common path for those exploring a presidential bid is to create a federal campaign committee through the FEC and to call it an exploratory committee. However, technically, these are not exploratory committees at all, at least not in the eyes of federal law. In fact, the term “exploratory committee” does not appear anywhere in federal election law or in FEC regulations. There is no legal difference between so-called exploratory committees set up through the FEC and full-fledged candidate committees. Regardless of whether the words “exploratory committee” appear in the title, you either have a federal campaign committee or you don’t. There’s no in between. In the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and others all announced the creation of exploratory committees, but they created them with the FEC, meaning they all filed Statements of Candidacy and Statements of Organization. This, as far as federal election law is concerned, made them full-fledged candidates, even if they publicly said they had not made a decision yet. Even though they all had the term “exploratory committee” in the names of their committees, they became official, legal candidates for president of the United States once they filed their papers with the FEC. The law doesn’t make a distinction between these so-called exploratory committees and a full-fledged presidential campaign committee. Both are subject to the same disclosure requirements and contribution limits. [above info from CNN- “To announce or not: Explaining presidential exploratory committees” by Robert Yoon, May 12, 2011]
- Attend Democratic functions all over the nation, but take note that trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada will be a signal that you are running for president even if you are still denying it.
10. File papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for president. To run for president, each candidate must file two documents with the FEC: a Statement of Organization, which creates a federal campaign committee (such as Obama for America or John McCain 2008), and a Statement of Candidacy, which identifies the person running for office and the office being sought and officially links the candidate to the committee created in the Statement of Organization. Once a candidate does so, he or she is a candidate for president in the eyes of the federal government. (Getting on the ballot in individual states is up to the candidate.) From this point forward, the candidate must file regular fund-raising/spending disclosure reports and is subject to federal contribution limits. [above info from CNN- “To announce or not: Explaining presidential exploratory committees” by Robert Yoon, May 12, 2011]
- Hope that through sheer coincidence that your rich and connected supporters create an “independent” Super PAC, which can accept unlimited funds but cannot coordinate with a candidate. President Obama and Hillary Clinton worked with independent Super Political Action committees, while Bernie Sanders did not. The pretend game is that the PAC is independent of the candidate and not coordinating political efforts with the candidate but raising unlimited money and spending it to support the candidate.
- Hire staff experienced in presidential races and line up the best media consultants and
Campaign Manager – The person ultimately at the top of the campaign whose responsibilities include staff hiring, fund-raising, budgeting and spending, media, and political strategy. Often, staff are hired early before a campaign is officially announced, so they take positions on a candidate’s congressional staff or with his or her leadership PAC. These positions include:
- Campaign Chair – Some campaigns have a senior figure atop the campaign for advice, gravitas, and fund-raising. The campaign manager is usually in charge of the day to day operations of the campaign.
- National Political Director – a political director’s role is to organize with specific voting groups: “The political director works with specific constituency groups to organize their involvement with the campaign, for example – labor, seniors, educators, veterans, communities of color, new Americans, environmentalists, and college students, etc. They help develop a voter contact plan in coordination with the field director for particular communities by building relationships with the existing organizations that represent these communities.”
- Pollster – This is a person or a firm in charge of polling for the campaign.
- Chief Strategist – This title is given to an experienced political consultant who can have a variety of responsibilities.
- Communications Director – The communications director is in charge of all of the campaign’s interactions with the media. They build relationships with the press, communicate with the media as the key spokesperson, set up interviews, and identify media opportunities for the campaign.
- Director of Social Media – the person in charge of the campaign’s Twitter, Facebook, and other social media.
- Director of New Media is a title some campaigns use which includes the campaign web site.
- National campaign spokesperson / National press secretary – This person is the primary face of the campaign with the news media.
- Director of Policy – This person helps the candidate decide his or her stand on the hundreds of issues a President will face, from tariffs to taxes to ethanol subsidies, to environmental rules to health care.
- National Security Advisor – This person educates the candidate about foreign policy and formulates the candidate’s policies on national security issues.
- Legal Counsel – Attorneys are needed to make sure the campaign complies with federal and state election laws. Most campaigns use volunteer lawyers or outside law firms.
- National Delegate Management Director – Once the campaign actually starts to win delegates (if it does), someone must stay in contact with the delegates, keep them focused and loyal and work on delegates who are not committed or may switch from a failed candidate.
- Director of State Campaigns – This person coordinates and manages the efforts of each individual state campaign.
- State Directors – Iowa, New Hampshire, and the early primary and caucus states each need a person in charge of that state’s campaign efforts. This is a hugely important position, and it is followed by many local positions, such as volunteer coordinator and county campaign chairs.